Artist incorporates skills acquired through tattooing into her sculptures

1997. A young Renée Cinderhouse tattooing early in her career.  Submitted photograph

Bryan Stalder
Northeast News

Sculpting is Renée Cinderhouse’s first passion; one that she has been pursuing for over twenty years. In December 2018, we shared her story with our readers, but there are many layers to Cinderhouse; layers that we believe deserve more ink. This artist, who now calls Pendleton Heights home, has her own history with the art of tattoos.

“As a practicing studio artist, tattooing seemed like another interesting media for me to explore, both in getting tattooed and by learning how to tattoo,” Cinderhouse told us. “I wanted to expand the concept of ‘fine art’ to include tattooing as a medium.”

For Cinderhouse, the tattoo culture she had been exposed to in her early years came from National Geographic magazine, as well as biker gangs, sailors, and prison tattoos. She was fascinated with cultures throughout history that have modified their bodies for various purposes. So while she was still in college, she took a tattooing apprenticeship in Pittsburg, Pa.

Cinderhouse quickly learned that when your canvas is a living, breathing human being, you generally have to compromise your visions.

“You become a part of the service industry instead of an artist,” she points out, “cranking out whatever the client wants: sports teams, cartoon characters, band logos…”

To improve her tattooing technique to the level she aspired for, she recognized that she would need to dedicate more of her time to the practice, leaving little time for sculpting or painting. Rather than take clients from the talented artists she worked with, who were fully committed to the highly saturated and competitive industry, Cinderhouse transitioned to tattooing pig skin rawhide.

2003. Women’s undergarments sculpted from pigskin rawhide and adorned with imagery inspired by tattoo culture, from a series of work Renée Cinderhouse put together in 2003.  Submitted photograph

The pig skin posed numerous challenges to the integrity of her work, but it provided a canvas that she could sculpt and tattoo with whatever imagery she wanted, while also allowing her to incorporate sculpture into her work.

Even as Cinderhouse has shifted her focus to large-scale installations using sculpture as her primary medium, many of the skills she acquired while learning the art of tattoos are incorporated into her current work.

“I have a better understanding of the composition of a human body and how art or lettering would best fit and compliment the physique.”

She will often overlay drawings, collages, and stylized lettering on figurative sculptures and 3-dimensional art to shape her narratives. In Cinderhouse’s own opinion, “the best tattoos understand the body as a whole, and create designs and imagery that accentuate its form rather than obscure it.”

We shared with our readers back in December that Renée Cinderhouse has recently been working with the Kansas City Museum on a project titled “WITNESS” which involves the placement of time capsules being hidden behind various walls of the museum during the renovation of Corinthian Hall.

As she continues to take on new projects and challenges, using various mediums, it has become clear that Renée Cinderhouse has made a lasting mark on Kansas City.

2010. Some of Cinderhouse’s more recent work which combines sculpture with surface imagery. Submitted photograph

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