10, 20 years ago, it was “pick this off the wall,” get it tattooed on you. At the time, that was a big huge tattoo, something palm sized was a big tattoo, and now people are getting huge enormous pieces.
Gold Heart Tattoo is unique in the area as it is also an alternative art gallery where artists are welcome to paint or draw directly on the walls, it’s not just a hanging space. Hoch explained, “Gold Heart gives us the opportunity to show whatever we want, and do whatever we want, in the space. Huge walls, gallery lighting, (artists can) do whatever they want and nobody is telling them not to.
Tattoo Artist, Missy Hoch
Interviewer: We met with Missy Hoch, she is the owner of Gold Heart Tattoo which also serves as an alternative Art Gallery located on the Northside of La Crosse’s up and coming neighborhood of Uptowne. Besides having a 6-9 month waiting period to get a Tattoo from Missy, you may visit the gallery most weekdays and weekends and check out the rotating exhibitions in the space, located on the same street as Uptowne Cafe, Root Down Yoga Studio, Old Towne Strings Music Shop and the Sweet Shop, Gold Heart Tattoo is a welcomed addition to this historic growing neighborhood.
Interviewer: Can you tell us about life growing up and kinda what led you to tattooing?
Missy: Well I grew up on an organic apple orchard in La Crescent, Minnesota and that sort of environment was in layman’s terms, was basically like a hippy commune. It was an environment that definitely led to a lot of creativity and kinda if you work hard you can do whatever you want.
I was always interested in art like any child usually is. After I graduated from high school, I went to college and got my bachelor of fine arts from UW-Stout for painting and then right after that I kinda just got right into tattooing. I came to La Crosse, got into Twisted Skull and worked front desk for a year and then started tattooing and I haven’t stopped.
Interviewer: What was the first instance of just kinda realizing that this is something that you wanted to do? Did you see some other work?
Missy: On my parents farm we had all sorts of people that came and worked for a season, or worked for a couple years and there was this guy that my parents knew, and he kinda spent a lot of his 20’s and 30’s roaming the country and he was kinda a fringe of society sort of person and he had a lot of tattoos, and his tattoos weren’t typical of the midwest.
Twenty years ago, most people who had tattoos were people in the service or people that were in prison or whatever. This guy was the only person I had seen that didn’t have an anchor or a pinup and he had these really interesting tattoos. That was the moment I started getting really interested in it was when I saw his tattoos, and saw that you literally can put anything on your body. To me, the way art is, is that it can go in any format, so I have always seen tattooing as an art form.
Interviewer: So it was kinda like you grew up, headed towards that path and you went through the process of learning more about fine art and then to start apprenticing. So what was the impetus for Gold Heart Tattoo, especially the gallery component of it?
Missy: When I was in school, my favorite part of school was the creative energy that people had and then the deadline of doing the show. You have all these ideas, you’re making all these things, but for what? And so, I liked the idea of kinda marrying tattooing and the gallery. The tattoo industry is generally, or has been historically, pretty separate from the art industry.
Interviewer: True to form, me and Amy of River Travel Magazine have also received tattoos from you. It’s almost after it’s done, from my experience it’s like “Do I just leave with this?”, it’s almost like we build a relationship in some capacity. How is it with having these pieces walk out the door?
Missy: For me personally, from the tattooer perspective, the tattoo is not necessarily the end game of the art piece that exists, I think that, as dumb as it sounds “it is the joureny” you know, its a whole process to me and it kinda feels like when the tattoo is complete and it is sent out into the world that I’m kinda done with it. If I see it again, that’s amazing but otherwise people just exist all over the world with my pieces forever. Which is very intense when you first start tattooing.
Interviewer: So you were on the front page of Reddit for a tattoo.
Missy: It was my client who posted it to Reddit and I didn’t even know that was a thing and it’s kinda interesting. Once in a while, I will Google my name, and see what comes up in the images and see if I’m in the top hit, and that was the first thing that popped up. Apparently it went all viral or whatever, I don’t know. It’s kinda interesting to see these things years later or how they exist in the world, like I’m in my own little corner here. I’m just making my pieces, and then they leave and I don’t really know how they interact with the world.
Interviewer: Do you have any particular work that you are most proud of, or any sort of lines of creativity in tattooing that you can share with us?
Missy: I really like doing illustrative portraits or things that have the likeness of your pets or whatever, I mean even botanical print flowers, things that are a bit more illustrated or sort of realistic full color things but a lot of people don’t necessarily want a picture of there dog tattooed on them or don’t necessarily want a person’s face tattooed on them, so it takes awhile to go in the direction you want to go so you kind of just have to let the client direct were the interest goes. The only way that I really only direct it, if I really like something, I will probably post it on social media more often so people can see that’s what I like to do.
Interviewer: What’s next for Gold Heart Tattoo and the gallery space?
Missy: In the gallery space, we do six shows a year. So we do one every two months, the Halloween group show which is always Halloween themed and we have the closing reception the Saturday before or after Halloween that is costume required. We haven’t scheduled anything for 2021 yet.
Interviewer: You have people hang stuff but also paint or draw directly on the walls, how do you think your gallery relates with other galleries in La Crosse?
Missy: I think having Gold Heart and being completely funded within Gold Heart gives us the opportunity to show whatever we want, and do whatever we want, in the space. Huge walls, gallery lighting, do whatever they want and nobody is telling them not to. So I feel like it’s a unique opportunity for artists to just kinda propose anything and not have to worry about marketing to a specific gallery.
Interviewer: You’re probably more aware of this, but as you know tattoos are entering the world of fine art, people search out and travel to work with certain tattoo artists. Do you see this art form evolving locally, nationally, or internationally?
Missy: 10, 20 years ago, it was “pick this off the wall,” get it tattooed on you. At the time, that was a big huge tattoo, something palm sized was a big tattoo, and now people are getting huge enormous pieces.
New techniques are developing every day, I mean there is such a saturated market that the amount of things that people are doing with tattoos are wild. Like there are still people doing really shitty tattoos but there are people doing amazing tattoos. It’s just going to inch its way harder and harder into the art world because it is being recognized as something where you can do more than a solid outline and some black shading.
Interviewer: Can you tell us where people can find you?
Missy: You can find us at 1230 Caledonia St. on the northside of La Crosse or at goldhearttattoo.com, Gold Heart Tattoo on Instagram or you can call us at (608) 881-8777.
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La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.
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