By Justice Dickey, Staff Writer
This past weekend, Cincinnati hosted the fifth annual leg of the international Villain Arts Tattoo Convention. The convention welcomed an eclectic group of people from all across the globe to celebrate artistry, oddities and a culture with an appreciation for pain.
With three days packed with blood, sweat and excitement, individuals were able to come together to show off their tattoos and get inked by a variety of artists.
Walking through the doors of the convention center, visitors were hit with a kaleidoscope of colors. Navigating through rows of vibrant stalls, artists showcased an array of styles. Everything from traditional and neo-traditional to realism, watercolor and more made up the booths.
Attendees saw an up-close view of the intricate process of transforming skin into a canvas as tattooers turned convention-goers into living, breathing works of art.
For attendees wishing for some fresh ink, each of the booths offered a diverse display of flash art to choose from. Several featured gumball machines loaded with mystery designs stowed away in plastic capsules.
Ava Conti, an artist representing Dynamic Tattoos out of Wauseon, Ohio, is no stranger to the Villain Arts Conventions.
“I’ve been to the Kansas City convention, Cleveland, back to Cleveland again, and now I’m here,” Conti said, while buzzing away at a tattoo.
“I’m having a great time at the Cincy convention. It’s a great vibe all around,” Conti said.
While the convention offered a chance to get a new piece of body art, it also hosted a variety of entertainment for those not looking to get tatted. The convention offered several performances on a main stage in the back of the center. These varied from proclaimed heavy metal magicians, Ringling Brothers stars, contortionists and America’s Got Talent stars and sword-swallowing sideshow couple Captain and Maybelle.
The entertainment also featured side shows put on by some of the tattoo artists, giving them a chance to share their passions outside tattooing. In one such sideshow, I was introduced to Poundcake and Egg, two falcons that were trained by one of the artists who also works in wildlife education.
Many artists entered competitions where they could show off their work and compete head-to-head with other artists. Artists competed in various categories, including a wide range of sizes, placements and styles. At the end of the convention, it was announced that Best in Show for the whole convention went to St. Petersburg-based artist Roman Grazhdantsev for his full-calf tattoo featuring a vibrant mix of photorealistic dinosaurs and flowers. Holy Trinity Tattoo, the touring Europe-based tattoo group Grazhdantsev belongs to, took to Instagram to express their gratitude not just for Best in Show, but also the other 20 awards they took home. “Thank you to @villainarts for all your support and invitation to this amazing event,” they said.
Philosophy, Politics and the Public major Abby Koogler attended the convention on Sunday — its final day — adding two new tattoos to her collection. Koogler expressed a strong love of the convention and the community it fosters.
“The tattoo community has always been one I’ve loved getting to be a part of,” Koogler said. “To have a space where everyone can come together and share in the appreciation of the art is so special to me and many others.”