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Tattoo studio doubles as an art gallery

Kyle, left, and Dane Grover, co-owners of Benchmark Tattoo, pose in the art gallery with current artist Kyle Voightlander's piece, "Shadow." (Photo courtesy of Steve Yasgar)1 / 4
Ed Newman's paintings will be featured at Benchmark Tattoo in September. (Photo courtesy of Ed Newman)2 / 4
"Dogs of War" is about the "Vietnam backdrop to many of our lives," according to painter Ed Newman. (Scanned image by Jeff Frey of CPL Imaging)3 / 4
Benchmark Tattoo is a combination custom tattoo studio and art gallery on East 8th Street. Art receptions are held on the first Friday of every month. (Photo courtesy of Dane Grover)4 / 4

When Kyle Grover, a tattoo artist for 16 years, asked his identical twin brother Dane to partner with him in opening a tattoo studio, he knew he wanted to dedicate part of the space to art.

"An art gallery was always a part of the plan. Giving people the opportunity to show their work is important to me. Plenty of times I've wanted to show my work and have been turned away. We want to feature artists who are passionate about what they do and if we can help do that — all the better," Grover said.

September will mark Benchmark Tattoo's third artist reception since it opened on June 2. The featured artist is painter Ed Newman, who works as an advertising manager for Amsoil.

"The theme of my show is called 'Influences,'" Newman said. "The styles vary, but overall each of the pieces selected will be aspects of formative influences of who I am, things like the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, [Bob] Dylan and my year in Mexico."

The reception will be 6-10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 5, in Benchmark Tattoo's new gallery space at 1831 E. 8th St., Unit G102.

"We want people to come and see what people in the community are producing for art and have a good time," said Dane, Benchmark Tattoo's general manager.

Although Newman says he has no defined artistic style, his favorite medium is paint.

"I'm somehow very drawn to putting paint on surfaces. I even painted apartments for four years, putting white on white, and I liked that, too.

"My dad was a chemist involved in the development of latex paint. In art school, he gave me gallons of medium and the raw materials of pigments, so I mixed my own paints and painted on many large canvases very early," Newman said.

Newman began creating art daily in 2007 as a way to illustrate his blog, Ennyman's Territory. At the end of that first year, he had created over 100 works of art.

"I was creating art and writing every day. It was cool how quickly I could create stuff. Someone said, 'Maybe you should have a show. You've got all this art,'" Newman said.

He sold a few pieces of art in that first show and has been showing in galleries ever since. His work can also be seen at the Oldenburg House in Carlton and Goin' Postal in Superior.

Art receptions will be held each first Friday of the month at Benchmark Tattoo.

"We want to keep it in people's mind — always the first Friday. We're happy to have people come here on the second Friday art walks as well, but the artist's reception will remain on the first Friday. We want it to be something people are looking forward to doing or somehow being a part of it," Kyle said.

The studio is booked with artists through January. December will feature a group show with "Christmas-gift-saleable art" such as jewelry, pottery, small paintings and etchings. Artists interested in showing their work in the gallery should contact Benchmark Tattoo at (218) 730-7285 or stop by the studio with examples of their work.

"We're both visual people. We see something and we like it. That's the criteria, as simple as it sounds. The whole art gallery and tattoo studio are a great fit. We're trying to ... show how different forms of art are interconnected. There are a lot of tattooists who are great artists and there are a lot of artists who would make great tattooists," said Dane, who previously owned two construction companies.

Newman, who is also a published author, will have his book "Unremembered History," a collection of short stories with a paranormal twist, available for sale at the opening.

"I think the space is really nice. I'm impressed with the show that's there now and I thought it would be an honor to be a part of what they're doing," Newman said.

The September opening is an opportunity for everyone to view Benchmark Tattoo's multi-purpose space.

"Everybody's welcome to come and check out the gallery at any time. They don't have to be shopping for a tattoo to come in and see the art," Kyle said.