At tattoo expo, devotees suffer for their art

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Her belly a canvas, Tiara Dorer settled back for a few hours of pain.

The Galt, Calif., woman, among attendees of the 9th Annual Lady Luck Tattoo Arts Expo, waited as tattoo artist Aaron Odell of Sacramento decorated her bare stomach with the tattoo of a human heart — complete with arteries — surrounded by a halo of rose pedals.

“It hurts, yes,” she said. “It’s the end product that’s always the best.”

Nearby, 26-year-old Brian Haldeman, sat patiently as the tattoo of a Japanese koi fish — covering most of his upper right arm — was colored with ink.

He considers the folk tale of a koi swimming upstream and jumping from the water to turn into a dragon as an allegory of his own journey through doctorate school in biochemistry at University of Nevada, Reno.

“It’s their meaning I think,” Haldeman said of why he likes tattoos. “I think it’s a great way of telling a story of a part of your life.”

Haldeman and Dorer are among between 1,500 and 2,000 people expected to visit the three-day expo, ending today, at Circus Circus Reno, said Tim Azinger, a tattoo artist from Pittsburgh, Pa., who organized the nine-year event. Close to 120 artists from around the country are there this year, Azinger said.

The days of tattoos being exclusively for sailors and bikers are long gone, Azinger said.

“It is an art,” he said. “This is about bringing together a lot of like-minded people with the same interests.”

Brandon Collins, an artist with Reno’s Nightmare Studios, is certainly of the same interest. He’s covered with tattoos — on his neck, chest, back and legs — decorations he sort of considers a uniform of his profession.

“I still have plenty of room. There’s always room for more,” said Collins, 34.

Rosario Cormier of Reno has attended the expo every year, adding to her collection of tattoos each time. Saturday she was having a tattoo of a dagger and head of a panther added to the mix.

“I don’t even count them anymore,” said Cormier, 33. “I love all of them but my mermaid is my favorite. Every time I get a new one it becomes my favorite and that one was my last.”

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