Godzilla posters, robot sculptures, and fandom figurines wave “hello” at the new Delinquent Gallery & Tattoo KAIJU on East 3rd Street. The new, shared space champions lowbrow art, from comics and video games to cult-classic movies and neon lights. Another collaborative effort on West Kirkwood is a new location of Artisan Alley: Twisted, a combination of studios and retail space full of boundary-pushing art by a variety of member-artists. Throw the name “gallery” to the wind as we check out these new hybrid art spaces here in B-town.
Delinquent Gallery & Tattoo KAIJU
’Twas the spring of 2017 at the Indiana Comic Con (a convention all about comics) where Louisville-based tattoo artist Chris McVillain met Greenwood-based spray paint artist and podcaster Brian Aldridge. They’ve been best buds ever since and decided to join forces, for art’s sake. “A real ‘You got your chocolate in my peanut butter’ sort of thing,” as Aldridge puts it. (Upon Googling, that’s a reference to a 1980s Reese’s candy commercial.)
As luck would have it, McVillain was scoping out Bloomington to open his own tattoo parlor. Aldridge had curated a couple of group shows in Indy and was ready for a space of his own. So they teamed up to look around downtown Bloomington for a place and eventually found Suite D in the Senoj Plaza at 300 E. 3rd St., across from Turkuaz Café.
After three months of a DIY build-out, the tucked-away space now aligns with their vision: a legit white-walled gallery in one half, a black-ceilinged, one-chair tattoo shop in the other. You can exit through the gift shop of “priced-to-sell” prints, pins, and T-shirts, or just chill on a red leather sofa and watch a Marvel movie.
When you enter Delinquent Gallery & Tattoo KAIJU through the plaza hallway, you enter into Aldridge’s gallery side. White walls to the right with overhead lighting formally display the show of the month. To the left are tables with posters and prints of characters from cult faves like Princess Bride and Twin Peaks, and straight ahead is a counter, with the gift shop behind.
At the upcoming First Friday event on August 3, get powered up for video games and art thereof. An art show called “1-UP: Extra Life” will feature video-game-themed artwork plus actual video games to play. Delinquent is teaming up with local arcade bar The Cade to set up TVs and video games during the opening, along with a giveaway of T-shirts and other swag. I’m picturing bean bags and Doritos, too, but that’s just me.
If you’ve been wondering, “What the heck is KAIJU?,” well, it’s pronounced kye-joo, and its Japanese translation is “giant monster” or “strange beast.” The very first show in the gallery space was “Kai-July,” a pun on KAIJU and the month of … July. It was a group show featuring artists from across the Midwest, and one New York artist who is officially licensed to make Godzilla artwork — which is kind of a big deal.
Most of the artists currently exhibiting at Delinquent are people Aldridge and McVillain met at conventions. Niche conventions cover pretty much all of the geeky bases — like horror and kaiju monsters, Star Wars, etc. Here in Bloomington, the upcoming Indiana Toy and Comic Expo will be happening at the Monroe Convention Center on August 26.
Walk through an opening to the left of the Delinquent gallery and step into KAIJU, the land of McVillain. With a big beard and full-sleeve tattoos, McVillain runs a one-chair tattoo set-up. He was first licensed in Kentucky and has been tattooing for 15 years before joining the scene here in Bloomington. His style orbits the world of monsters and horror, and he also designs enamel pins and stickers of a similar ilk.
To be clear, they operate two separate entities: McVillain runs Tattoo KAIJU, and Aldridge runs Delinquent Gallery. Separate websites, separate business cards, same address. It’s a little confusing on paper, but it makes sense when you’re there. You know: symbiosis, synergy; words like that.
Now hop out of your Batmobile and into your VW to catch the vibes at Artisan Alley, an arts organization that provides a plethora of resources for local artists at an ever-growing number of sites. The latest addition is Twisted, located in a blue house on the corner of West Kirkwood and North Maple Street. This new shop is Artisan Alley’s “retail solution for non-juried products” — a little less curated, a little more edgy. If you’re looking for more political stuff, pop culture, sex, etc., this is the place to come an’ get it.
A friendly artist with a cigarette might greet you on the wooden railing out front. Once inside, you’ll find both a well-stocked storefront and a total of 17 private studios. The space bursts with artwork: shelf after shelf of ceramics, candles, and wooden puzzles; cases of handmade jewelry; and walls covered in pop-culture posters and boudoir photography. Harimaya’s Loving Hands can soothe your bones — a healing Reiki shaman — and is one of several mystical services on offer, including a tarot reader and an apothecary studio.
As an artist, you can join Artisan Alley at varying degrees of membership, from basic co-working space to renting your own studio. At Twisted, some of the resources include a glass-blowing program and access to a photo booth for photographing products, with the physical storefront plus an online platform to sell your wares. At their flagship 2nd Street location, more studio space and resources abound, including shared computers with a bunch of useful software.
Adam Nahas has led Artisan Alley through a few different locations. He says the organization is looking forward to joining the First Fridays Gallery Walk at their 2nd Street location, and it’s hoping to achieve official nonprofit status soon, too.
While Twisted is not specifically a gallery and will not participate in the First Fridays Gallery Walk, they do plan to host various events in the space, from small gatherings and classes to live music. The shop opened in the beginning of July, and they’re still experimenting with the storefront hours; currently, they are open noon-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
So, hey punk, if traditional galleries aren’t your thing, check out Delinquent and Twisted. They’ve still got serious art, but the vibe is much more chill — don’t expect any wine or cheese. Pop culture, DIY, “lowbrow” shtuff. In conclusion, don’t try to tell me that you don’t know someone who would love a poster from Princess Bride … that’s a double negative that’s simply INCONCEIVABLE!