Opening this First Friday in November 2
At: Epicurean Connection
122 West Napa Street, Sonoma CA
Poetry reading at 6:45 Opening till 8pm.
Renaissance man Shotsie Gorman finds niche in skin art
Shotsie Gorman of “Shotsie’s SoulSigning Tattoo”
“When I was growing up, if my father ever knew I liked poetry, he’d have beat the cr- out of me,” says Gorman. “He wouldn’t have understood it. And where I grew up, you wouldn’t admit it to your friends. But I really liked it. I wrote poems all the time, but I hid it – just another family secret. I was always hiding.
“I loved Edgar Allen Poe; and Robert Lowell was an influence, too. Also, Allen Ginsberg. I used to watch Ginsberg and Kerouac and Burroughs and that whole beatnik bunch, and I envied them. I was always hiding, and they were just letting their lives hang out. I wanted to be like them.”
Gorman’s poetry has garnered numerous awards over the years, and he has a book, The Black Marks He Made, at Gorman’s own Web site, http://www.shotsiesoulsigning.com.
His work covers the range from home to hip-hop, exploring everything from pop culture to social mores to fine art. His poetry is hard-hitting, at the same time brutal and compassionate; the book itself is deeply confessional.
“It helped me deal with the lack of communication between my father and me,” he says.
Gorman has taught poetry workshops both in schools and in prisons. “Kids are wonderful always.
But the prisons were something else. I’d go in there and the guys and I could relate, y’know? I’d walk in and here I am, a big guy, long hair, bunch of tattoos on my arms. They’d treat me like one of them.”
Almost larger than life, his black hair shot with silver, Gorman wears two earrings, outrageous shoes and his arms are artistically decked out with tattoos by Mike Bakaty of New York City, Horioshi III of Yokahama, Japan, TinTin of Paris – and the list goes on like a world atlas and a veritable Who’s Who among tattoo artists.
Gorman says he saw the inside of his first tattoo parlor in the early ’70s.
“By 1971 I was out of high school, in and out of the army, and in New York City trying to make it as a sculptor. I met this guy who became a lifelong friend. He wanted to have some old tattoos removed, so I said I’d go with him. One look at that studio and I was pretty much hooked. I had to go back to see more.”
See more he did – enough to make him want to learn this art that used skin as a canvas.
“I was sort of self-taught,” he says. “I went to apprentice myself to one artist, Spider Webb, who basically told me to go ahead and do it and then he took off.
“My original thought was that I’d maybe have a small one-man studio and do custom and original work. Before long, I had to hire someone to come in to do the standard stuff – snakes, hearts, that sort of thing.”
In short order, Gorman had two studios, 13 employees and had become one of the leading authorities on tattoo art and lore. “I thought it would be a way to earn some money to pay for sculpture materials. I didn’t know it would become a calling,”
It gets better as it gets up close and personal. The first time I saw a tattoo, I was 7. I loved the heart on my uncle’s arm, with my aunt’s name emblazoned across it. I wanted one, but it was neither appropriate nor acceptable for a child, let alone a female child, to sport skin art in those days. My parents were shocked I’d even think of such a thing.
Flash forward to 1998 and an auto accident that required surgery on my right arm, leaving a scar that I disliked intensely. I wore only shirts that had three-quarter or long sleeves. I thought about a tattoo, but I had heard horror stories of hepatitis from cross-contamination, of pain, and poor designs. The few people I talked to hadn’t been happy with the work they’d had done.
Then I moved to Sonoma, and the heat here shortened my sleeves. And a few years later, I met Gorman, first as a poet, later discovering he was a tattoo artist.
I had been struck by his spiritual nature, which he tried at first to hide. Then I was struck by the tenderness and passion that went into the “doodles” he drew in his poetry notebook at poetry Salon meetings every week. And again, I was struck by the body of knowledge this man’s head seemed to hold.
I talked to him about a tattoo, and then met him at his tattoo studio, which was probably cleaner than my kitchen, on Stutz Bearcat Road. He looked at my scar, pronounced it “not bad,” and asked what I had in mind. That’s when I lost the power of speech. “Um, uh,” I stammered, “maybe sort of a vine or, um, something,” I stammered.
“Or,” Gorman asked, pulling an oversized book from a nearby shelf, “what about a lotus in full bloom, with maybe a leaf, a stem coming up, and a bud on the shoulder?” Somehow, he had tuned in on the fact that the lotus was a sacred symbol for me. He showed me a few pictures. Perfect. It was as if he had “read” me.
His tattoo business is aptly named: “Shotsie’s SoulSigning Tattoo.”
Nervous before the first session started, I asked Gorman if anyone had ever chickened out on him – run screaming out the door.
“Nah,” he replied, “but a few have passed out.” I figured I’d keep myself distracted by asking questions. He was ready; I was as ready as I was ever going to be. I squinched my eyes closed tightly and waited for the first jab. The motor went on, creating far less irritation than a dentist’s drill. And the pain? It was about the same sensation as using an electric toothbrush.
The project was complete in two sessions – about four hours total. Gorman had also included in the design what he called “some Japanese clouds,” pale blue spirals. (The spiral is another of my sacred symbols.)
All the while, Gorman regaled me with talk about the folklore, history and art of tattoo, about his family growing up, and about his family now (his wife, artist Kristine Gorman, his daughter Emma, 24 who aorks at Whole foods was, a ceramics major at ASU, his son Lucas, 22, and his youngest daughter Cleo Avalon Rose, who is going on nine at Woodland star School.
Gorman’s innate sense of line and form serve him well in his multiple artistic endeavors. As a sculptor, he maintains a ceramics studio on Watmaugh. Walking into that domain shows you another side of the artist, but one that makes all the sense in the world.
“The ceramics thing kinda found me,” he says. “I had given my wife and daughter Emma some ceramics classes, and went in one day just to see what was going on. For some reason, I had to get my hands on the clay.”
What’s resulted from this new passion, barely a year old, is an amazing sense of form and stylistic diversity. He has huge pieces waiting for their final touch, and small functional pieces with delicate tops and handles are drying. He has architectural sculpture sitting on shelves, beautifully carved plates and pitchers waiting for a celadon glaze.
The fact that Gorman is a sculptor is evident in everything he does. It might be called ceramics or tattoo or poetry or painting, but it all harkens back to his root – the building of objects, his desire to “make something.” Many of his paintings combine sculpture as well; they are highly textured, heavy, and often framed in iron. His watercolors are supersized, some as large as four-by-four feet, on 300-pound paper that is made especially for him.
This exhibit at the Epicurean connection will have 25 original Watercolor paintings.
Around Shotsie Gorman, color is everywhere – in his stories, in his poems, in his paintings, ceramics, tattoos and in his life.
“I always wanted to live my life out loud,” he says, “in a place where I don’t need to hide. I’ve had many healing experiences in the West. I’m home…”
SHOTSIE GORMAN 1123 West Watmaugh Road Sonoma CA 95476 707-299-0882
Born December 11, 1951, Paterson, New Jersey
Former martial arts instructor/ Nidan (Second rank of Black Belt) in Kobayashi Shorin- Ryu, Multi media Sculptor, Arts educator, 30 year Professional Tattoo Artist, Co-founder/ Former Vice President of, Alliance of Professional Tattooist, Published non- fiction, Journalist, Poet, Author Poetry collection THE BLACK MARKS HE MADE Proteus Press Albany NY, Publisher Tattoo Advocate Journal, Former owner of Shotsie’s Tattoo? Studio’s in Wayne and West Milford NJ.
Shotsie Exhibits a myriad of art forms, Functional Pottery, Abstract ceramic art, painted furniture, Hand tufted
carpets, Decorative boxes, Painted ceramic tiles, canvas figurative and landscapes, Impasto Acrylic abstractions multi media art works in museums and around the world.
Oil on galleries
Lecture tour on the art and history of Tattooing, Universities and Art Institutions around the US and Europe focusing on the creative drive and the interrelationship between culture and ritual.
Gorman lectures on process and presents thrilling poetry workshops for teens on the edge via interventive justice programs and local mentoring.
Shotsie is currently presenting “ A CONVERSATION WITH SHOTSIE GORMAN” A dialogues on unblocking the self critic at creative events around the West Coast of the US.
Painting/ illustration retrospective of visual and literary work at the Jersey City University Museum Gallery, Jersey City NJ and Paterson Museum, Paterson NJ.
Recent shows and Speaking engagements were in diverse settings from universities to Tattoo Exhibitions in 1997- 98-99 –01- 02-03-4 Bologna Italy, Moscow Russia, Orlando, Florida, Philadelphia, PA, Houston, Texas, Stockholm, Sweden. 2008-2009 Sedona, AZ, Loveland Colorado, watch for lecture series at the Sonoma Community Center Sonoma CA Fresno Ca,Portland Or Poetry center workshop.
2011 Fresno Arts convention, Eugene Oregon arts expo, Portland OR arts expo.
Currently exhibiting in: Thumbprint Cellars Gallery Healdsburg CA Raku Gallery, Jerome AZ Gifted Hands Gallery, Sedona Az SAC Gallery Sedona, Az Absolut Vodka Advertisement John Natsoulas art Center Davis CA Northern Arizona University prestigious 2009 juried biennial Ceramic exhibit at the NAU Art Museum. Juried by Kurt Weiser Towers Gallery Cloverdale CA
Thumbprint Cellars Gallery Healdsburg CA Sonoma Community center gallery Boswell Gallery Sugarloaf New York December Cover for the International Potters Guild 2009 Pottery calendar
Museum Of Natural History Body art exhibit NYC NY Exhibitor and lecture series on Contemporary cultural icons in tattooing South Street Seaport Museum tattoo and the world exhibit NYC NY
Shotsie co-hosted Boswells pottery studios Sugarloaf NY a very successful Empty bowls pottery workshop fundraiser for the homeless and food bank in Orange County New York.
Fundraiser for Eva’s Kitchen Paterson NJ for mobile emergency treat van for the homeless.
2010 fund raiser for “ The Children’s Hospital” in Davis California with Bill Hill in Roseville CA raising 17,000.00
Well Red Coyote Book Store Poetry performances Poetry workshop series “Mining for God.” Spoken word performance Poets Corner, Sedona AZ Trinity Church Poetry 2009 Reading series
Member in goods standing with the Redwood Writers Group Santa Rosa, North Bay CA
Shotsie is a self educated artist and a world traveler. He has appeared many times in print media as journalist and feature subject including: Newsweek, New York Times, Village Voice; Bergen County NJ-At Your Leisure Magazine cover Review of the New Jersey Poetry scene, innumerable newspapers around the US and contemporary hard cover books and periodicals on Tattooing and Fine Art.
Shotsie has appeared as a tattoo ambassador on: Geraldo, Good Morning NY, Good Morning America, Am NY, AM Philadelphia, Eye On New Jersey, CBS Nightwatch Many local and regional News programs. He has helped to author Customizing the Body with anthropologist Clinton Sanders Temple University PA. In addition he was a major contributor The Total Tattoo Book with Amy Krackow.
Shotsie was chosen to write the preface for Tattooed Women Photographer William De Michele, published by Proteus Press Albany NY an award winning photo essay of tattooed women in contemporary culture.
Shotsie was an honorary attendee representing the East Coast of the United states at the first ever Italian multi cultural tattoo exhibit organized by Georgio Ursinni Italian Cultural center Roma Italy La Asino and Zebra
Shotsie’s First book of poetry “THE BLACK MARKS HE MADE” Published by Proteus Press, Albany NY and released IN SEPTEMBER 1999 with a companion spoken word CD produced by Record Plant Inc. Winner of The Allen Ginsberg award Pater Poetry center and the National Endowment for the arts Paterson Community College, Paterson New Jersey 1999
Poetry Anthologies: Will Work For Peace Paterson the poets City Lips
World News PCCC literary journal NY Times
Featured Poet at: School of Visual Arts spoken word artist series. The Back Fence Cafe Bleeker Street in NYC. November 19th at Knitting Factory reading series
Featured poet along with Bret Axel, Donna Spector, Lyn Lifshin, in Middletown NY at the Thrall Library Greens Cafe 90 North Street Middletown November Greenwood lake Library
GoPoetry Online TV featured with Orange County Poets GoPoetry.com JCC Metro West Orange, NJ School Of Visual Arts NYC
Woodstock Poetry society Festival Poetry on the Loose- Sponsored by Orange county Arts council With Bill Seaton director Middletown NY Alice’s Tuscan Cafe, Warwick NY Goshen Village book Store, Goshen NY Goshen Village library, spring writers series
Mug and the Bean poetry Series, Rutherford, Soda Pop Shop Montclair NJ reading series Allen Ginsberg Award Ceremony, Paterson Museum, Paterson NJ Greens Cafe Middletown NY Barnes and Noble reading series West Paterson NJ Jersey City University NOVEMBER 4-25TH A POETRY READING SHOTSIE GORMAN RETROSPECTIVE PAINTING AND TATTOO EXHIBITION “Word art GREENWOOD LAKE WINTER VOICES SERIES JOSHUA TREE – WOODSTOCK NY 10 FEATURED poets Goshen Village Library- Goshen NY Well Red Coyote- Sedona AZ Poets Corner Sedona Az Trinity Church poetry reading series 2010 Healdsburg CA poets series 2011 And many others
Shotsie is 60 years old Currently living in Sonoma California with his wife and fellow artist and TAROT Scholar Kristine Gorman his three children Lucas Orion Gorman 22 and Emma Fairchild Gorman age 24 and their youngest Cleo Avalon Rose Gorman aged 9.