Tattoos aren't the only art on display at The Box Gallery
By Graig Graziosi
Most creations by the tattoo artists of The Box Gallery in Warren walk out the door upon completion.
But skin is not the only canvas used at The Box Gallery: Lining the walls of the second-floor tattoo parlor are a collection of paintings produced by the resident artists.
Aaron Chine, the owner of the gallery, said the pieces on display are more than decoration for the tattoo parlor.
“Everyone here considers themselves artists first, then tattoo artists,” Chine said.
That prioritization seems to have worked out for the artists; the gallery maintains a 4.9 out of 5-star rating after 119 reviews on its Facebook business page.
When the resident artists – Chine, “L’il” Joe Perry and Brian Camelli – aren’t working on skin, they use more-traditional canvases, trading ink for oil paints and watercolors.
The work decorating the exposed brick walls of the gallery frequently feature the human form, though the style of depiction varies – Chine prefers surreal imagery, while Perry shows off realistic paintings of tattooed individuals he’s met through the industry. Camelli’s watercolors include a detailed, gleaming eyeball and a near-photorealistic depiction of a woman’s figure in a flowing garment reminiscent of a Greek monumental sculpture.
Though creations of the resident artists currently dominate the space’s walls, that is not always the case; since The Box Gallery first opened its doors two years ago, Chine has hosted 11 art shows, with one drawing 30 artists.
“Right now we host a lot of local artists, but we’re starting to bring in people from further away, and I hope we get more artists from outside the area interested,” Chine said.
One of Chine’s shows featured the artwork of Gina Armeni, a Boardman High School student whose work was deemed “too risque” by school officials due to the inclusion of female nudity.
Chine said the show wasn’t meant as an admonishment of the school, but rather was a chance for him to act on a principle that he felt was lacking in the local art community: inclusion.
“Some galleries in this region are extremely exclusionary, and I didn’t want that here. You shouldn’t have to know someone to get to show your art,” Chine said.
The next show will be a milestone event; the gallery will host its first judged showcase as a part of the Warren Homecoming celebration later this month. The show will coincide with The Box Gallery’s 2-year anniversary.
“We’re hoping for a good mix of mediums in the submissions for the judged contest. I’d love to see some photography and sculptures come in,” Chine said. “We’re anticipating a lot of entrants based on the amount of interest we’ve seen already.”
Going forward, Chine isn’t going to shy away from expanding the gallery if the opportunity arises. He has expanded once already, originally working from Austintown. There, Chine started “The Chinebox,” later moving to the larger building in Warren. After hiring two employees and growing his operation beyond himself, he dropped his last name from the business – hence The Box Gallery.
He and his wife, Amanda, – the owner of Manda Bee’s apparel – bought the building next door to the gallery, where the two now live.
For some, living so close to work might be torturous, but Chine has no need for compartmentalizing his work life from his home life.
“You spend most of your life working,” Chine said. “You’ve got to do what you can to love it, and I do love getting to do this every day.”