Composer Bela Bartok wrote that art is “essentially a matter of evolution, not revolution.” It is rare to read an interview with an artist and not find something to the same effect. Artists are constantly evolving, growing with their medium, and transforming what may once have been considered a hobby or a parlor trick into a fine art. This rings especially true for tattoos, mere decades ago considered a handicraft for sailors, sideshow performers and comic book-style criminals. Now, with dozens of publications dedicated to ink, a handful of iffy reality shows and the ubiquity of the medium, tattoos capture a certain zeitgeist, colliding with graffiti as the newest outsider art to take its rightful place in the world of fine arts. E-Volved magazine, based in Ventura, aims to inhabit a similar niche.

“I love getting the mail,” publisher Christina Diaz beams. Why shouldn’t she? Sitting in front of her desk in a downtown loft, a U.S. Mail box holds several hundred submissions from artists worldwide. Since its release on March 29, E-Volved magazine has been picked up by two major international distributors with distribution to more than 40 countries. Not bad considering the production effort consists of two main contributors: photographer Michele Muerte and  Diaz, who selects everything from the 60-pound  glossy paper to the fonts, and writes all of the copy.

Seeking to “blur the lines” between traditional tattoo magazines and fine-art magazines,  E-Volved presents a distinct combination of the two, featuring two tattoo artists and two fine artists per issue plus a step-by-step article detailing the complexity of composing a piece. The step-by-step in the magazine’s premiere issue showcases artist Derek Harrison. About E-Volved, he asserts that “The time has finally come where a quality publication bridges the gap between fine art and tattooing. E-Volved stands behind its name. This is how far an art form has come, and these are the people pushing boundaries.”

 

Photo by Michele Muerte
Publisher Christina Diaz cradles the first issue of her magazine.

If E-Volved does anything, it pushes boundaries, constantly challenging the reader to determine what is expected and what is observed. Ms. Diaz, possessing a master’s degree in English, sets out to defy stereotypes, especially the stigma surrounding girls with tattoos. The models, while classically beautiful and heavily inked, “are real women, with real lives and education,” Diaz notes. In fact, “Lex” is pursuing her Ph.D. in biological anthropology while “Ivy” supplements her modeling income with a day job in, of all fields, electron microscopy.

The publishing force behind E-Volved, Ms. Diaz also has a knack for discovering and fostering new, underrepresented artists. The first issue showcases Noelle Timmons, a painter whose dreamlike portraits evoke comparisons to Mark Ryden with the precision of Chuck Close. Surprisingly, this is the first solo feature for Timmons, a receptionist at a Ventura day spa who plans on starting art school in the fall.

Although Timmons and Diaz happen to live in Ventura, E-Volved is an international publication reaching as far as the Netherlands, where it’s being sold in a comic-book store, with its first issue drawing from multiple influences and relying heavily on the art of nationally-acclaimed tattoo artist Jeff Gogue, who painted the cover, and fine artist, Chet Zar. Gogue sees E-volved as a “voice for us, where tattooing [is] an industry and a community, a platform for the culmination of fine art, and tattooing as a legitimate medium.”

The journey to finish E-Volved’s premiere issue began more than a year ago when Diaz, a 10-year veteran of the publishing industry, decided that a magazine would serve as a much-needed forum to combine her love of fine art and tattoos and transcend  traditional media, focusing on talent rather than gimmicks, real people over pinups, and artists, not hobbyists. The pieces adorning the pages of E-Volved could appear on a gallery wall anywhere. She takes the time to write the medium under each piece as the artists’ work on skin bears the fluidity of oil on canvas. It can be confusing to the eye, yet pleasing to the psyche. The art is dynamic, both traditional and unconventional, and E-Volved skillfully evokes these qualities with a layout expert in its precision and healthy, thoughtful interviews. Local tattoo artist Manuel Valenzuela is exceptionally moved; “E-Volved is a magazine you definitely want to keep your eye on. I am impressed with the quality, originality and fresh perspective of this magazine,” he said.

When Diaz picked up the first boxes of E-Volved, fresh from the printer, she felt a certain sense of accomplishment and awe. “Words can’t even describe how thankful I am for all of the support. My friend saw my face when we got the magazine and she said, ‘Say something. Do something. Feel something.’ ” With E-Volved, Diaz compels the reader to do just that. 

The second issue of E-Volved will be available in late June at Salzer’s Records, West End Gallery and Tattoo Studio, Toxic and Handsome Devil, Beautiful Disaster boutique in Ventura. For more information and subscription rates, visit  www.facebook.com/EvolvedMagazine.