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Hell City Tattoo Fest at the Arizona Biltmore

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Naked skin was at a premium over the weekend at the Hell City Tattoo Fest.

Thousands showed up at the Arizona Biltmore to show off their tattoos, get new ink, watch live painting, and gawk over the art gallery.

This year's event had an even larger turnout than last year's Hell City, and the majority of attendees were already covered in colorful, large-scale tattoos.


But it wasn't just the elaborate ink providing eye candy: Suicide Girls also had a booth there, and this troupe of tattooed, punky pinups were the official trophy girls of the Hell City tattoo competitions, presenting awards for (among other things) Best Asian Tattoo, Best Backpiece, Best Large Color Tattoo, and Best Portrait.

Check out our full rundown after the jump ... 

Vendor space consisted of six large rows of booths, filled with renowned tattoo artists from across the country and young upstarts alike. In the main hall, ink artists including Austin, Texas-based Nick Baxter, Taiwanese tattooist Jess Yen, and local shops like Zao Tattoo, Phoenix Tattoo Company, and Divinity Tattoo talked with and tattooed attendees.


Other "Attending Hellions" included Inked magazine (whose booth, like most booths at HC, was staffed by attractive women baring lots of skin tattoos), Skin & Ink magazine, and Powder Puff Pinups professional photography. (The Phoenix New Times street team also had a booth set up in the Biltmore lobby.)

While people perused the booths (and each others' tattoos) in the lobby and main hall to the sounds of buzzing needles and punk rock, others walked through the quieter fine art gallery, east of the main hall entrance. 

Local gallery Perihelion Arts was on hand to present artist Yuko Yabuki, who was finishing a large scale painting at the event and raffling off three other original pieces for charity. Several other fine art works (mostly small to medium scale paintings, with some photographs) were on display and for sale from tattooists at the convention.

But paintings weren't just limited to the gallery -- several showed up in the main hall at the booths this year, and artists from Tempe's Wet Paint Art Supply & Gallery (including Chris Dingwell, Caryl Cunningham, and Johnny Thief) set up shop on a side stage and painted live throughout the weekend.

And if the fistfuls of reality TV tattoo shows, the thousands of people who showed up to Hell City, and the countless jaw-dropping tattoos they sported weren't proof enough, the dozens of detailed acrylic and oil on canvas works there (ranging from fantastical landscapes to realistic portraits) further proved that tattooing is not just something sailors and convicts do anymore -- it's clearly a mainstream art form.


Wanna see what stood out? Check out our Hell City slideshow.

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