There may have been sweltering summertime temperatures outside, but it was an all-around cool place last weekend at Fairplex for the Pomona Body Art Expo. Some 25,000 ink addicts (and 300 tattoo artists from around the United States) turned out for the annual three-day fête—one of the world’s largest—and there was much to appreciate. With a steady buzz of tat guns provided the soundtrack, the passerby’s checked out the massive portfolios on display, while others bit their lip and added some new ink.
Interspersed among the tattooers were vendors selling a large array of products ranging from erotic apparel to tattoo supplies. And what would body art be without people to punch holes in your skin? Among the experienced piercers were Shawn O’Hare of Fillmore Tattoo, who stayed busy all weekend. “I always enjoy working the Pomona show, where so many people stop by for a new piercing,” he said.
The Expo, despite its obvious adult themes, has also proven a hit for entire families. Pushing her stroller down the aisles as she waited for her husband to get tattooed, Julia, from Moreno Valley, explained that she has been bringing her kids to the show for a few years now. “They love to see the colorful people,” she says, “and I always take them by the temporary tattoo booth for some faux ink of their own.” The Insanely Sweet booth was also popular, as owner Lance Browning said the crowd-favorite—the white chocolate-dipped licorice—“sold out after the second day.”
As usual, the Expo was a beautiful assortment of the diversity in the celebrated world of body art—from the smooth black and grey style of Steve Soto at Goodfellas Tattoo to the cutting-edge full-color portraiture of Roman at Artistic Element Tattoo in Yucaipa to the traditional work of tat legend Rick Walters, who has inked his way through 40 years of skin adornments.
Other highlights from this year’s Expo were the evening festivities, where belly dancers shimmied across the stage in sparkly coin bras, and cultural performers wearing large headdresses danced in step to native drums. The power tool-wielding female performers were also a sideshow thrill.
Over the course of the three days, the Body Art Expo also hosted 18 different tattoo competitions, where participants enter their best ink masterpieces in various categories such as tribal, portrait, unusual, Aztec, best leg, best sleeve, best back, overall male, overall female, and so on.
Those who performed the marathon feat of starting and finishing a tattoo in the same day were eligible to win the “Best of Day” award. On Friday night, Mike DeMasi from Art Junkies Tattoo in Hesperia took the honor after completing a detailed portrait of Edward Scissorhands in nine focused hours. DeMasi’s co-worker, Mike DeVries from Art Junkies, won the prize Sunday with a remarkable portrait of the man in black, Johnny Cash.
The Expo concluded with event sponsor Baba affectionately awarding Shamrock Social Club’s Freddy Negrete the Body Art Expo Lifetime Achievement Award. Many tears were shed when the presentations took place, featuring Sheila and Cathy Monte, Edwin Quong, Mark Mahoney, Baba and Rick Walters. Such a momentous accolade was the perfect ending to a primo weekend full of fascinating people, dynamic shows and everlasting skin art.
As Freddy Negrete himself stated: “I love this show.”