By Jacqueline Monahan
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ART-N-INK Festival Debuts at South Point Hotel and Casino Events Center

The first annual ART-N-INK Festival of Las Vegas took place on Friday, January 23 and Saturday January 24 inside the South Point Hotel and Casino Events Center.  It was easy to differentiate the “skin kin” clientele from guests of the concurrent Championship Bull Riding (CBR) competition. Those wearing cowboy hats, snakeskin boots, large belt buckles and tucked in shirts assembled to the left.  Those with spiky Mohawk hair/antennae, pierced lips, and open vests showing off large crucifix necklaces or skulls strutted their organic canvasses to the right.  Snakeskin has an entirely different meaning in the world of corporal adornment (body alteration and decoration).

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About 50 tattoo, artist and accessory vendors from California, Southern Nevada, and all over the U. S. displayed their creative efforts at the event, which was sponsored  by CBS and Xtreme Radio of Las Vegas (X107.5) whose well-manned booth gave out movie posters (Defiance, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, The Spirit).

Festival organizers sought to create a gathering place for artists to get together, display their artwork, promote exposure in the community, and exchange ideas, methods and techniques, and the event showcased a wide variety of original canvas artwork as well as tattoo design.

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Over the course of two days, contestants competed for tattoo superiority in various categories including Tattoo of the Day, Best Back Piece, Best Overall, Best Tribal, Best Portrait, Best Sleeve, Best Traditional, Best Small/Large, Black & Grey, and Best Small/Large, Color.   Brave souls, or maybe those more inclined to be the exhibitionists among the crowd climbed the stairs to a stage where three judges appraised the limb/trunk images before an assembled crowd.  Appreciation seemed to be the common thread among the bystanders; either they liked what someone was “wearing” or it gave them an idea for their next self-inflicted masterpiece.

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The festival offered something for the eternal tattoo virgin as well, with an exhibit area full of stylized urban and alternative art in media that would allow the ink-shy attendee to hang an original design on their wall or wear it as an article of clothing.

A variety of booths featured tank tops, understandably popular with the crowd, (shows off sleeve tattoos nicely) bandanas, t-shirts and hats.  A Bettie Page booth featured retro-inspired dresses from the raven-haired icon’s bombshell (and bomb shelter) era. That booth’s female proprietor sported turquoise hair which, within this arena, could almost be considered conservative.  A jewelry booth displayed a variety of bling for the perennially pierced, be it nose, eyebrow, lip, navel, nipple, or more southern regions on the physiological map of the human form.

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Tattoo enthusiasts are a friendly crowd of open-minded, fun-loving mavericks.  Well, maybe not everyone, (some ferocious-looking guests looked like living roadmaps to Valhalla) but certainly a majority of the decorated disciples of ink and epidermis were easy going and good natured, a pleasure to meet and an eyeful to look at.  Passing devotees flashed scenes of heaven and hell, reptile ferocity or angelic serenity, a sexy siren or a favorite python.  Others memorialized friends, relatives and classic Hollywood likenesses on necks, chests, forearms and calves.  There were skulls and roses by the score, while on-the-spot tattooing took place in several of the booths featuring supine or otherwise reclining enthusiasts of both genders getting their (needle) buzz on.

The men (and woman) of Estilo Ensane are a sharply dressed, professional group of clothing vendors who specialize in “Cali Style” clothing (tank tops, longsleeves, beanies, hats, t-shirts and bandanas) along with stickers that would make great tattoos themselves.  Three grinning skulls under the stylized Ensane logo give you a badass attitude, while the actual sales crew welcome all guests in an almost red carpet manner.  One of the guys sported an amazing Hannibal Lecter tattoo, complete with leather mask and steel mouth cage.  Ensane’s people personified the spirit of the festival.  Owner Jose Aguilera would like to show you that he’s not out of his skulls.  You can view them at

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Other notable vendors included Fonzy Airshot/Inkshot, specializing in tattoos and airbrushed art; Smoking Aces Tattoo; King Cat and Queen Kitty Clothing; Hidden City Tattoo; Finest Inc. Tattoo; Sacred Center Tattoo; Kare Tees and Embroidery; and King Design Tattoo Las Vegas, specializing in portraits.  Want Marilyn on a forearm?  Buddha on your shoulder?  A snapshot of your active duty military fiancé over your heart?  This is the place you’ll want to visit.

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Tattoo aficionados are walking art pieces in human frames, priceless by their very nature.  The ART-N-INK Festival wants to ensure that the artists and their creations leave a vivid mark on the world, even if it’s just one limb at a time, a literal illustration that in this sacred, profane, colorful, subversive, and suggestive universe at least, all great ideas truly start with inklings.

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