September 2015: Paul X. Rutz & Christopher B. Wagner

“The Tattooed”: Paul Rutz & Christopher B Wagner have created a unique approach to this show. Both artists worked from the same tattooed model: Paul with painting and Christopher with wood. The two have worked together on two series over the past two years, asking how we can combine our skills toward novel ways to make portraits. In the first, a 2014 series of combat veteran portraits, they spent more than 400 hours together in Paul’s studio with live models. It pulled Chris out of his comfort zone, the woodshop, for nearly a year. This time Paul asked Christopher to pull him toward the cramped hands and no-turning-back attitude of wood carving.

Christopher B. Wagner’s recent body of work uses tattoos as a means of creating a narrative that will either buttress or contradict the message of the sculpted form. Most of these pieces used a model as a reference point in which to jump off of. “Sometimes I left their tattoos relatively intact, others I completely strayed from what they chose for themselves, and recreated the imagery on their surface in order to tell the story or give the sensation that I wanted. Likeness is never a goal of mine. Only the conveyance of a thought wrapped up in emotion.”To quote Christopher “I like the idea of pursuing art in such a way that it becomes intrinsic to your life, the perception of which you are, and how you view the rest of the world. The word art can at times be over used in our contemporary culture muddying the water on how important it is and how important making it a part of your life can be. Few ways of engaging with art can become as integral to an individual as becoming tattooed. In the same way a great work of art can “tattoo” itself on your soul.”

Paul X. Rutz How we choose to ink ourselves can reveal our personalities and values, obviously, as well as the link between the passage of time and our growth through adulthood. Fading ink, cover ups, additions, and restorations—the permanent is only partially so. Tattoos replace faces as the focus of these painted portraits. I’ve carved lines, craters and holes into the panels around the painted bodies. These decisions come from months of experimentation into how painting can echo tattooing—digging into as well as marking the surface of ourselves. The tattooed body isn’t like a canvas, the way I see it, because we don’t etch into canvases. Anyone with a tattoo knows the pain is part of it. I’ve measured every body part—and every tattoo—at precisely life size, preserving the real-life dimensions of the bodies represented on these panels. I also painted each body from multiple points of view, wrapping the picture around the body somewhat, as many Paleolithic cave painters did. This is one way to make documentary pictures without resorting to photography, and it requires models willing to pose for several weeks.