Even though Victor Whitmill ran a tattoo business for 20 years, he always thought of himself as a fine artist first.
“I was painting during all the years I worked as a tattoo artist,” explains Whitmill, who calls Las Cruces, New Mexico home.
“I wanted to show my clients what I could do as an artist and have them see my work as fine art, so I built my tattoo studios as galleries.”
A selection of Whitmill’s surreal figurative paintings and drawings created since 2005 are on display in the show “VISCERAL,” which opens on November 16 at KEEP Contemporary. There also will be a few digital prints in the show.
“I usually don’t have a specific idea in mind when I begin a new painting,” says Whitmill, who enjoys focusing on figures, usually females, in his colorful and mysterious work. “I try to maintain a feeling of spontaneity throughout the painting process while paying attention to formal painting techniques. At the end of a piece, I want to be surprised and mystified.”
Born in California, Whitmill has lived and worked as a painter and tattoo artist in communities around the country, including Las Vegas, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona. He decided to retire from tattoo art and settle in Las Cruces because he loves the desert Southwest and its sunny temperate climate. “Las Cruces has a really good art scene that I’m happy to be part of,” he adds.
While Whitmill’s imagery is often fantastical and filled with imaginary creatures, the artist prefers that his works are not intellectually analyzed as meaning one thing or another.
“Look at it, feel it, but don’t analyze it,” he says.