The queer community has an underground tattoo scene that celebrates grit and glamor, taking control of the body, and the breaking of binary thinking. On social media, a page called queertattooers encourages tattoo artists to use the hashtags, ‘queertattooer,’ ‘queertattoo,’ and ‘qttr’ to promote queer tattoo artists and the thriving scene they're a part of in the mostly macho atmosphere of the tattoo industry.
Jose Vigers has been around. From Australia, he was all over the vibrant city of Berlin for a while before moving to London. Now he splits his time between Berlin, London, and Vancouver. He is one of the contemporary tattoo artists who brings power to the movement. With a kaleidoscopic background in fine art and illustration, Jose currently channels his artistic energies into creating tattoos that defy the archaic macho imagery in tattoos. He designs tattoos that depict queer imagery such as the glitz of drag queens, BDSM themes, and anything that involves striking a blow to the patriarchy.
I am glad to say that Jose is the only tattoo artist I've ever had the pleasure of interviewing who named 50's queer tattooer, Samuel Steward, as an inspiration to parts of his career in tattooing. Read the rest of what Jose Vigers had to say below!
How did you get started as a tattoo artist?
I began my career as a fine artist, I slowly transitioned into tattooing as I met some strong nurturing female-tattooers who gave me the space to learn, experiment, and move somewhat into my own lane in terms of tattooing in professional spaces.
How would you describe your distinct style?
I guess my style is very camp; in that its very affected. I have a love for the unnatural, for artifice and exaggeration. I am less interested in traditional ideas of authenticity so I guess my style is in constant flux.
I have recently become very interested in the idea of 'diva worship' and the way in which portrait tattoos of unique femme and butch individuals give power to queer people.
As an artist, how do you perceive social media?
I grew up connected to social media, and the internet, I enjoy its destabilisation of identity. I enjoy the way in which its evolving our visual culture, the way we look, the way we see ourselves, or others, its all changing, I find it exciting.
You have a tasteful aesthetic in your current feed. I love it. What inspires it?
I am inspired by drag queens, their performative critique of gender, I would hope my work has some of this element to it.
Talk about the strong queer imagery in your works. They’re very striking.
Trans and queer is the future, non normative sexual practice and lifestyles are freedom from oppression, from the patriarchy.
How would you like to evolve as an artist?
I would like to start using tattooing in more performative environments. After working in tattoo specific spaces for a couple of years, I am ready to start exploring other avenues of using tattooing, the reconstitution of peoples bodies, in another way.
What’s your take on the contemporary tattoo scene?
It's complicated, in one way I see much of the structures around the tattoo industry more than a bit homophobic, racist, misogynistic, and just generally rude. However, as a craft, I respect its foundations, and many — if not most — tattooers I have worked with have been genuinely good people. I look to early queer tattooers such as Samuel Steward for a sense of direction when operating in spaces alien to my own.
If you weren't a tattoo artist, what would you have been up to?
I would probably have continued as a commercial artist, tattooing has expanded my horizons and introduced me to many amazing artists and people.
Destroy the cistem, time is not linear, never listen to people telling you your body is wrong.