Brooklyn-based artist Tamara Santibañez delicately pushes the limits of human want, need, and curiosity through her work. Ranging classic illustration, apparel and tattoos, her style is both interpretive and self-explanatory. Her favored imagery is distanced, like a keyhole glimpse into something we weren’t supposed to dwell on. Focusing on emotional and physical states on the fringe of the human psyche, she pinpoints their sources and does it in a slinky yet gritty monochrome.
Santibañez’s work is divided into series’, all of which share an infatuation with desire. Her ‘Portraiture’ series features groups of objects, carefully arranged in white space. The vacancy of a human form only highlights the humanity of the objects at hand—the whip, the leather, the mary janes—and causing order clashing with an unchaste secret. In “Icons,” she showcases different versions of the cross made from household objects. Dissecting what exactly an icon is, she breaks it’s power down for the rest of us, and the result is an aesthetic narrative just as much as it is a question of why we are as attached to symbols as we are to the things they stand for.
Lofty art aside, there are also smiley faces made of handcuffs and bondage gear. There’s no ignoring the erotic function of the piece, and that fact embodies it’s purpose; to acknowledge, explore, and celebrate. Ultimately, these pieces connect to the very people they indirectly represent, which makes them not only gallery material, but a social commentary.
Santibañez’s tattoos are just as enigmatic as her other artwork, if a little more tangible. Continuing the black and grey scheme, they deal largely with iconography and the glory and hyperboles that come with it. Sometimes, her style seems to lean toward American Traditional, but there’s always that edge, the barbed- wire trim that gives her work distinction. She also does classic portraiture, religious imagery, and the occasional Grim Reaper, in somber tones and bold, sweeping line-work.
Her penchant for the fetishist underground comes also seeps into her tattoo work, a profundity that defines true sensation. Even the physicality of tattooing, on the parts of the artist and the tattooed, is an example of the reaches of feeling, giving, and receiving.
Santibañez’s creative vision is a purely exploratory vessel that emphasizes the relationship of people to themselves, each other, and the objects they give meaning to. Stylistically speaking, it is an experiment in the texture and possibilities of ink as a primary medium, and all that it can mask and reveal.