DETAILS: When you're working with currency, do you get stressed out when you fuck up? Or do you just never fuck up?
Scott Campbell: I fuck up. Of course, dude. There's always fuck-ups. At the end of every month me and an intern will go through all the scraps and cut apart the bills that are still usable. But I don't mind. The excitement of the work transcends the monetary risks of screwing up. And obviously tattooing is kind of high-stakes too.
DETAILS: Do you think these pieces have added resonance in these days of the 1 percent and the 99 percent?
Scott Campbell: Even before Occupy Wall Street, people were always like, " Oh, what are you trying to say politically? But I try not to get political with artwork. For me, it's more that primal, emotional reaction people have with money. It's the first thing people think about when they wake up, whether they realize that or not—it's the reason why they get out of bed.
DETAILS: There is something really meta about a collector buying a piece of art made out of money.
Scott Campbell: Yeah, definitely. Something else that's funny—I ran into this fortune teller not long ago who read my palm and was like, "Oh. I see you're very frugal. You're very careful with money and you're very organized." And I was like, "I literally destroy money for a living and I have no idea what day it is. You couldn't be more wrong."
DETAILS: The book is called If You Don't Belong, Don't Be Long. Where did that phrase come from?
Scott Campbell: It was a sign in the first tattoo shop that I ever worked in. I like it on a playful linguistic level, but also it does give a nod to my entrance into the art world. I come from a very blue-collar, working class sensibility, and I've always been moved by art—I went to high school in Houston and I remember going to the Cy Twombly Gallery and it just blowing my mind. Like looking at a canvas on a wall and having feelings inside of me and not understanding how that thing on the wall was making me feel like that. But I always thought the art world was this big academic institution for people with bigger words and better posture than me. Something I wasn't invited to. And that in choosing the path of being a tattooed punk-rock kid, it was not an option anymore. And then I moved to New York. Becoming friends with Dash Snow and a lot of the downtown New York art scene, all these screw-ups who had a legitimate voice in the art world, really opened my eyes. The title is a nod to that. It's about me overcoming my own timidness and thinking that I couldn't communicate with that world because I was just some tattooed scumbag, and realizing that, actually, being a tattooed scumbag gave my voice strength.
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