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Tattoo Culture > View Culturama

Shotsie Gorman, Shotsie’s Tattoo?

Wayne, New Jersey - August, 1997

by tattootimArtist

March 31, 2007

Shotsie stumbled unto tattooing (or as he explains it, "tattooing found him") bouncing around the New York art scene in the early 1970's. Following a whirlwind of apprenticeships and street shop jobs, Shotsie opened his own studio in Union City, New Jersey, in 1980 and has been growing and evolving (both as a businessman and an artist) since that time. Although he doesn't tattoo as much anymore, Shotsie oversees the daily operations of two shops with half a dozen employees - who he fondly refers to as his extended family. He directs much of his energy to his two daughters and a newfound love for painting and writing. Along with numerous magazine articles, his first book of poetry ("The Black Marks He Made") was published in 1999.

Shotsie has always focused on pushing tattooing (and himself) to new levels. While his early views were often unpopular with his peers, his high-end professional magazine (Tattoo Advocate Journal) and his call for organization and health standards in the early 80's would ironically become a crucial part of today's tattoo industry.

I grew up in a working class family in Patterson, New Jersey, a dying industrial town. Patterson has such a great history, but with the advent of rayon, it destroyed the silk industry. The big push with the parents was you've gotta have a civil service job, or a job with a pension and guarantees. I tried to impress on them that I wanted to be an artist. My father was a cop, to him, the word artist was a euphemism for homosexual. He came out of a working class sensibility. Ironically, tattooing made sense to him. Tattooing made [my art] legitimate. He thought that was great and came to get tattooed!

I went in the Army, which was a short stay. This was the first year of the lottery draft, right after the Tet offensive. All my friends had 3,000, 8,000. I said wait a minute, they forgot some digits on mine. Mine just said 3. I did my short stint in the Army and got dumped out.

My experience in the Army really changed me. It was the first shock of the reality of our culture. I was in Ft. Rucker, Alabama. All the guys coming back from Vietnam with pieces missing were there. Some guy committed suicide by drinking a can of Drano. It was a really nasty experience. I was a naive kid. I had no idea what was going on, what it was about. I saw so much suffering there, and I wasn't anywhere near Vietnam. It was right here in my backyard. My father was pretty dejected because I got a Medical Section 8 discharge - psychologically unfit for military service.

When I got back, I told my parents, I'm going to art school, 'cause that's what I want to do. I realized that I had to chase after what I really wanted. I didn't spend much time in art school. I dropped out of art school and went to work for an artist in New York, working in the studio.

I sold my paltry old car, took all my nickels and dimes and ran to New York and grabbed an apartment down on the lower east side, before it was sheik. I grabbed an apartment at (continued next page...)

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