Stanley Stellar, Ethyl Eichelberger back tattoo
Postcard illustration of Ethyl Eichelberger’s back

Postcard illustration of Ethyl Eichelberger’s back with Ken Tisa-designed Ruth Marten tattoo (Photograph by Stanley Stellar)

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Stanley Stellar’s photograph shows the 1980s downtown New York City performance artist Ethyl Eichelberger with her beautiful, large tattoo of an angel in a naive style adapted from a ink and watercolor design by Ken Tisa. Ruth Marten made the tattoo and was an established fixture on the punk art scene in New York City at the time. Marten also created live tattoo art performances and was featured in the now infamous 1978 “Punk Art Show” at Washington Project for the Arts in Washington, DC. It was the first show of punk rock art, and widely considered to be the starting point of the postmodern age.

In an interview with “sang bleu magazine” Ruth Marten discussed her work and the Eichelberger angel: “Ethyl Eichelberger was a sublime creature, an invention of imagination and courage who left prematurely but left his mark, certainly. He came to me with a drawing in hand done by my fellow artist friend Ken Tisa of a wacky dancer with twirling scarves. Ethyl requested it to be tattooed over his large back and, it became an important element in his dramatic monologues from the Greek. He would build up the drama and then turn his body, drop his costume and reveal the design. Ken and I, sitting in the audience, shared an exquisite moment, honored by the vision of this extraordinary man. I was tattooing concurrent with the Gay Liberation era so I had many fabulous gay clients who were using tattoos to express their most libidinous fantasies. Giant Phoenixes emerging above the belt, Grecian scenes, interspecies love making, you name it. Lots of fun before the party ended. I was working during the Punk scene and creating lots of nihilistic tattoos like bar codes and the early typographic designs.”


Work by Stanley Stellar