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The Art Of Nautical Tattoos

Museum supporters,  rock-a-billy fans and tattoo aficionados recently gathered at The Whaling Museum in Cold Spring Harbor for a celebration of the art of nautical tattoos. Guests danced outside as the Buzzards played while inside visitors enjoyed the museum exhibits and voted for their favorite tattoo art submitted by local artists. The highlight of the evening was a presentation by Samantha Sheesley, paper conservator at the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts. True Love Forever: Preserving the Legacy of Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins described the process of acquisition and restoration of Norman Collins’ work. Samantha had several pieces of flash art and acetates on display the night of the event. “Sailor Jerry” was a famous tattoo artist, and a colorful character. Besides sailing and tattooing, he played saxophone in a dance band, hosted a radio show, and was a prolific writer who corresponded with pen pals from all over the world.  Collins grew up in Northern California. He hopped on freight trains and traveled across the country and learned tattooing.  

At age 19 Collins enlisted in the United States Navy. During his subsequent travels at sea he was exposed to the art and imagery of Southeast Asia. He remained a sailor for his entire life thereafter. He later sailed the Pacific Ocean before settling in Hawaii in the 1930s. Even during his career as a tattoo artist he worked as a licensed skipper of a large three-masted schooner, on which he conducted tours of the Hawaiian islands.

The event, which was part of the Huntington Arts Council’s SPARKBOOM initiative, was, by all accounts, a huge success.

Diane Cherryholmes, executive director of the Huntington Arts Council was in attendance.

“Fantastic event,” said Cherryholmes. “Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum created the perfect intersection between hip and historical.”   

SPARKBOOM was created to highlight the high level of innovative artistic and cultural resources on Long Island, and to provide opportunities for emerging artists that could promote Long Island as a Gen Y cultural mecca. The diverse crowd at the Sea Ink event showed this to be a successful concept.  

Tattoo Lou’s provided free airbrush tattoos.  There was a long line throughout the night as delighted guests took advantage of the opportunity to try out a tattoo (or two).  It was almost as much fun to watch normally conservative adults pick out sharks or skulls to wear, as it was to get one yourself.

Beer tastings were provided by Blue Point Brewery, Shoreline Beverages and the Brewer’s East End Revival (B.E.E.R.).  Rookies Sports Club donated their famous Mac-n-Cheese. At the end of the evening, the viewer’s votes were tallied, and the  “Best In Show” award went to Alecia Rey from Tattoo Lou’s in Selden while “Honorable Mention” went to Luke LaPorto of Timmy Tattoo in Huntington Village. The exhibit will be on display at the museum until Dec. 31.