Malice In Wonderland
If clients at High Voltage Tattoo in Los Angeles want to go down the rabbit hole into Kat Von D’s weird, wonderful world, all they need to do is head next door to Wonderland. The gallery-slash-boutique is full of fine art, dark and devilish decor, rock ‘n’ roll extras, and gothic curios—all curated by Von D and her crew. “The main purpose was to create a space for people to be inspired by different forms of art, and to make it accessible,” Von D explains. “Lord knows I’ve stepped into countless fancy galleries that were so intimidating and sterile I couldn’t even enjoy the art.”
If visitors’ reactions are any indication, Wonderland is a welcoming place. “It’s great to watch people when they visit for the first time,” says Wonderland’s manager Marya Gullo. “Lots of times they come for Kat’s book [The Tattoo Chronicles], which is right up front. They check out the cover, and she’s wearing these crazy, glittery shoes, and they look up and see the same shoes on display. So they go over there, and then they look up again and see the throne that’s on the cover of the book, so they go over there … all of a sudden they realize it’s not just a fine art gallery—they’re immersed in Kat’s world.”
And right about now that’s a very popular place to be. At the end of last year, TLC ordered more episodes of LA Ink, which left off with the opening of Wonderland. The show is also in syndication overseas, bringing a new set of admirers from abroad. Add to the millions of LA Ink fans the number of people who have gotten tattooed by the star, purchased her makeup at Sephora, read one of her books, or seen photos of her in the tabloids, and it’s apparent Kat’s tipping point has arrived. But that doesn’t mean she’s full of herself.
“I still find it a little mind-boggling that people take any interest in me at all,” she says. And just to be clear, Wonderland—where the photos on these pages were shot—isn’t an ego project: “The intention wasn’t so much to create a platform for things I egotistically want to share, but more a vehicle to spotlight the wide spectrum of artists I feel deserve some attention.”
Stand & Deliver goat-hair vest; Helmut Lang leather leggings; Penny Loves Kenny boots; Abraxas Rex for Alexander Wang silver talon cuff.Oil Slick
Von D’s private art collection is vast, but she says Kevin Llewellyn’s large-scale oil painting Lacrimosa (seen here and on display in Wonderland) is one of her favorites. “Probably the element I am most drawn to in his work is the direct connection to the Old Masters’ style,” she explains. “[Llewellyn’s] subjects are more contemporary … but there’s a familiarity to the chiaroscuro style that was born in Caravaggio’s work.”
She’s also a fan of California-based artist Michael Hussar, whose oil paintings feature similar realist techniques and gothic themes that hint at the darkness of the human psyche. “When you marry that [Old Masters’] style with romantically tragic subjects, it becomes the recipe to my favorite kind of art,” Von D says.
But just because she owns a gallery doesn’t mean she can have any piece she pines for. In fact, one of her favorite paintings still eludes her. “I would love to get my hands on an Odd Nerdrum original,” she says. “There’s a painting he did called Burning Man that has haunted me since I was first introduced to his work.”
Kat Von D ruffled blouse; Muubaa skirt; Bordello heels.American Gothic
For Von D, fashion is just another artistic outlet for self-expression; so it makes sense that she’s creating her own line, Kat Von D–Los Angeles, which she shows off here. “I think most people are going to be surprised at how seriously I approached [this project], considering some might assume it would be a bunch of shirts with my doodles on them,” she says. In reality, the line has been in the works for more than a year and a half, and the high-fashion pieces are more works of art than T-shirts to work out in.
On Gullo: Faith leather dress; Bordello heels. On Von D: Terri King hand-stitched leather corset courtesy of Forgotten Saints Los Angeles; Kat Von D leggings; Maison Martin Margiela booties.Decked Out
“Kat’s really into finding local artists and brands and showcasing their work,” says Gullo (pictured here). Some of her favorite discoveries now available at Wonderland include jewelry line Gasoline Glamour, and Allison Burns leather accessories. But the shop’s most popular item might just be the Strathmore artist trading cards. Customers can buy a pack of blanks and create their own little works of art, then trade them in for cards from the shop’s collection, which includes designs by High Voltage artists such as Jeff Ward, Dennis Halbritter, and Nate Fierro.
Kat Von D ruffled blouse.Starry Eyed
“Finding beauty in anything that excites you makes up the true value of art,” Von D says. And who’s to say that can’t be makeup? Her cosmetics line, Kat Von D for Sephora, has been a huge hit with mainstream America, yet it manages to stay true to Von D’s values—and vices—with shade names like Prayer, Rosary, Hellbent, and Hustler.
Marco Marco quilted dress; Yves Saint Laurent patent leather pumps.True Romantic
Classically trained in piano, Von D grew up playing Beethoven and has always loved his work. But, she explains, “the more I learned about the adversities of his life, the more the music—that was once just merely romantic—resonated with me on a more profound level.” Her soft spot for the Romantic composer doesn’t mean he gets an automatic spot on a playlist at High Voltage, though. “I’ve been known to be a bit of a music snob when I’m tattooing,” she says. “If I’m tattooing privately in my office, I can be listening to everything—Turkish gypsy music, classical sonatas, and maybe even some Eckhart Tolle audio books. You never know!”