Tatted up: Syracuse draws attention to human canvases

The AM-JAM Family’s 27th Annual Tattoo Expo leaves its mark on Syracuse and its residents for three “ink-filled” days.

Syracuse hosts many art shows and exhibits, yet the latest highlighted a very different type of artists -- ones with needles as their paintbrushes and humans as their canvases.

Over 100 locally and internationally known tattoo artists, jewelry vendors, and piercing artists gathered in East Syracuse’s Best Western Plus Convention Center for The American Motorcycle Jamboree (AM-JAM) Family’s 27th  Annual Tattoo Expo this past weekend.

Photo: Jim Tuttle
Brian Manos, 25, is a tattoo artist at Tymless Tattoo in Baldwinsville.

As women and men stretched their bodies across padded chairs or their arms under bright lights, crowds gathered around the tattoo stations to watch the people, whether on their first or 80th tattoo, turn into pieces of artwork. Tattoo artist Seth Graham was on his 129th.

“Hell yea, it hurts like hell every time!” Graham said about his pain tolerance after 129 needles. “[But] it’s objective, it's more 'I got something else on my body and I love it' -- it’s awesome.”

The expo held more than 20 tattoo competitions over the weekend with categories ranging everywhere from “best sleeve” to “best virgin tattoo." 

Keri McDaniel, “Righty,” came to Syracuse from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with her husband, “Lefty.”  McDaniel’s husband has been tattooing since 1996, and founded Lefty’s Custom Ink in March 2006.  Before she married "Lefty," McDaniel had sworn she would never get a tattoo.  

“I now have two sleeves,” she said, stripping down to her black tank top to show off her left arm, a sleeve full of colorful flowers, and her right, a sleeve halfway done with designs of a lollipop, a Kit Kat bar, and a Hershey's kiss.

Some, like McDaniel, came to the expo to get random designs, simply desiring to paint their skin cool colors. Others came in hopes of winning a contest (one woman had octopuses inked on both her hands, trying to achieve the Best Tattoo of the Day title).  Some had more meaningful stories behind their designs.

With a circus elephant tattooed on her back and the number 13 on her right foot, Ruth Silva is one of those whose ink means something more.

Silva's husband tattooed the circus elephant onto her only hours before as a tribute to her grandmother, who had passed away two years ago (the animal is a replica of a gift her grandma had given her).

“It’s meaningful because she always believed that it meant good luck and that it would bring the evil out of your home,” Silva said. “Growing up, I always listened to those stories and myths.”

Silva then looked down at her foot at the small black ink mark her nude wedges left revealed. It's the smallest mark on her body (no bigger than a quarter), but it carries the biggest meaning.

“I got the number 13 last year for my son’s tenth birthday,” Silva said. “He was born with cytologic dysplasia -- he wasn't supposed to live past the age of nine. He just turned 11 last month.  We had the physical and I wanna say he’s a miracle because he doesn't have it anymore. They've never heard of a child having it for so long and growing out of it; we’re so grateful for that. His birthday is January 13, so we got it done for him.”

Tattoo Nightmare

Please help.... I have a horrible tattoo on my left foot..... Not only is it ugly, every time look at it, it reminds me of my Sister who did me wrong over 6 years ago.... She turned out to be very evil. I hardly think of her but when I see my foot, it all comes back... I am willing to have an artist @ The Expo, redo my foot and make it beautiful.... It would also bury her memory for good..... Thank you.

Great showcase of fantastic

Great showcase of fantastic tattoos!

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