THE PUBLIC RECORD
Over the last twenty years, a broad range of U.S. media has documented, analyzed and commented upon the dramatic changes that have altered the social status and cultural implications of the tattoo arts since the 1960s.
In 1970, Time magazine was one of the first national publications to note the trend as part of a profile of San Francisco tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle, whose designs on singer Janis Joplin and members of the Rolling Stones were drawing national attention.
“As an art, tattoos have been traced back 4,000 years to the Egyptians,” Time reported. In contemporary times “they have adorned the arms and chests of sailors, roustabouts and construction workers. Now, after a decade or two of decline, tattoos are enjoying a renaissance. They have become the vogue of the counterculture.” 
Photo: Adam Radosavijevic
|A California governor’s proclamation acknowledged, “The tattoo is primal parent of the visual arts… It has re-emerged as a fine art attracting highly trained and skilled practitioners.”|
“The tattoo is primal parent of the visual arts… It has re-emerged as a fine art attracting highly trained and skilled practitioners. Current creative approaches are infusing this traditional discipline with new vigor and meaning. At a time when these artists from around the world meet in California to share, teach and celebrate their skills, it seems appropriate to remind Californians that the tattoo is indeed one of the most ancient arts.”
Wall Street Journal
By 1986, tattoo arts had become a subject of interest even for such publications as the Wall Street Journal. That year, in theJournal’s Leisure & Arts column, reporter Ed Ward wrote a succinct history of the changing tattoo art scene as part of the newspaper’s coverage of the National Tattoo Association’s annual convention in New Orleans.
“Tattooing by the ’60s was in a rut,” Ward noted. “The same old designs that World War II had birthed were being chopped out in studios in every dingy port in the world…mediocrity was rampant.” But by 1972 a new, “modern” tattoo art scene surfaced across the U.S. as an expanding group of artists combined fine art disciplines with fantasy motifs executed in the lush, highly detailed tattooing style of the Japanese. The results were tattoos that were more like rich bits of tapestry than the stark pen scratchings that had characterized U.S. tattoo art of the World War II era. The result, wrote Ward, was that “what was formerly considered a sleazy perversion…became just another form of self-expression and style.”
In 1989, Esquire magazine reported: “Serious artists…are joining the ranks of tattooers and their designs are being exhibited in museums and featured in expensive coffee table books; fine-art tattooers are, furthermore, leading an effort to improve the image of tattooing….Fine art tattoos…appeal to an affluent, well-educated clientele…The new-style tattooee doesn’t merely pick out a design from the tattooer’s wall; he has an image in mind when he arrives at the studio and then discusses it with the tattooer, much as an art patron commissions a work of art. Fine-art tattoos are beautifully drawn; they reflect the Japanese influence in tattoos.”
In March of last year, the national daily newspaper USA Todayreported: “The once-rebel art of tattooing has achieved mainstream popularity in 90’s America. Today’s typical tattoo studio is clean and comfortable with tattooing areas that resemble medical-clinic rooms. The people who come in on any given day might be students, professionals, even senior citizens.”
St. Louis Post Dispatch
The St. Louis Post Dispatch in Missouri reported last May: “Tattoo shops, once catering to bikers and bums, now ink middle-and even upper-class clientele….Now that more customers come from mainstream America, tattoo parlors have moved out of bars, back alleys and carnivals to Main Street.”
Anchorage Daily News
In March of this year, the Anchorage Daily News told Alaskan readers: “What is striking about body art — even the terminology implies something of skill and value — is how it has moved from society’s margins to the mainstream. Models and MTV sparked the trend, making the outrageous seem cool. But mostly, middle-class adult women have fueled it, changing the definition of a tattoo from the sign of a deviant act to a just-slightly scandalous but quite public beauty mark.”