We Heart Art: Lexington Tattoo Project

We Heart Art is a Young Mary’s Record series dedicated to both the newly-discovered and seasoned veterans of the art world.  Today’s artists are the very talented, Lexington, KY natives, Kurt and Kremena - the brainchildren behind Lexington Tattoo Project.


(photo provided by the artists, Kurt and Kremena.)

Young Mary’s Record:  Hi Kremena and Kurt!  We’re so excited to have you on YMR and letting our readership know about your latest creative endeavor, The Lexington Tattoo Project.  Please introduce yourself and tell us about what this project is all about —

Kurt & Kremena: We go variously by Kremena and Kurt or Kurt and Kremena. Kremena is from Bulgaria. Officially, she teaches Twentieth-Century American Literature at Transylvania University in Lexington, KY. Less officially but oh-so-excitingly she collaborates with Kurt Gohde on classes the two of them offer (notably Creative Disruption and Community Engagement Through the Arts) and on socially engaged artworks that unfold over long periods of time. Kurt Gohde teaches Studio Art at Transylvania University. He grew up in Upstate New York, near Cooperstown (the home of baseball—as he explained to Kremena shortly after they met), and has lived in Lexington for 15 years. He has made collaborative artworks for many years now. Together, Kurt and Kremena have worked on Passing, an artwork that documents the lives of drag queens and kings who have called Lexington their home through photographs and recorded oral histories; DISCARDED (visit http://discarded-usa.com/ to see some of the images and read about this artwork); and most recently The Lexington Tattoo Project (http://lexingtontattooproject.wordpress.com/). The two of them also built the world’s largest mustache cup in 2010.

At the core of The Lexington Tattoo Project is our love for Lexington: a place both of us have come to call home. About a year ago we asked Lexington-based poet Bianca Spriggs to write a poem as a love-letter to Lexington. Though Bianca responded that her relationship with the city is more complicated than straight-ahead love, she wrote a beautiful poem titled “The _________ of the Universe: A Love Story.” The two of us designed the layout for the poem, including a background image—an image that is made of three kinds of dots—that will remain a secret until the fall and that makes each tattoo (based on one or more words from the poem) distinctive and recognizable. We also created a facebook event as a way of recruiting participants. By January 3, when the tattooing began, we had more than 240 people signed up to get a tattoo and a long waiting list. All the tattoos were completed in January by Robert Alleyne and Jay Armstrong at Charmed Life Tattoo Studio in Lexington. We are now almost done photographing each healed tattoo. We will use these images for exhibitions and for the video we plan to make, which will feature music by Lexington native Ben Sollee. We will show the video and reveal the hidden image at a big party in the fall!


(photo provided by the artists, Kurt and Kremena.)

YMR:  Tattoos are pretty permanent.  Have you found it easy to get folks to volunteer for the project or had any resistance?

K&K: No resistance at all—just the opposite: there has been a lot of enthusiasm in Lexington about permanent tattoos as an expression of affection for our city and as another connection to friends, relatives, and the larger community. In fact, of the 250 people who got tattoos for this artwork, more than 60 were first-timers!


(Photo provided by the artists, Kurt and Kremena.)

YMR: Do you guys both have tattoos or have had them prior to this?   What was your first tattoo and what does it mean to you now?

K&K : The tattoo each of us got as part of the Lexington Tattoo Project was the first tattoo for each of us! Kremena chose “deep roots” because of her already deep roots in Lexington and in Kentucky. Kurt chose “The Wishbone” ” because of his long-standing willingness to believe in making wishes—on eyelashes, dandelions, birthday candles, wishing wells, and, obviously, wishbones. Of course, our tattoos have come to mean a lot more to us: they are another way in which we feel part of our Lexington community; they are a great conversation piece: an easy way to strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere; they are a test of sorts for others’ tolerance for art, poetry, and tattoos: Will that stranger come talk to me about the phrase tattooed on my back? Will they ask me about the meaning of the tattoo on my right calf? We both love our tattoos.


(photo provided by the artists, Kurt and Kremena.)

YMR: As active artists — you’ve had many other projects prior to this, and I’m sure are working on upcoming projects — what is the biggest challenge of being an artist today?  Is it easy for you to stay actively creating — what do you do to stay motivated?

K & K : The biggest challenge for the two of us is time, an obstacle we can’t overcome. The Lexington Tattoo Project alone swallows up every minute we have, plus time we don’t really have J. Keeping in touch with 250 people, making sure everyone knows when to show up for her/his tattoo appointment, where to go, what to bring—this task took hours every day in January, not to mention photographing daily at the tattoo shop.

The support we receive from the people with whom we work—and from many who find out about our artworks—is motivation enough. But we also feel a deep sense of responsibility to do well by the people who trust us with their skin, their stories, their affection for Lexington and for each other. This sense of responsibility is a tremendous motivation.

Is it easy to stay actively creating? Since we began working together, we’ve not had a moment to wonder what we could be working on next, where to find inspiration. Our artworks typically start with an idea that is fairly small and that continues to grow until we realize that we are in it for the long haul J. For instance, when we began The Lexington Tattoo Project, we had no idea that one day there would be The Boulder Tattoo Project and The Miami Tattoo Project. A few days ago, a friend facebooked us suggesting that we create a Tattoo Project for each state: 50 poems, 50 states, 50 tattoo projects. While we are fairly certain that this will not happen, we realized we’ve made a long-lasting commitment to this artwork…


YMR: For folks visiting Lexington, KY — where can they go to best experience and support the art scene?

Traditional gallery spaces (Lexington Art League, Morlan Gallery, Living Arts and Science Center, Institute 193, Arts Place, and LOT) are all included as part of Gallery hop. But, as in many other cities, less traditional spaces pop-up frequently, are often very exciting, and can be found by asking the people who work daily inside the cultural community. Ask the baristas at Third Street Coffee, the people working at Squecial Media, or any of the artists with a studio at The Bread Box Studios (located at West Sixth Brewery) and you will quickly learn about new places to visit, about exhibitions that you shouldn’t miss during your visit.

YMR: How can we keep up with or get involved in the Lexington Tattoo Project — (opportunity for website shout out and facebook/twitter/etc or any events revolving around this) –

Check out our website: HERE. We update our blog twice every week: stay tuned for announcements about a fleshmob, a big release party, exhibitions, and a book. All this just to begin with!

YMR: Anything else you’d like us to know!  Or anything you’d like to know about us?

K&K: If you want to get a sense of what The Lexington Tattoo Project video will be like, sort of, watch this: (make sure to expand the video to fill your screen). The American Inn sign is still there.

You can see it while eating tacos at Mi Mexico on New Circle.

And: we would like to know what your favorite music video/video artwork is. Is there a video that you find uniquely arresting, something that you cannot stop yourself from watching?

YMR: I’m ashamed to admit I’ve watched Wrestling every Monday for the last few Mondays.  I’m slightly obsessed with this character, Mark Henry:


It is just as embarrassing as it seems, ladies and gents.

In addition to that — I have listened to this Johnny Cash cover of Rusy Cage quite a bit this week— the video itself isn’t uniquely arresting, but something about the song has been this week for me.

Dig on Young Mary’s Record and the folks we feature?  Don’t just sit there, bust a like.

Young Mary’s Top “Go” Suggestions for 2013

As 2012 comes to a close, Young Mary’s Record has taken some time to review our very insane year and evaluate the places, people, and things we’ve been introduced to and share our thoughts.  To start, we’ll be posting our suggestions to you, sweet readers, of things that RULED for us, that we hope can RULE for you in 2013.

GO SUGGESTION #1 :  Attend a Music Festival

$$$ : SXSW - Austin, Texas


(cute indie couple i sat behind and watched makeout at sxsw 2012. )

  • Of all the many, many, music festivals I’ve attended in the past few years, this one never ceases to surpass the others.  Yes, it’s the most overly-hyped, overly-expensive, crazy, exhausting event for every somebody and nobody in the music industry — and that’s what makes it worth the dolla bills.  Don’t shoot the messenger.   For industry professional and music-makers, it’s a must and also a rite of passage — (anyone who hasn’t pushed their equipment several blocks through huge crowds of drunk people in the sweltering Austin heat hasn’t lived) -  And for just music lovers, it’s WAY more awesome.  Pros: Great venues, great diverse line-up, great perks (lots of FREE or almost FREE food, drink, swag) — Cons: Some shows will sell out fast — hotels are overpriced and traffic, in general, is a disaster.  If you have the cash, get there early - get a hotel nearby (walking distance) - fly - and call it done.  If you don’t, check out my “Guide to Not Hating SXSW Because You Don’t Know What The Hell You’re Doing” I intend to put out in February.  
  • SXSW Official Website : HERE.

$$$ : CMJ Music Marathon — NYC, NY


  • CMJ is college radio at it’s finest.  And from college radio come many, many of the very acts that we fine folks eventually discovers (month, years…) later on mainstream radio and licensed on television and music.  So, what better way to have the edge than go to a festival full of up-and-comers?   Ah, and that’s why and how we have CMJ.  Admittedly, there are hundreds of bands and very few that you would necessarily have name-recognition with, but the pro of that very thing is being introduced to something new and wonderful.  Some of the venues are big, some are intimate, but they’re speckled all throughout New York City - it’s just plain good.  The biggest PRO I got from attending, however, was my education.  Yes, I was on a panel myself (brushes shoulders off, hangs head in shame for brushing shoulders off.) —but I was so impressed with all the other panelists as well.  It is inspiring to be in a room with the mixed energies of people chasing a dream just like you are.  CMJ provides you with the room and energy, you just have to embrace it.
  • Official CMJ Site: HERE.

Less $$$ Choice: Midpoint Music Festival — Cincinnati, OH


(Maggie Gard of The Bears of Blue River at MPMF ‘12.)

  • Cincinnati, in general, is a gem of a city that is going to get a whole lot more of my love and attention in 2013.   I have had only positive experiences with folks in the music, art, and creative industries from that place and Midpoint Music Festival has become a staple of my yearly goings-on.  Why this festival rules so much?  It is perfectly executed.  The programming is a spot-on mix of local/regional talent, up and comers, and hip (but not in the sense of fairweather trendy) headliners.  The venues are all within a short walk, there are tons of food trucks, there are drink specials, there is joy and laughter and well-dressed people and there is a community sense that hasn’t been beat by any other festival of that size for me.   I can’t praise ‘em enough.  Also — one of the super dudes  Dan McCabe behind MPMF is also behind bar MOTR Pub, if you’re going to be in Cincy not during the festival — go for a drank and a burger there, and see who’s playing.  
  • Official Midpoint Music Festival Site: HERE.

$$$ :  Starry Nights Music Festival — Bowling Green, KY


(Cage The Elephants at Starry Nights 2012. Photo by Jackie Osborne Photography.)

  • Hometown festival for the Young Mary’s Record gang.  But a truly great festival from any standpoint.  If you’re a huge Cage the Elephant fan and you want to get an up-close and personal look at the Shultz brothers and the enterprise they’re currently building (with this festival and in producing and promoting other musicians), well — you’re an absolute boob if you didn’t attend Starry Nights.    And if you’re not a Cage fan, their line-up was pretty impeccable.  You don’t know how many other promoters I’ve spoken to that have told me they’re using the Starry Nights line-up as a model for their own events.  Oh, and did I mention it’s FREE?  As in $$$?   Well, that’s because it isn’t.  But it is entirely affordable and the first person that reads this post and mentions it to me, I’ll give you a pair of tickets to the next Starry Nights event.  Compliments of YMR.  After you like my Facebook page.  And ask me.
  • Official Starry Nights Festival: HERE.

Five Festivals We Intend to Try on for Size in 2013:

Tomorrow’s Suggestions posts for 2013 will be GO: Outside and GO: Have a Drink !  Follow us or LIKE us on Facebook to keep up !

Young Mary’s Not-Sucky Stocking Stuffers : The Bonnaroo Book

One thing  I’m good at - that apparently in my area isn’t worth paying me for — is gift-getting and gift-giving. I like presents.  Buying them, making them, brainstorming -  and yeah, the giving part is okay, too.  Thus, I present, Young Mary’s Non-Sucky  Stocking Stuffers for all of you that might need a guide.

Today’s stocking stuffer is the official Bonnaroo book.  Perfect for the guy or gal in your life that has an affinity for:



- being in terrifyingly large crowds on very hot days

-wearing nothing but paint on their nipples in public


-music festivals

-coffee table books

-overpriced fake drugs : HERE.

-browsing the clothes that cool kids wore to this

- or all of the above.

The Bonnaroo book is available for ordering on their official website HERE and only $20.  All joking aside, I bet it is pretty nifty as there are over 400 photos that encompass all 10 years of Bonnaroo.  Also, if you get your ‘Roo  ticket early (going live on 11.26!), you can get the book with your ticket for half off at $10. 

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