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Part tattoo parlor, part fine art gallery

'The Panelists' brings together various works in a comic-strip style piece arranged to tell a narrative.

January 05, 2012|By Joanna Clay
  • Zoey Stevens, known around the world for his fine art, is trying his hand at tattooing and bringing big names in the art world to the tattoo studio that doubles as an art gallery.
Zoey Stevens, known around the world for his fine art,… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

Zoey Stevens, a fine artist whose work is internationally known, is now trying his hand at a new artistic medium: tattooing.

Not only that, but he is attempting to combine his new interest with his adoration of art at the Living Art Gallery in San Clemente, which is part tattoo parlor, part fine art gallery.

Stevens, of Laguna Niguel, has shown in Las Vegas, Miami and Frankfurt, Germany, but admits that Orange County has never been in his reach due to the gallery business' apprehension surrounding "counter-culture" artwork.

His portfolio ranges from vibrant celebrity portraits to thought-provoking, sometimes disturbing paintings that depict everything from cell cloning to pollution. Stevens, a Type 1 diabetic, makes paintings that often feature blood.

He's also raised nearly a million dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) through art donations.

He's attempting to shake the art community up a bit by partnering with Living Art Gallery owner Monte Livingston and hosting regular art shows that showcase serious arts newsmakers who are seen in the biggest cities in the world but rarely in Orange County.

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The first show, "The Panelists," will open Jan. 21 and feature Stevens' work along with works by renowned names such as Shepard Fairey, KRK Ryden, Anthony Ausgang and Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh, among others. All the artists in the show created a comic-strip style piece that will then be arranged to tell a narrative.

Livingston and Stevens met five months ago and hit it off. Livingston took him on as a tattoo artist and was receptive to his artistic ideas.

Although Livingston has been doing tattoos for 11 years, this is Stevens' first time on the stool; he was slightly afraid at first. He has no tattoos himself.

"It's something I never thought I would do since I'm not really down with the whole tattoo scene," Stevens said.

His mind was changed by a fellow diabetic and tattoo artist, Derick Kurtz, who went blind due to retinopathy.

After Kurtz taught him the trade he was bound to lose, Stevens decided to take a stab with the needle, although he admits it's much different than his medium of choice.

Not only is it on a person rather than a canvas, but he can't be sparked by inspiration at 4 a.m., run into his studio and get to work.

If there's something he wants to do, he said he has to have a willing participant.

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