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The ‘tramp stamp’ gets a new face at Inktoberfest

Justin Sawyer tattoos a portrait of an elephant onto Chelsea Grabel's leg. Both Sawyer and Grabel travelled from their hometown of Alexandria, La., to attend Biloxi's Inktoberfest. Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016.
Justin Sawyer tattoos a portrait of an elephant onto Chelsea Grabel's leg. Both Sawyer and Grabel travelled from their hometown of Alexandria, La., to attend Biloxi's Inktoberfest. Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. wmuller@sunherald.com

The once-trendy lower-back tattoo, pejoratively dubbed a “tramp stamp,” has largely gone out of style, replaced by a new trend in evidence at Inktoberfest’s Inkin’ the Coast this weekend — portraits.

The tattoo artists at Inktoberfest have been staying busy with many customers, both men and women, requesting portraits of all kinds — celebrities, animals, mythical creatures, almost anything that has a face.

Aaron Antonucci, the convention’s organizer, said portraits and geometric designs have become very popular.

Scott Love, an artist from Alexandria, Louisiana, worked on a portrait of a lion on Jess Reynoso’s thigh. The Biloxi resident said it was something she had wanted for quite a while.

“I planned on getting a lion, and this is what (Love) came up with,” Reynoso said. “I love it.”

In the same booth, Chelsea Grabel of Alexandria was getting an elephant portrait tattooed on her thigh. The artist doing Grabel’s ink, Justin Sawyer, came to the Biloxi convention with an entire group of Alexandria residents.

In an adjacent booth, Perry Cagle of Florence, Alabama, was having a portrait of Johnny Cash tattooed onto his thigh by Bill Aldeir, also of Florence.

Cagle said he decided on the Johnny Cash portrait simply because Aldeir came up with the idea.

Another popular form is the cover-up tattoo to replace the lower-back tattoo, which became popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s but has since gone out of style largely due to the negative stereotyping associated with it. The cover-ups add new ink to give the old tattoo a new look or in some cases, an entirely different design or meaning.

“Somebody dubbed it as a ‘tramp stamp,’” Antonucci said. “It was probably someone that didn’t like tattoos. It was a ’90s thing, anyway. A lot of girls are coming and wanting to get theirs covered up with something bigger.”

The lower-back tattoo now has begun to attract men — “the man stamp,” large lettering that stretches across the entire lower back, he said.

In the same booth as Aldeir, Heath Hinton of Florence was tattooing a lion on a woman’s back, which connected to an old lower-back tattoo of a dreamcatcher.

The weekend’s sixth annual Inktoberfest had a much better turnout than last year, Antonucci said.

He credits the timing of the convention for the large crowds. Last year’s took place during the summer, whereas this year’s convention fell right before Cruisin’ The Coast when more people are in the Biloxi area.

“We just love bringing something different to the Coast, something new,” Antonucci said. “People can come and experience a different art culture.”

Wesley Muller: 228-896-2322, @WesleySMuller

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