Blake Freitag (writer)
As different industries continue to embrace tattoos, the importance of pre serving the integrity of the culture has never been more important. That’s where Todd Burnes and Olivia Miner, of Canvas Los Angeles, come in.
Originally conceived as a modest boutique, Canvas Los Angeles quickly expanded into a 4,000-square-foot store and gallery showcasing the cloth ing designs and fine art of the world’s most legendary needle artists. “The original vision, which remains the current vision, [was a] place to fully appre ciate what tattoo artists are capable of outside tattooing itself.” Not a tattoo shop, but an innovative fine-art gallery and retail store exhibiting the non-skin-based work of tattoo masters worldwide. “Tattooing is one of the oldest art forms known to man, yet there has never been a place outside of tattoo shops for people to appreciate it,” says Burnes. “Our focus is to showcase the art itself, rather than tattooing as a profession.”
Response from the tattoo community could not be more positive. The grand opening this past fall was an exhibit aptly titled “Visionaries,” featuring works from the likes of Mike Davis, Horiyoshi III, and the legendary Bob Roberts. “You’re never ready to approach Bob Roberts and ask him to do something with you,” laughs Burnes. “But thankfully he was into it.” Other works included pieces by the late Mike “Rollo” Malone, Shawn Barber, and Kat Von D. The guest list read like a who’s-who roster of tattooing elite, and the event raised tattoos into the world of high art.
But is all the attention a good thing? Addressing concerns that the new appreciation for skin art may threaten its historical reputation as a mantle for social irreverence, Burnes says, “Tattooing will always be a kind of secret soci ety, where you have to spend time getting to know it and figuring out what it’s all about. Will it ever be safe? I doubt it.”
For the future of Canvas, Burnes and his partner, Miner, hope to expand the project to new locations while continuing to promote the artists. “We would love to see the clothing lines owned by tattoo artists right alongside the high-end brands, and see the fine-art side gain the recognition that it truly deserves.”
Burnes, of course, will continue to be a walking advertisement for his gallery’s inspiration. Among his tattoos, he’s particularly fond of a neck piece done by Jim Miner: “When you’re getting your neck tattooed, and Todd Noble Holloway is dancing around the shop with his shirt off, it’s a level of pleasure and pain that you didn’t think was possible.” Hopefully, gallery visitors will share some of that pleasure as Burnes and Miner’s vision continues to grow.