A clown-faced monster drives a car with human eyes for headlamps and a skull and crossbones grill. Tormented trees of the damned awaken to wreak havok on the neighboring forests. A busty dominatrix, needle in one hand and a severed head in the other, is hooked up to a machine powered by the devil's teddy bear.
As a collector of fine art, Leo Gonzales has always verged towards imagery that invokes the bizarre, and perhaps even, the unsettling. Sitting in his house, gazing at the artwork lining the walls of his home, he longed for the time when he could put his collection on display for the world to see.
“I always thought that one day I'd like to put up an art show and share it with the public, but I was always waiting because I had a few pieces I wanted to collect and put in the show,” Gonzales said. “So I kept putting it off, and at this moment, I felt the collection was ready to be put on display.”
Gonzales, the owner and operator of Stay Gold Tattoo, started creating his own original artwork when he was merely a toddler after his mother (also an artist) caught him drawing on a sheet of paper, copying from a book. From that moment on, she made art supplies readily available for Gonzales' artistic pursuits, even at the age of two.
Gonzales had no formal training and describes himself as self-taught. Mimicking the work of his mentors, artists like R.K. Sloane and Boris Vallejo, his own originals carry traces of the fantastical meanderings of dark fantasy, a world that his personal collection shares with those who have an interest in the exciting and dangerous world of the macabre.
The collection, titled “Dark Illuminations,” is the culmination of Gonzales’ foray into the art world. From the ink drawings of Vincent Locke to the torturous machinations of Brom, viewers can take a peek into an art form that Gonzales feels is not only misrepresented, but misjudged as a whole.
“I've always had a personal problem with the term illustration, and most of these artists would be called illustrators in the professional art world because they're doing book covers, magazine covers and product advertisements,” Gonzales said. “To me, it's just such an offensive tag to put on them because this is fine art. You put it up against most of the stuff you see in galleries, and the technique and technical skill involved in these so-called illustrations is well above the crap you see in modern galleries these days.
“If you're gonna call these guys illustrators, call Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci illustrators.”
The talent among these artists is immediately noticeable, from the dynamic color palettes to the intricate brush-strokes. This is not the bargain basement collection of a wayward tattoo artist, but rather an artist's love letter to the peers and influences who have shaped his own artistry.
Gonzales' attention to detail is one of the driving factors behind his appreciation for art and one of the chief indicators of his desire to share good art with the public. Scrutinizing the works with the informed eye of an artist and aficionado, Gonzales would rather put his face right up to the canvas and see how the artist formed the decision to choose acrylic over oil, or how a certain shading might have turned a simple sketch into a masterpiece.
The work is an assemblage of the years Gonzales spent collecting and working within the art world, both tattooing and creating artwork. He opened Stay Gold Tattoo in 2004 with Mike Giant, Steve Truitt and Dano Sanchez, and what sets Gonzales' endeavors apart from other run-of-the-mill shops is that each of the tattooists Gonzales employs are also hard-working artists.
“Just like the artwork we're showing, everyone is super art-driven. whereas a lot of other tattoo shops just do tattoo designs on the walls,” Gonzales said. “But our guys aren't even content with just doing tattoos. Any time we have any free time—even outside of work—we're always painting and drawing and doing artwork, which is what fuels the shop.”
“It's also why we try to hold an art gallery feel to the shop because we're all very much possessed by artwork.”
From seeing a semi-naked woman walking what looks to be the “gate keeper” from Ghostbusters, or the intricate volcano-scape of Bob Eggleton, or even the lauded works of R.K. Sloane (see “Sicko Mobile” and “The Snake Charmer”), Gonzales' personal collection will be on display at Stay Gold Tattoo until the 31st.