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 around the globe to celebrate artistry, oddities, and a culture with an appreciation for pain.
With three days packed with blood, sweat, and excitement, individuals could come together to show off their tattoos and get inked by various artists.
Walking through the convention center doors, visitors were hit with a kaleidoscope of colors. Navigating through rows of vibrant stalls, artists showcased various 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 way provided several performances on a main stage in the back of the center. These varied from proclaimed heavy metal magicians, Ringling Brothers stars, contortionists, America’s Got Talent stars, and sword-swallowing sideshow couple Captain and Maybelle.
The entertainment also featured side shows put on by some tattoo artists, giving them a chance to share their passions outside of tattooing. In one such sideshow, I was introduced to Poundcake and Egg, two falcons trained by one of the artists who also works in wildlife education.
Many artists entered competitions to show off their work and compete head-to-head with others. Artists competed in various categories, including sizes, placements, and styles. At the end of the convention, it was announced that Best in Show for the whole pattern 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 for Best in Show and 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 an intense love of the way and the community it fosters.
“The tattoo community has always been one I’ve loved being a part of,” Koogler said. “To have a space where everyone can come together and share in the art appreciation is so special to me and many others.”
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