Cheech Wizard and Daisy Mae walk into an art gallery…
Mark Bodé is a second-generation underground-comic artist, whose father,Vaughn Bodé, became famous for his outré cartoon character, Cheech Wizard. Mark, along with Dr. Revolt and Stan153, was inBrooklyn this past week to exhibit new work at the Urban Folk Art Gallery’s new show, “It’s Alive! 2”. He has also been a tattoo artist for about 15 years, and when not at the show, he was kept busy all weekend inking his fans with his custom designs. He is known, like his father, for his bodacious women. “Inspiration comes from a lot of different places,” said Bodé. “Sometimes I’m using drawings my father did. He was known for his erotic and voluptuous women, which he trained me to draw early on.” He grins at the memory. “In fact, he taught me to draw tits when I was seven years old,” he continued. “He said, ‘Son, if you draw them like this, you’ll always make money’. And I’ve been drawing them like that, and I always make money. So he was right!”
Mark also had an early career experience with some characters who are very well-known today. “In 1985-86 I met Kevin Eastman, one of the co-creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” said Bodé. “He said he was a big fan of my dad’s, and the ‘Turtles’ were just taking off (this was before they were on TV), so we decided to do a comic book together. For a period of about seven years I worked for the ‘Turtles’, and it was a great ride, a lot of fun. We were cartoonists, and we were living like rock stars!
Bodé’s also proud of the fact that younger artists see graphic work as a legitimate path for an artist. “It’s a new art form that birthed right here, in New York City,” he said. “The level of ability is just through the roof. People doing super photo-realistic stuff, people doing super stylized stuff, like myself. The hottest artists in the scene right now are spray-can artists. You had Keith Haring that was kind of the beginnings of it, the huge ‘pop-culture superstar’, and I’ve seen some of my friends go to incredible levels with it. My friends Os Gêmeos, from Brazil, for example, do murals all over the world, and some of their paintings go in the hundreds of thousands of dollars now. It just opens doors.”
Mark’s tattoo art also evolved over a period of time. “I never dreamt I’d be tattooing, actually,” said Bodé. “I had seen a lot of people doing Bodé characters as tattoos, and a friend told me that I should do ‘flash’ (tattoo designs), and then sell them to tattoo shops. So I brought the flash to a tattoo convention and sold out. So my friend told me ‘Why don’t you quit messing around and tattoo people yourself?’ Bodé wasn’t sure where to start. “So I asked him, do I practice on grapefruits? Chickens?” He laughs. “And he told me, ‘No. Drunk people!’ So we went to down to the local bar, where everybody knew me as an artist, and I asked, ‘Who wants a free tattoo by Bodé?’ And all these hands went up, and that’s how I started.” He then went on to do a proper apprenticeship with Al Valenta, and with Myke Maldonado, who co-ownsBrooklyn Tattoo, along with Adam Suerte. “We’re friends, so I like to do some guest spots here every now and then,” said Bodé. When he’s not on the road, he also works two days a week at Sacred Rose Tattoo, in Berkeley, near his home base of San Francisco.
Mark Bodé was one of the first artists through those doors. How does he feel about the new-found love by the art establishment for spray-can artists and comic-book heroes? “It makes you step up your game, that’s for sure,” he said. While he was in New York, he helped paint a huge mural in the Bronx. “It’s great to do stuff for the public, a lot of times I don’t get paid for it. It’s just fun to be in the streets, and be with people,” he said. And by the crowd that buzzed the gallery on opening night, the people love to be around Bodé and his creations, too.
‘It’s Alive 2’ is up until November 19th.