A Skull Carved From $11K in Cash [Slideshow]

Tattoo artist Scott Campbell turns ink-freak imagery onto George Washington.


Scott Campbell is a tattoo artist in Brooklyn who got kinda? famous for inking cool-kid celebs like Marc Jacobs and Heath Ledger — something he somehow managed to parlay into a place in the world of gallery art.


His latest exhibit, Noblesse Oblige at the new OHWOW gallery in L.A., is proof positive. It includes etchings on copper plates, morbid images drawn inside delicate ostrich eggs, charred currency, and, descending deeper into the pocketbook here, a skull carved out of $11,000 cash. Somebody get this guy a spread in Vice magazine! (Oh, wait, maybe not.)

Campbell made the skull by slicing a 3-D image into uncut sheets of dollars taken directly from the U.S. Mint. The skull was then placed in a copper box that’s roughly 2 feet long by 2 feet wide. The price tag for the sculpture: a whopping $50,000.

What does it all mean, you ask? Apparently, the phrase “Noblesse Oblige” is tattooed on Campbell’s neck, and is intended, as the Times put it recently, as “an ironic battle cry for Campbell’s backwoods Louisiana kin.” Here’s how the press writeup describes it:

The title Noblesse Oblige implies that whoever claims to be noble must conduct their life accordingly, and in a manner that conforms to one’s position. In Campbell’s case, his “nobility” is his tattoo-artist origin, and it is to that position and reputation his compliance is fashioned. In exhibiting a chronicle of working-class imagery, customarily inked onto skin, Campbell seeks to construct a new context for the genre ? an alternative narrative for consideration.

?Working-class imagery?; constructing a ?new context?; ?alternative narrative’s: Okay, so maybe the concept is a bit… art-schoolish. But for OHWOW, Campell is a smart gamble. OHWOW is an established gallery and retail mini-chain in New York and Miami. Hoping to create a conduit between the East and West Coasts, OHWOW decided to open a satellite in L.A. By tapping Campbell, whose art is nothing if not conspicuous and who has loads of Hollywood cred, to boot, OHWOW is broadcasting its ambition to compete with the gallery big boys on both coasts. Besides, as everyone knows, nothing speaks to the instincts of the art world better than cold hard cash.

[Images courtesy of OHWOW]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D