La Marca, A Second Skin

Under the direction of renowned artist Leo Canosa, and based in the Historic Center of Old Havana, La Marca, the first professional studio-gallery of corporal art, has been functioning since January 30, 2015 to legally position on the island the millenary art of tattoos.

At La Marca, compared to other tattooing studios, they don’t work by catalogue or imitation. Each person can have engraved on their skin a unique work, according to their interests, personality and formal and conceptual concerns, previously appreciating the style of the artist who will carry out the work. Corporal decoration, from the identity and love for the so-called dermic art, are reasons that inspire going to the place for one of these creations.

Leo, with more than two decades of experience in the sweet pain of ink on the dermis, now heads another four tattoo artists, a graphic designer and a social communicator. Guest artists from Cuba and abroad at times display their creations at La Marca.

Photo: Alain L. Gutiérrez Almeida
Photo: Alain L. Gutiérrez Almeida

“We don’t want to be seen as private workers but rather as artists: that’s what we are. Tattooing is no longer considered a representation of ancient cultures, or a passing fashion or an allusion to criminals, but above all as an art,” Leo says to OnCuba while he sketches a lion’s tooth coming out from the top of a young woman’s chest, pure dexterity with no other canvas but the skin.

Leo doesn’t exactly know how many tattoos he has on his body. He considers that tattooing is just a trade if what you do is reproduce figures based on a photo. Making a personalized design, a different drawing for each individual, that really is art. “The idea is to make a version of a certain pictorial motif giving expression to your imprint and seal as an artist,” added the multi prizewinning creator, who has spent half of his life “pricking,” as the action of permanently engraving the skin with ink stings is called in Cuba.

In adequate hygienic-sanitary conditions, La Marca is also a cultural center that explores the synergy of tattooing in the manifestations of the visual arts, theater, dance, literature, graphic design and music, with a gender-based focus and a broad vision of communication and social development.

Photo: Alain L. Gutiérrez Almeida
Photo: Alain L. Gutiérrez Almeida

Exhibitions and presentations by new young artists, concerts and creation workshops designed for diverse publics: children, young people and specialists, among other actions, all of them regularly bimonthly, are hosted at La Marca. The offer is complemented with a crafts shop, but of limited editions and with marked emphasis on the design and drive of the author’s work. In addition, it is linked to cultural events and projects organized by other state-run or private institutions, it provides advice and accompaniment to local projects, and its spaces are available for workshops and conferences. With a varied cultural program that is renewed every month, with exhibitions as well as musical and community proposals, La Marca aims to authenticate the Cuban tattoo.

Linking tattooing to all the artistic manifestations that have the body as support or center, and legitimizing this manifestation in the country, where it is increasingly gaining more adepts, is the day-to-day work of this team of artists who with memorable ink marks create, between lines and points, a second skin.

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