“Hollywood” Sign of the Times

Photo Courtesy of the Hollywood Sign Trust and HollywoodPhotographs.com. All Rights Reserved.
Photo Courtesy of the Hollywood Sign Trust and HollywoodPhotographs.com. All Rights Reserved.

The “Hollywood” Sign inspires dreamers, welcomes starry-eyed visitors, is a familiar friend to locals and has a life of its own with stardom and tragedy. For nearly a century, the Southern California icon represented in movies, TV shows, advertisements, books, music and more, has stood tall on Mount Lee, which is located in Griffith Park.

“It’s more than just nine white letters spelling out a city’s name,” says Betsy Isroelit, media director for the Hollywood Sign Trust. “It’s one of the world’s most evocative symbols – a universal metaphor for ambition, success, glamour… for this dazzling place, industry and dream we call H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D. It’s wonderful to know that the Sign is an inspiration to people from all walks of life, as well as to generations of filmmakers.”

Hollywoodland
Photo Courtesy of the Hollywood Sign Trust and HollywoodPhotographs.com. All Rights Reserved.

Like the city it watches over, the dramatic Sign was a fitting addition to a booming industry of silver screen magic and shining stars above and below. At its birth in 1923, the Sign read “HOLLYWOODLAND,” after a local real estate development, owned by then Los Angeles Times Publisher, Harry Chandler. It was used primarily to draw people to the glamorous west and sell homes.

The $21,000 Sign, lit up with 4000 light bulbs blinked in order: “HOLLY”, “WOOD”, “LAND”, and a 35-foot diameter “.” punctuated the end. Each letter stood about 43 feet high and 30 feet wide. As described by Isroelit, “The original Sign was constructed of wooden telephone poles and squares of tin. Letters made of hundreds of small squares of metal proved to be difficult to maintain, as the squares would easily pop off in a wind or rainstorm.”

The advertising tool was meant to stand for only 18 months, but outlasted the real estate company it was originally built to promote that eventually went out of business. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, as the country suffered, Americans looked to the movies for escape. But pain was also found there.

The rise and fall of one movie star proved too much for 24-year-old Peg Entwistle, who committed suicide by plunging to her death off the top of the “H” in 1932.

Some say “The Hollywood Sign Girl” still haunts the mountain today. But perhaps she doesn’t have to wait much longer for her featured roll. Entwistle’s tragic story will finally be told on the big screen as a film is currently in the works.

By the end of the 1930s, the Don Lee Network, then owned by his son, bought the land behind the Sign and built a television broadcast studio and what was the highest elevation transmission tower in the world at the time. The site of the network and working radio towers are still seen by the Sign on Mount Lee, the namesake of the man who helped promote television broadcasting.

Aging and in need of care, the Hollywoodland Sign became the property of the city in 1944. In 1949, after World War II, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, together with the City of Los Angeles, decided to give the Sign a badly needed facelift. And like many of the movie stars it inspired, the Sign was also given a name change, dropping the “LAND” and simply becoming “HOLLYWOOD” to help promote the city and growing movie industry.

Unfortunately, in the 1960s, after the golden age of cinema, large movie studios began to move out of Hollywood and into neighboring cities with more space. The Hollywood Sign continued deteriorating, like the city beneath.

In 1973, the Sign was designated an official Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (#111). In 1976, prankster Daniel Finegood changed the sign to read “Hollyweed,” as a class project in college and in support of looser marijuana laws; he received an “A.” Finegood changed the sign to “Holywood” in 1987 during the Easter season and a visit from Pope John Paul II.

By the 1970s, the Hollywood Sign was infested by termites and a crumbling mess. In order to restore the iconic landmark, Hugh Hefner held a fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion in 1978. Each of the original letters were “auctioned” off and 9 well-known individuals spent about $23,000 each to sponsor a letter.

Today, the Hollywood Sign Trust non-profit “is responsible for physically maintaining, repairing and securing the Hollywood Sign; educating the world about its historical and cultural importance; and securing the funds necessary to accomplish these projects,” says Isroelit. “Since its charter in 1992 the Hollywood Sign Trust has led a range of projects to preserve and protect the Sign, including two major refurbishments and the installation of a state-of-the-art security and surveillance system.” There’s even a police officer stationed nearby. According to Chris Baumgart, chairman of the Hollywood Sign Trust, “The Hollywood Sign received two tons of makeup in time to celebrate her 90th birthday [in 2013], restoring an American icon.”

So grab your hiking boots, some water, and sunscreen. You don’t have to go far to see the most famous Sign in the world. One great way to see it is via the Mt. Hollywood Trail at the Charlie Turner Trailhead, on the north end of the Griffith Park Observatory parking lot, a 3.8 mile round-trip hike. There is also a Hollywood Sign shuttle from the observatory and other longer trails that lead right behind the Sign for hikers to enjoy an added bonus: a spectacular view of Hollywood, a unique and thriving city once again.

Go to Hollywoodsign.org for more information and details about visiting the historic monument.

Originally published in The Quarterly magazine, Fall 2015

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Authentic Asian Cuisine: A Unique Food Culture in the 626

Originally published in The Quarterly, Summer 2015 issue

By Ann Suk Wang

Venture east, not Far East, but much closer for some Asian palate pleasers. East of Los Angeles and into the San Gabriel Valley (SGV) is where a vast variety of authentic Chinese food outmatches any outside Asia. These days, even New York, San Francisco, and Chinatowns around the country cannot compare to the offerings in the “626” (a term adopted by Generation Xers and Millennials, referring to their beloved hip area code.)

Truffle Pork XiaoLong Bao from Din Tai Fung. Photo courtesy of dintaifungusa.com
Truffle Pork XiaoLongBao from Din Tai Fung. Photo credit: dintaifungusa.com

In our cultural stew that is Southern California, the SGV is a welcome haven and home to many new immigrants, primarily from Asia. And we all benefit from the cultural exchange, especially when it comes to the amazing food options around Main Street and Valley Boulevard.

According to Clarissa Wei, columnist for Have You Eaten? at kcet.org,

“We have some of the most apt and undiluted representations of Asian cuisine here.” From Yelp reviews to food bloggers and top food critics, people agree that the SGV is turning the commonly thought of “Chinese food” on its head and has been for the last 30 years. The poor man’s chow mein is old school. Now, specialties like “water boiled fish” from Sichuan are perfected nearby and take the spotlight.

Even the entertainment industry speaks to the unique food culture in the 626. The Fung Brothers ignited excitement around businesses in the SGV while giving people a taste of good eats on their catchy YouTube music video that went viral in 2012 and remains unmatched. Search “Fung Bros 626” for the original video and bounce along.

“We didn’t create the food wave, the Asian food movement; but we helped brand it,” says David Fung in a phone interview from South Carolina where the brothers are filming a show for the FYI network. They helped make it cool for the younger generation to drink boba milk tea and have pride in their neighborhood.

Shanghai Rice Cakes from Din Tai Fung. Photo credit dintaifungusa.com
Shanghai Rice Cakes from Din Tai Fung. Photo credit: dintaifungusa.com

But taking a step back, the Asian food boom in the area began in the 70s. The attraction for Asian immigrants to come to the SGV can be traced back to a single realtor, Fredrick Hsieh. “He wanted to make Monterey Park the new Taipei,” says Tony Chen, freelance food writer at Eater.com and SinoSoul.com. Wei adds in her article in firstwefeast.com, “He began to advertise homes in the San Gabriel Valley in Hong Kong and Taiwanese newspapers. In the 1980s, Monterey Park was heralded as the Chinese Beverly Hills. Today, that title belongs to Arcadia.”

The affluent, who were drawn to the SGV, brought their appetite for authentic quality food with them. Today, more wealthy mainland Chinese people are attracted to the area, bringing with them even more tasteful delights, pushing the boundary of culinary excellence even further east, past the 605 Freeway.

Sichuan food is an example of even more variety in Chinese food now available in the area. “Sichuan food has blown up in China and now here,” says Chen. For some of the best and spiciest dishes, try one of Chen’s and Wei’s favorites: Szechuan Impression in Alhambra. Chen raves, “They’re elevating the game. They believe in restauranteering.”

Some of Fung’s favorites include (and I must agree here): Savoy for their juicy Hainan Chicken and Vietnam House for your pho fix (pho – pronounced “fuh” – is a noodle soup with fresh herbs, vegetables and meat.) Both are modest restaurants that serve delicious food at a very reasonable price. Expect a wait, especially at Savoy on weekends and lunch and dinner hours.

For the best variety in one location, visit the hugely popular “626 Night Market” at Santa Anita Park, in Arcadia. There you can try many types of food like Korean BBQ, fried squid on a stick and egg custard desserts. End the night by sharing a packed bowl of Asian fruit over shaved ice and sweetened condensed milk while enjoying arts, entertainment and shopping that doesn’t break the bank.

Modeled after the famed Night Markets of Taiwan where patrons push through shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, vying for the freshest foods and the most popular goods, the Arcadia version is much tamer in comparison, but still scented with stinky tofu and lots of fun. The next of these periodic events will be July 3-5. Visit http://www.626nightmarket.com for details.

Lobster from New Port Seafood. Photo credit newportseafood.com
Lobster from New Port Seafood. Photo credit: newportseafood.com

Whatever your taste, you can certainly enjoy the combination of exotic authentic ingredients only 10-15 minutes away. Even better, you’re sure to find new favorites there.

** Some of my favorite Pan-Asian fare in the 626:

– Din Tai Fung (Arcadia) for hand-made Taiwanese xiaolongbao or juicy pork dumplings. Also try the Shanghai rice cake, cucumber salad, fried rice, and 8-treasure sticky rice for dessert.

– Golden Deli (San Gabriel, Temple City) for Vietnamese pho noodles, spring rolls and egg rolls.

– Lunasia (Alhambra, Pasadena) or King Hua (Alhambra) for dim sum, a sampling of Chinese dishes.

– Newport Seafood (San Gabriel and other locations) for their special lobster.

– Phoenix Food Boutique (South Pasadena, Arcadia) for any meal item and dessert.

– Noodle World (San Marino, Alhambra, Pasadena, Monterey Park) for pan-Asian noodles.

– Huge Tree Pastry (Monterey Park) for authentic Taiwanese breakfasts and classic dishes.

– Why Thirsty (San Gabriel) for Taiwanese pork chops and fresh tea.

– Fluff Ice (Monterey Park) for a unique take on shaved ice.

– Paris Baguette (Arcadia) and 85 Degrees (Pasadena) for French and Asian-inspired desserts and coffee.

– Half and Half Tea (Pasadena, San Gabriel, Arcadia, Monterey Park and other locations) for honey boba (tapioca pearls) and ice milk drinks. I ask for everything “½ sweet” for less sugar.

Dangerous, Common And Treatable

An ad from the San Francisco Hep B Free Campaign. Source: SFHepBFree.org
An ad from the San Francisco Hep B Free Campaign. Source: SFHepBFree.org

Originally published in The Quarterly Magazine, Spring 2015 issue

A deadly disease lurks in the blood of nearly 1 in 50 people in Los Angeles. The silent killer is the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). And a simple blood test for those who are more prone can easily be the first step in eliminating the devastating effects.

Though some may feel shame in being a potential carrier, this misconception carries a greater shame in not being tested and facing death. The truth is that Hepatitis B (Hep B) is a sickness like any other, passed between average people. But unlike other illnesses, the virus often progresses without any notice to its victim. 85% of carriers have no symptoms. Undetected, HBV quietly replicates, eventually targeting the liver. “The main cause of death from Hepatitis B is liver failure and the development of liver cancer,” says Dr. Myron Tong, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Asian Liver Center and Clinical Hepatology at UCLA and Chief of the Liver Center at Huntington Medical Research Institutes (HMRI) in Pasadena.

This insidious attack can continue for decades until the damage is so great that the individual begins to experience severe fatigue, abdominal pain, or jaundice (deep yellowing of the skin or eyes). These are only a sample of symptoms caused by a distressed liver. “By this time, you’re pretty sick,” says Tong. Those affected “don’t feel sick so they don’t feel an urgency to be screened. [With advances in testing and medication,] we don’t need to see people dying of Hep B anymore,” says Mimi Chang, Senior Nurse Practitioner, Asian Pacific Liver Center in LA.

Looking in the future: This could be you. By the time Hep B individual is jaundiced, the liver is already seriously damaged. Source: WebMD.com
Looking in the future: This could be you. By the time Hep B individual is jaundiced, the liver is already seriously damaged. Source: WebMD.com

Because the virus is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids (like semen and vaginal fluids), one cannot get Hep B through casual contact (hand shakes, sneezing or sharing utensils). However, HBV is 50-100% more contagious than HIV. 50% of HBV is vertically transmitted from mother to child during the birthing process. Intravenous drug users, men who have sex with other men, and those with multiple sex partners are also at risk.

Immigrants (even second and third generation) from and those traveling to areas around the world where there are high rates of HBV carriers are also at greater risk. Some high-risk regions include, but are not limited to, East Asia, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. 75% of carriers around the world are Asian, according to Tong. So in LA where Asians make up nearly 15% of the population, the number of people who don’ t know they have Hep B is an issue.

Endemic areas around the world. Source: HepBFreeHawaii.org
Endemic areas around the world. Source: HepBFreeHawaii.org

One of the saddest cases seen by Susan Lewis, RN and Clinical Hepatology Coordinator at USC, was in an educated family man of 28, raised in the US, who didn’t know he had Hep B but came to the hospital when symptoms finally appeared. He died of liver complications before his 30th birthday. But this stark outcome can easily be avoided.

“Chronic hepatitis B is a treatable infection. Screening of at-risk persons, early detection and treatment, when indicated, can lessen the risks of illness, liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and death from liver disease,” says Dr. John Donovan, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases, Keck School of Medicine at USC. With education and careful attention to Hep B, Tong believes this health concern can even be eradicated in the next few decades.

Since 1991, all children born in the US routinely receive the Hep B vaccination (in existence since the early 1980s), effectively protecting 95% of those inoculated. But for those who did not receive the vaccine, it is still a necessity, so long as the virus is not in their system (only found by a blood test) and they are born to a family from outside the US where Hep B is endemic. For instance, a person born in the US in the 70s to a parent who immigrated from southeast Asia should be tested because even though the parent did not show outward signs of Hep B, they could have passed down the virus to their children. The vaccine is useless if an individual was already exposed to HBV and is an asymptomatic carrier. For these people, a blood test is necessary to be screened for the virus.

A doctor can then determine if a person needs the vaccine based on family history, or if found positive, the type of treatment needed (usually one pill each day until the HBV is under control.) The sooner it’s caught, the less damage to the liver and the higher the chance of survival. All pregnant women in the US are tested for Hep B. If they are found positive, the baby has a chance at a Hep B-free life if treated at the time of delivery.

If anyone has a family history of liver cancer or falls in the categories above, screening is necessary. Since physicians may not exactly know the people groups who need testing, it is up to the public to become aware and ask for the test. And money should not be an issue. For those who need it, there are free clinics where testing can be done and if necessary, funding for treatment as well. Visit AsianPacificLiverCenter.Org for more on testing in LA, regardless of race. Having a discussion about family origins and medical history can begin the awareness toward testing for a potentially hazardous illness that is completely treatable if found well before symptoms arise.

Join others on May 19, National Hepatitis Testing Day and be an advocate for a “Hep B Free LA” (a volunteer organization to help educate and promote screenings).

To read more about Hep B, go to http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/B/bFAQ.htm or http://www.AsianPacificLiverCenter.Org

A special thank you to Dr. Tong for his expertise in Hep B and extensive help in research for this article.

Blog Hopping with Gifted Writers

Though I am new to the term “blog hop,” the way I understand it is this: It gives people a chance to dig into the mind of a writer… an interesting place to go spelunking whether or not you’re a writer yourself AND to find some cool blogs you may not have discovered otherwise.

Vivian MabuniI was invited to participate by Vivian Mabuni, author of the recently released “Warrior In Pink,” fellow Redbud writer, mentor from our UCLA days, and dear friend. Viv is on staff with Cru and speaks messages of inspiration and truth around the globe. I’m fortunate to know her and meet with her during our monthly writer pow wows, along with the talented Karen Yates. Make sure you check-out Viv’s book above; it truly is a moving and eye-opening “Story of Cancer, Community and the God Who Comforts.”

 

In regards the blog hop… how does it work? Basically, I answer 4 questions below and introduce you to bloggers I love! They, in turn, will blog the same thing the following week. So with no further ado, here are thoughts on my sometimes manic and sometimes peaceful writing life…

1. What am I writing or working on?

Monarchs and middle grade fiction (not at the same time)

I am so excited to research (like in my kitchen, hands-on kind of research) and write about monarch butterflies for the San Fernando-based “Quarterly” magazine. In between cleaning the frass (butterfly poop) off my counter and managing to keep my children fed (yuck, that should not be in the same sentence), I am also editing my middle grade novel about Fred Fu and his deceased dog come to life to help solve a mystery of missing pets and homeless boys.

I also write features and have a column “A Stone’s Throw” in the South Pasadena Review newspaper (remember those big sheets of folding paper that make your hands turn black and smell so…  journalistic!?) I’m still a bit old school in this way.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to think my Christian, Asian, family-centric, animal-loving, tea-drinking, (Tahitian) hula dancing, gardener wannabe self makes my work unique and unto itself, thought-provoking and quirky for all to behold.

3. Why do I write what I do?

…because if I don’t, I might explode (excuse me, it’s late) AND to use my God-given love for words for the benefit of community – encouraging, inspiring, informing, enjoying (especially for kids, because I’m a big one).

4. How does my writing process work?

Oh boy! I’m still trying to figure this one out. It’s currently 3:46 AM! And I’m willing myself to sleep, but my fingers press on, (no pun intended.) I write at various times, in all places (pools, schools, toilets, outlets…), under any circumstance (thunderstorms, 100 degree weather, power outages…) I write when I’m sad, mad, happy, confused… It clears my head (making space for more to flood in). I hate it. I love it. I can’t do without it.

But if I must break it down, I usually: research 80% (way more than I need). I write 10%. I pull my hair out and swear I’ll stop taking on new writing assignments (especially when on deadline) 11%.

Now for the fun part, INTRODUCING bloggers I love…

Caroline Park and I met at NewSong church and bonded quickly (we are, in fact, both ENFJ’s on the Myers Briggs personality test). We can have a deep and meaningful conversation one minute, then be completely silly the next. I have so much fun with Caroline and admire her heartfelt candor… she’s like the little sister I’ve always wanted growing up and finally have!

Caroline Park

Caroline is eternally grateful that she has been able to live a life that has been filled with stories of pain, love, and joy. The fact that she loves writing is a juicy cherry on top, since now she can share with the world what she hopes will inspire hope and encourage laughter. During the day, she works in marketing at one of the best start-ups in the country, and by night, she’s drinking whiskey and spending as much time as possible with wonderful friends. But the top three things she thinks about on a daily basis? Animals (hippos and dogs, mainly), food, and how to get that food in her mouth.

Ways to connect with Caroline:
blog – carolinehungers.com
facebook – facebook.com/carolinehungers
twitter – @carolinejaz
IG – @carorine

Stella Erbes has been a dear friend since High School. She was always the smart, God-fearing older sister I never had and am grateful to have now! Because Stella is always a few steps ahead of me in life, I know I can always look to her for guidance and a caring ear. We also happen to have a lot of fun together!

Stella ErbesDr. Stella Erbes is a teacher at heart. Her passion to teach and help others has led her to compose her blog full of lifestyle resources. Dr. Erbes is a university professor and teaches education courses which help prepare future teachers. She hopes that the entries prepared in her blog will lead her readers to exceptional food, unforgettable travel, and better living. Check out her book, What Teachers Should Know But Textbooks Don’t Show, a practical and engaging guide for any teacher.

Ways to connect with Stella:

blog – stellarstops.com

twitter – @stellarstops or @stellaerbes

email – stella@stellarstops.com

 

Tattoo Art: More Than Skin Deep

Tattoo-inspired clothing at “My Tattoo” studio in Alhambra, CA
Tattoo-inspired clothing at “My Tattoo” studio in Alhambra, CA

Originally published in The Quarterly magazine, Fall 2013

Tattoos may symbolize rebellion to some, and to countless others, it expresses creativity, freedom and even love beyond words. Whatever your leaning, the rich history and overall artistry of tattoos demands a more thoughtful look into an entirely unique realm of beauty and intrigue.

Today, we find tattoo art on more than skin. It is juxtaposed to painted masterpieces at UCLA’s Hammer Museum during an earlier exhibit featuring Ed Hardy, one of the most renowned tattoo artists.

Vibrant and lively tattoo art is also popularized on items like wallets, shoes, clothing, watches, eye ware, cell phone covers, car seats, baby carriers, special edition spray cans and soda cans.

But from where did these signature designs originate? And what have they evolved into today?

Since the time of our primitive ancestors, tattoos have, at different periods, been a form of spirituality, status, honor, adornment and even punishment. Sometimes they were used as amulets and at other times, a bond between lovers.

The earliest discovery of body modification by coloring the skin was found in an upper Paleolithic cave in France where tools for tattooing were carbon-dated at nearly 40,000 years old. And from 30,000 BC, a carved figure with tattoo markings on the arm was found in Germany.

The oldest evidence of tattoos on an actual person was a surprisingly well-preserved Ötzi Iceman found in a glacier in the Italian Alps, near Austria, carbon-dated at nearly 5,300 years old.

Unlike the needle method used in modern tattoos, the Ötzi Iceman’s markings were made by incisions with charcoal placed inside for coloring. More than 50 lines and crosses were found on his skin; but the evidence for these patterns suggest a more medicinal purpose since they closely follow acupuncture lines.

Before 2,000 BC, women in Egypt were known to have tattoos as a safeguard during pregnancy and against illness. Shortly after, women began to use tattoos as fashionable adornment.

During the millennial transition from BC to AD, from Asia and the Americas to Europe and Africa, evidence indicates that tattoos were in broad use for various purposes.

During the Han Dynasty in China, it was used to mark people as property or criminals. Around the same time but in a different part of the world, it was also used to set apart the upper class. The Greek writer Herodotus, from fifth century BC even stated of Scythians and Thracians, Indo-European tribes, “tattoos were a mark of nobility, and not to have them was testimony of low birth.”

Despite the ebb and flow of tattoo popularity around the world and through the ages, modern tattoos in the United States are believed to have originated from Polynesia.

In 1769, after Captain James Cook’s first exploration of the cultures in the Pacific, he brought back to Europe sketches by Sydney Parkinson of intricately and extensively tattooed Maori men, like that of a “Portrait of a New Zealand Man.” To be tattooed in patterns of dots, swirls and tribal shapes all over the body, including the face, was an honor, a rite of passage and a mark of attraction.

From the Tahitian word “tatau” which means to “strike or mark,” the modern “tattoo” was established. And it’s no wonder that mariners adopted the practice first, bringing a taste of the islands to people on the mainland in Europe and America and helping them grow more accustomed to the art form. Of course, these seamen, often in the Navy, donned nautical symbols and images, like anchors, stars, ships, ocean waves and mythical sea creatures.

And as people traveled more frequently throughout the world, unique types of tattoo art spread. In America today, some of the more popular styles include: black and gray, full color, tribal, portrait realism, pop culture, traditional Asian/oriental and new school or neo oriental.

Though individual tattoos vary vastly, one thing remains: it is most often an immensely personal form of devotion and expression that literally changes the wearer for life. They carry with them at all times, a piece of art, a work of beauty, a memory of a loved one, an object of devotion or a simple symbol of who they are.

Those who are tattooed are just as diverse as the tattoos they wear. For instance, some Christians tattoo Bible verses or words of inspiration on their arms like, “Love God, Love People” in beautiful script. Alex Wu, an ordained minister in Orange County, wears an Asian dragon tattoo, not from a sordid past but from a confident present, an expression of his roots.

A mother wears a realistic portrait of her late son to help her grieve the loss while a group of ladies etch pink ribbons on their skin to help celebrate their friend’s remission from breast cancer.

Though tattoo art is everywhere, etched onto nearly any kind of object, at its very essence it is ink for the skin. And according to Penelope Jones, Assistant Dean of Student Services at the USC School of Fine Arts, when asked about how to differentiate the quality of tattoo art she said, “Because it is site specific, the most successful tattoos take into consideration the placement, the person’s individual physique like the crevices in the skin and hills of the body.”

Kohei Toyama, a tattoo artist at My Tattoo in Alhambra, echoed Jones’ sentiment, adding, “You have to remember you are working near muscle, bone and on a live moving person.”

Even when it is not on the skin, “It is tattoo art because of the history, culture, lifestyle and tradition behind it,” says Andy Tran, one of 5 students, along with Toyama, in the My Tattoo family of artists under master trainer Jess Yen.

When asked about what he would say to skeptics of tattoo art, Toyama replied, “Right now, there is so much skill required… It’s just art.”

And he is right. In Los Angeles alone, a mecca for gifted tattoo artists, the highly talented come from all walks of life.

There are those with a master in fine arts like Roni Zulu, who is also an accomplished cellist, to those who are self-taught, like Dan Smith who was featured on LA Ink (a past reality TV show hosted by tattoo artist, Kat Von D) and a reputable musician to boot. Even Ed Hardy, born in 1945 and raised in Southern California, was bound for Yale, when he decided to become a tattoo artist instead.

As with any excellent artwork, tattoo art comes alive as the artist creates within their confined environment, keeping in mind the cultural roots of the medium and putting their spin on shadow gradients, detailed lines, color combinations, and even 3D-like images to tell a story, the wearers story.

Tattooing is like putting a wonderful illustration on a live canvas. But for those who appreciate the art and desire it on more than skin, it is often placed on objects and found in museums to be admired even more broadly.

When asked where tattoo art is headed, Tran said, “The industry is growing and evolving so quickly, we [as artists] are pushing ourselves to new boundaries. It is limitless.”

History of tattoo credits: “Tattoo” by Thomas, Cole and Douglas; Smithsonian.com; http://archaeologiemuseum.it/en/node/262