Doreen Garner’s Invisible Man Tattoo | Art21 “New York Close Up”


[TATTOO NEEDLE BUZZING] My experience being tattooed, it’s almost like a rite of passage. A lot of times I’ll feel like I’m going through a change
or a transformation in my life where I need there to be
something that symbolizes that. Being a fine artist,
I always wanted to do tattoos. Getting an image
etched into your skin, and what it looks like when
the needle penetrates through it. It’s a lot of submission and dominance
that you have to be really mindful of; especially because I’m working
on people of color. It’s a really violent act, but you have to perform that
with a lot of care. [Doreen Garner’s Invisible Man Tattoo] [Brooklyn Navy Yard] [February 2018] –So if you could read
and initial in the boxes. –On the third sheet,
there’s an after care sheet. –I don’t know if you need it.
If you want it, it’s fine. –And then the last sheet is the design,
but printed in different sizes, –so let me know which one you want. –You can have a seat and chill out. [Doreen is running a pop-up tattoo shop at
the Recess art space] For all of the images of American
traditional tattoos all over the country, there’s always a void. There’s no Black presence. There’s no imagery even acknowledging
Blackness as a contribution to American life. I wanted to provide a place
for people to feel comfortable, not only as far as the environment– Who’s working here? Who’s operating in this space?– but also finding themselves in the
imagery on the walls to make them feel like
this is a place for them. [TATTOO NEEDLE BUZZING] [DAVID JOSEPH] This really hurts. [GARNER] It does? [JOSEPH] Um, no I think the talking helps. [GARNER] Oh, yeah. [JOSEPH] But I am dying on the inside, though… [GARNER] Okay. [JOSEPH] …like, a slow death. [JOSEPH] I remember being
in a hotel room in South Carolina, watching this Black Panther documentary, and I was instantly inspired by it. So I started reading up more on
the Black Panthers and what they were about. I just hate the timing of me
getting this now, because of the movie. [BOTH LAUGH] [GARNER] It reeks of cornball. [JOSEPH] Yeah! It’s like, really? You might as well just tattoo
“Wakanda” on my forehead. I had someone tell me,
“Color won’t look that good on you.” [BOTH LAUGH] [GARNER] It’s a crime to tell Black people
they can’t have color. [JOSEPH] It is a crime! You should never say that. And I didn’t hear it just one time,
I heard it a couple times. So it discouraged me from even
getting something like that; I’m like, alright, maybe I won’t. [GARNER] I do feel like tattooing
provides a nice break for me– where I am still being creative,
it’s just on a different canvas. And that canvas has everything to do
with the rest of my work conceptually. I end up learning a lot about the body,
just through the process of tattooing. I think it’s higher stakes, because people are
way more forgiving of fine art. You can have really horrible paintings– like really, really, really bad craftsmanship– and that is still regarded as a work of art. Where, if you have a tattoo
where the lines are all shaky, and it’s colored outside the lines, it’s like, “That dude fucked that up.” “You should get your money back.” Wait, you said that’s from “The Color Purple”? [SONYA SPANN] It’s the closing
scene of the movie where, Ms. Celie,
who is played by Whoopi Goldberg, she goes into this dialogue
where she’s like, “I might be poor. I might be Black.” “I might even be ugly.” “But dear God, I’m here.” “I’m here.” I work in technology and I tend to be someone who
most people don’t anticipate belongs in the room,
or should be in the room. For me, having these words is like
a reminder that I am here because I am supposed to be here, because I’m meant to be here. It also represents
a rebelliousness that I think I have. Not “I think I have” but “I have.” [MAN, OFF-SCREEN] You’re a rebel? [GARNER] She’s getting a tattoo. [BOTH LAUGH] [SPANN] Two! [GARNER] We’re going to do a
Black Panther party for the release of the
“Black Panther” film. Basically, since I saw the trailer, I had it in my mind that I wanted to
go into the film “squad-deep,” which meant I need a slew of other
Black people to come with me. [FRIEND #1] Do you think you ever see
White kids dressing up as Black Panther? [FRIEND #2] No. It’s weird, because it becomes
a Black people thing. But, there’s this expectation for us to just absorb and digest
superhero movies like nothing– like Spiderman, you know? [GARNER] I feel like Black people have
always known that Black people are amazing. But we need to stop bullshitting around. We need to really let
people know who we are. Just like they did in the film. As far as myself, there were some things
where I would hold back– thinking about fear and not being accepted. I ended up sculpting this place thinking about
what would make me feel comfortable. All of my work talks about pain
that was inflicted. But then in this instance, I’m using pain,
but as a method of healing. I feel like that’s what goes on
when you get a tattoo, you’re initiating your own healing. And because these images are so
celebratory of Black excellence and Black history, it’s kind of initiating
a healing for Black people. [SPANN] I just imagine myself
being an old woman [LAUGHS] and looking down at this, like, “Yes, I am here.” “I am present.” “I am still here.”

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