While you were apple-picking, in your apartment Netflix-and-chilling, or hanging out at a bar, 23 hopeful people were getting mystery tattoos.
If you haven't heard, tattoo artist Scott Campbell (the man behind the ink of celebrities including Marc Jacobs and Courtney Love) recently embarked on a four-day project called "Whole Glory," a "one-man installation and performance," according to The New York Times. Essentially, Campbell gave a bunch of people in NYC free tattoos — with a serious catch. The people, picked via an in-person lottery, had no say in what they were getting inked on their bodies. In fact, they weren't even able to see the art in process.
The setup for "Whole Glory" was thus: A winner's arm was slotted into a hole in a picket fence (we couldn't have made this up) and Campbell inked the adventurous soul from the other side, sight unseen. Campbell knew nothing about the subjects beforehand; no visual details were shared — nada. What could he possibly glean about them? Yep, these were some pretty trusting people.
"I’ve had lots of people come to me and say, 'Do what you want, I totally trust you,' but as a tattoo artist, you never have absolute freedom in what you create," Campbell told The New York Times regarding the idea behind the project. "Your canvas always has an opinion on what is going on them, which is great because sometimes you get inspired by the person, and the piece becomes a reaction to them. But it can also be a hindrance, because with any medium, it’s always purer if you are unaware of the audience."
Alexandria Symonds, the online features editor at The New York Times, was one of these trusting few. She wrote about her experience (her mystery art was a "sort of triangular thunderbird, with a tiny, lopsided heart next to it," she describes), and noted that, as random as it may seem to those on the outside, it wasn't. Campbell, with whom she spoke shortly after getting tattooed, planned the designs ahead of time, but ended up completely changing them once he picked up on the participants' "vibes."
“I’d sit there and I’d shave the arm, and I’d clean it off, and I’d be like, ‘It’s not right.’ Yours included,” Campbell told Symonds. “Every single one, I changed my mind last-minute. Who knows, maybe Malcolm Gladwell would say there are subtle, imperceptible clues I caught.” Surprisingly, the designs actually fit the individuals. Symonds describes feeling relieved after the reveal of her design. Eric Lagerberg, an architect she spoke to who also participated in the project, said, "Twenty people that I spoke to tonight, everyone thought that they got the perfect one.”
Ahead, we rounded up some of our favourites from Campbell's Instagram. There are some recurring themes, like skulls, animals, and flowers. Messages of love and trust are also prevalent. They're all placed on the inside of the person's arm. But, like a snowflake, each one is completely different.
You can head over to Campbell's page to check out the rest of the photos, and to The New York Times to read Symonds' full story. And let us know in the comments: Would you trust someone you've never met to ink you up permanently? Hey, if you're one of the brave ones who says yes, you might just get your wish.
“I’ll do it again, for sure,” Campbell told The New York Times. “I’m opening a studio in L.A. in the springtime, so maybe that will be the kickoff. Who knows, maybe it’ll just be a hole! Maybe my studio will just be a hole.”