On July 3, the Milwaukee Art Museum
opened its first-ever tattoo art exhibition. Tattoo: Flash Art of Amund Dietzel highlights the tenacity of an immigrant entrepreneur, and the vision of an original artist, as well as the endurance of a craft that has finally come of age.
Known as the Master in Milwaukee, Dietzel began his career as a sailor, where he first honed his skills as a tattoo artist. Eventually, covered in ink neck to ankle, Dietzel traveled with carnivals as a sideshow and made his way to Milwaukee where he became the regions premier tattoo artist.
Dietzel helped define the look of the traditional or old school tattoo, kept the practice alive through two World Wars, and passed on the best practices of his craft to the next generation through the decades when many considered tattooing a low art at best, and a public health hazard at worst.
This exhibition is a great celebration of a Milwaukee icon, so what better time to have it on view than during a time when we celebrate 110 years of another great Milwaukee icon, Harley-Davidson, said Daniel Keegan, director of the Milwaukee Art Museum. I am excited to expand the Museums boundaries to include tattoo art in our galleries.
Tattoo has been curated by David Russick, with guest curator Jon Reiter, a local tattoo artist. Reiter has spent years amassing a comprehensive collection of Dietzel flash (tattoo design drawings) and peripheral Dietzel Studio material, and has written extensively on Dietzels life and career.