A great tattoo gathering on its own, the convention was also hosting the first-ever Chaudesaigues Award, where a tattooist’s entire body of work would be recognized by his own peers, with a beautiful trophy: the Heart of Daisies (see sidebar). The trophy and the award is the vision of Stéphane Chaudesaigues—a vision that he means to serve the tattooing community worldwide.
Council Bluffs attracted no less than 200 tattoo artists including heavy hitters like Nate Beavers, Gunnar, Chris Blison, the cast of the reality show Ink Master, and of course Shane O’Neill and Nikko Hurtado, two members of the Chaudesaigues Award jury, along with Boris Zalaszam and Andréa Afferni. O’Neill and Hurtado were on stage to help present American tattoo artist James Kern with the award, alongside Stéphane Chaudesaigues, Bob Tyrrell, Saint Marq and host Chris Longo (a.k.a. the mayor of Tattooville).
Representative of and relevant to Stéphane Chaudesaigues’ illustrious career in France and in the United States, a large contingent of artists from both countries entered the contest. A total of sixty tattooists worldwide, with ages ranging from 22 and 45, submitted their work, sending their material from Mexico, Italy, Finland, England, Hungary and many countries from Eastern Europe. The style of work presented to the jury of experts has great breadth and variety, but realism was highlighted, probably because of Stéphane Chaudesaigues’ own signature style. All it took to enter the contest was a selection of pictures and an Internet connection—that’s all it took for a shot at the big time, for a chance to pass from obscurity to limelight. Stéphane was pleased to see that a quarter of the entries came from women, who he believes, have not yet been given enough attention in a predominantly male profession.
Members of the jury for this first award were impressed with the elevated quality of work submitted by artists who, for some, were quite young and new to the art. With a jury made up of four established tattoo stars, the bar had admittedly been placed high, and it didn’t make the task of selecting a winner any easier. In the end, James Kern’s work prevailed and earned the American artist an undisputable win with the maximum of points awarded in all four judged categories: technique, creativity, esthetics and theme. Kern truly wowed the judges in this contest where, by definition, entries were kept strictly anonymous.
Proudly holding his Heart of Daisies trophy, Kern thanked his mom for her support and for being the first to ever believe in his ability to succeed in tattooing. Kern will soon fly to Paris as part of the award package where he will spend some time visiting the French capital. He will also enjoy a first class pass to visit the best museums in the city and will probably take a tour of the famous underground sewers before paying a visit to French tattooists like Tin-Tin.
Stéphane Chaudesaigues is already planning the next award with a new jury and a new venue (probably Naples). We will keep you apprised of course.
“Interesting...” commented the customs officer at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, after repeatedly scanning the Heart of Daisies under Stéphane Chaudesaigues’ watchful eyes upon his arrival in the US, mere days away from revealing the award winner at the Best Of The Midwest tattoo convention. We think that this magnificent trophy deserves much better than a laconic comment. The psycho-realist Heart of Daisies was born in Stéphane’s mind and is the result of collaboration with his brother Patrick Chaudesaigues, also tattoo artist, sculptor and painter in Brive-la-Gaillarde, France. This “powerful organ remnant of a fierce time,” (a line borrowed from the poem penned by Patrick Chaudesaigues and that accompanies the trophy,) is more than meets the eye. It’s a unique work of metal art that’s cast in the traditional lost wax method. In the hands of sculptor Jean Baptiste Martin, a chunk of earth and clay gave birth to a plaster cast, then a wax form that melted away to be replaced by molten bronze. Heavy with symbolism, the hefty piece is made of bronze and gold. Broken, bleeding, pierced by an arrow or beribboned, hearts have always been powerful visual elements of classic tattoo imagery. This one however, gives birth to a bunch of wild daisies, deeply rooted in the Chaudesaigues family history (one of their ancestors was named Marguerite (Daisy)). So it was no surprise if Stéphane chose to have his 8 year-old daughter, Enora by his side as he presented the trophy to James Kern, also sharing the stage with his wife Cécile and their elder son Steven, also a tattoo artist. Sadly, Patrick Chaudesaigues wasn’t able to join his family in the States because he was otherwise engaged, attending the Salon de l’Art Fantastique Européen.
“And the winner is… James Kern.” For obvious reasons involving logistics (his presence at the Best of the Midwest convention being one of them), the winner of the first Chaudesaigues Award had been notified a few weeks in advance that he would be consecrated during the show. Still in disbelief, Kern even sent a series of texts to Cécile Chaudesaigues, wondering if it was a prank.
Born in Saint-Louis, Missouri, (like Joséphine Baker, Chuck Berry or Vincent Price,) Kern showed an interest in graphic arts at an early age, choosing to steer his education toward the arts. He attended the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, before going to Columbia University in Missouri and getting a degree in fine arts at the Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois in 1995. A self-taught tattoo artist, Kern practiced his craft on college friends in his spare time and started his career after responding to an ad for Milios Hair & Tattoo Studio in Chicago in 1996. He learned a lot while working alongside artists like Guy Aitchison, Jason Leisge, Kim Saigh, Ben Wahhh and Jon Clue. James and his twin brother Tim, also a tattoo artist, went on to work at No Hope No Fear with David Kotker in Chicago. He bought the shop in 2007 and relocated it in Portland, Oregon. Inked will focus on this new shop and its award-winning owner in the next issue.
Texte by François Chauvin.
The heart of daisies
A powerful organ remnant of a fierce time,
Gorged with the crimson of a poignant and tormented love
Dotted with rooted veins
Powerful in the atomic depths of this majestic host,
Of subtle substances.
A secret of flesh and blood,
Huge, confined and modest,
Palpitating with a frighteningly deep rythm...
Safeguarding from boorish glances,
The symbiotic alchemy which gives rise to the purest of daisies.
Delicate flowers fragrant with gold and light,
Tiny virgin suns of sublime virtues,
Able to enlighten with their genuine rays
Creatures with the darkest of shadows…