My tenth grade chemistry teacher always said that science could be "badass" depending on how you look at it and where you apply it, which may have been the reason he let us blast Korn and Nirvana during lab sessions. After sitting through day in and day out of converting to moles and trying to get a grasp on just what the hell quantum mechanics are, I don’t think 15-year-old me ever really believed science was cool. In today’s world, though, as my days of first period chemistry are far behind me, it seems to be that my old chem-lab overlord has proven to be totally right. With critically acclaimed TV shows such as Breaking Bad making fictional nerdy high school teachers out to be scientific geniuses like Walter White, or real life physics mastermind Matt Taylor landing a probe on a comet, science is more in and more "badass" than ever, and now it’s even branching into the tattoo world.
You may have heard of tattoo artist Amanda Wachob, the Brooklyn-based queen of watercolor tattoos. Her style is both iconic and innovative, removing the traditional usage of solid black line work in order to turn ink into replications of beautiful watercolor-like brushstrokes on skin. Her work is rad enough on its own, but when she embarked on her latest project with the New Museum she proved that she could take art and science to a level the world hasn’t seen before.
For the next several weeks on select Saturdays and Sundays Wachob will be moving her tattoo studio to the New Museum Store in order to tattoo 12 lucky clients with one of kind designs specifically created for this project, but she isn’t working alone. Alongside Wachob is Maxwell Bertolero, a neuroscientist who will be analyzing the data output by Wachob’s tattoo machine as she inks her clients. Using various kinds of needles, shading, and techniques, Wachob will need to use different voltages in her machines. Bertolero will be collecting data by measuring the voltages put out by the machine work and relating it to the time utilized in the process. From there, this data will be translated from numbers to art as all the data will be charted through color visual representations. Basically, as Wachob tattoos one image, scientific measurement will help depict a completely new image based on how Wachob creates the first one. From these second visual representations Wachob will produce exclusive limited edition art prints displaying exactly how tattoo art can be translated to scientific forms and then into a whole new art medium.
Wachob designed 23 images for her 12 clients to choose from, who were chosen on a first come, first serve basis, so she, too, is not sure of exactly how these resulting prints are going to turn out. From the two tattoos and visual voltage-to-time representations that Wachob has completed so far, it is clear that one tattoo design and color scheme translates to something entirely different when measured out. With many of Wachob's tattoos designed with a limited color palette, the resulting prints on the other side are comprised of an array of colors worthy of a shining rainbow right after a storm. In one of the most creative experimental collaborations of the year, you have a chance to view and pick up some of these limited prints at the New Museum Store as they are performed and printed from now until January 17th, when the last tattoo session will be held. And hey, who knows, maybe like my old chem teacher Wachob will be jamming to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as she makes post-modern art history alongside Bertolero and the rest of the New Museum Store team.