Phil Luck (Studio 21 Tattoo Gallery artist) has a bit of tattoo history under his belt. If you were to take a smoke break with Phil, he could bend your ear about what it was like in New York City being a part of history, experiencing the explosion of tattooing and it’s changing art form. The book “Tattooing New York City” by Michael McCabe has recently been put back into circulation and it is worth reading about the exciting times of the counter culture going back to the 1930’s. Phil was one of three artists who tattooed in all five boroughs in New York City, needless to say he has a few tales of his own. Phil’s style goes back to basics, traditional themes that span the time frame from the original electric version of the tattoo machine creating a foundation of “Old School” influences that have held true, not necessarily subscribing to the new liberal values. Many New York tattooers haven’t strayed far from the original design themes, bold images, rich black shading and primary colors. The book includes many page spreads showing Phil’s original flash art, his personal philosophies on style, and how the raw characters he worked with helped shape the cities’ history. Tattooing transcended the landscape of diverse ethnic groups and cultural differences to unite those with the urge to get tattooed in a city where tattooing was banned for 30 years. In July 1997 tattooing was legalized causing the once underground tattooers to work with officials to set public safety health guidelines…and the explosion began, shops materializing overnight. This paragraph reflects how tattooing has changed through time in New York City as well as the mainstream awareness.
“Today in the city, without a tattoo you are outside the loop. A backlash of sorts exists, where people resist the impulse but basically it has reached the point where most young people feel comfortable exploring some part of their personality with a tattooed image. This process of discovery and acceptance has been gradual, picking up speed within very recent time. People no longer get tattooed to declare themselves as outsiders, wearing a tattoo today underscores people as consummate insiders who are in touch with the bearings of their time. This shift in attitude reflects the cultural dynamic of mainstreaming and is the by-product of a powerful leveling process that has radically changed things for both artists and customers–some would say for the better, others for the worse. Change is fluid, unpredictable and difficult. It leaves some sensibilities in the dust and encourages others to expand.” ~ Michael McCabe