Alex Empty and Taylor Ryan's "Interdependent" at eye lounge

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This Friday, two local tattoo artists are opening the doors of eye lounge in downtown Phoenix -- without a tattoo needle in sight.

Alex Empty and Taylor Ryan are debuting Interdependent, their first collaborative art exhibition of designs in paint, wood, acrylics, and dyes that they've been working on since December 2009.

"We both have a long history in art," says Ryan. "This particular project is a 'together thing,' obviously, but where we were at before definitely is the reason we are where we are now, why we did the project and why we work so well together." 

Ryan and Empty have a long (and oddly parallel) history in the local tattoo scene. Years ago, the two worked at the same tattoo shop in Phoenix, but missed each other by a few months. They also both left Phoenix for a short time on opposite sides of the country and eventually found their way back. 

Now, they work side by side at the Golden Rule in Phoenix, where they currently decorate the shop's customers (and walls) with their artwork. 

"I think that the way that we work together is more than just style ... we push one another and the way that we pull from one another," says Ryan. "The fact that we can be incredibly neurotic artists who can work together without the desire to stab anybody -- that, in itself, is an amazing thing."

The two also have very different styles -- Ryan says his tends to be more intricate and heavily inspired by Japanese culture while Empty opts for more simplistic designs. 

According to Empty, the exhibition's title, Interdependent, stems from a Buddhist concept of the dynamic of being responsible to one another: "If a person can realize that no part of their existence is disconnected from the rest of the world, then generally they're on the right track"

Ryan says that while the looming date of their show feels like a "commencement," Interdependent will be the first of many collaborative projects to come.

"We live in downtown," says Empty. "This is our hood. We want people to know what we do and show them kind of a cross section of what we're capable of because we want to be a part of the community ... these types of opportunities are really what I want to do. For me, to be able to walk [my daughters] down to a public space that has art that represents the community, and to take them to something I helped do, or to raise them in an environment with art and community ... that's cool, man."

Interdependent will open at the eye lounge, 419 E. Roosevelt St., along with work by local artist Ingrid Wells and Molly Mendoza from July 15 to August 13.  For more information, check out the show's invitation.

Kholood Eid
Interdependent artists Alex Empty and Taylor Ryan.
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