PHOTOS BY COLIN DODGSON
When Marc Jacobs found himself with a new body, it's to New York-based Scott Campbell that he turned for ink. But Campbell says he didn't get into the business for keeps, necessarily: "Half the reason I got into tattooing was because it offered this romantic, almost criminal lifestyle." Campbell could roam the world with minimal equipment and cash, so "[He] could up the stakes and re-invent myself at a moment's notice." That changed when he opened his now famous shop in Williamsburg in 2001, he says, "That was when my work really started to take on its own identity."
With his first New York solo exhibition of art, If You Don't Belong, Don't Be Long, which opens tonight at OHWOW in Soho, the Louisiana native presents mixed-media sculptures, paintings, and hologram drawings about money, prices, and lifestyle. His "cut US currency," a 3-D, is a skull-shaped stack of 500 dollar bills; it's both in-your-face in its gratuitous evidence of value, and as valuable as its selling price. "I'm a bit nervous about showing in New York, mainly because this is my home," says the artist, which is a bit ironic, if only because his artworks are permanently on the bodies of so many of the show's attendees. "I guess I just figured that if France or Italy didn't understand my pieces, I could always attribute it to a difference in our sensibilities," he says. "But New York is the home of so many close friends and artists I admire. If they don't understand my work, I'm going to take it personally."
Campbell first learned meticulous handiwork as a tattoo artist's apprentice in San Francisco—at one time, he planned on becoming an illustrator of medical textbooks—though much of the 32-year-old's success lies in his knack for connecting with clients. "I try to understand why the person wants to get the tattoo. I really want whatever I give them to address their emotional motivation, not just an aesthetic one." And that's all art takes, anyway.
WORK BY SCOTT CAMPBELL GOES ON VIEW THIS THURSDAY, AND IS OPEN THROUGH MAY 30. OHWOW IS LOCATED AT 109 CROSBY STREET, NEW YORK.