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Just who is this Rip fella?

rip van wagoner, visionary, oodat

All works copyright Richard Wagoner. All rights reserved.

 

      While the historians and art buffs of the Catskills busy themselves with talk of Thomas Cole, Olana, and the Hudson River School of Art, a new wave of art history was making it's way up the Hudson from NYC, where visionary artist Alex Grey's spiritually charged psychedelic work The Sacred Mirrors had stoked the soulfire of one of Catskill 's beloved tattooists, me Richard "Rip Van" Wagoner.  Where Cole and the majority of the Hudson River School's works were meant to capture the natural beauty of early America, this new school of visionary art's focus is not limited to the landscape of the outer world, but instead delves into the landscapes of the inner worlds of our mind and spirit, the landscape of the sacred creativity that ties us all together.


.....but first, let's backtrack a bit.


     In 2007 I woke in Albany Medical Center NY, confused and disoriented.  I explained to the nurses that I was an alcoholic and drug addict with a few years sobriety under my belt and not to give me anything stronger than an over the counter pain medication.  What I didn't realize was that I had totaled my motorcycle in a head on collision the day before.  I had lost my left leg above the knee and almost lost my left (dominant) arm among other injuries.  I had a fentanyl drip in my one arm and another random IV in the other.  Over the counter meds weren't gonna cut it this time.


     Thanks to quite a few surgeries, a lot of charity, and a fair amount of hard work from myself and many others, I was able to keep the location of  my studio Thereforever Tattoos and reopened a little over a year later.  I had begun painting again as both physical and emotional therapy and was becoming much more aware of the spiritual element of our existence.  Lucky enough to live a quick drive away from the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors better know as CoSM, I made a couple of pilgrimages while they were still in New York City and when they moved even closer to the property in Wappingers Falls I became a member and began to go quite regularly.  Being surrounded by so many amazing artists inspired me and opened me up to new ideas and techniques both artistically and spiritually.  Being surrounded by so many people of different beliefs helped me reconnect with my intuition, leading me back towards the higher power I had left in my adolescence and searched for through out my sobriety.


      One day after weeks of deep meditation I felt a breakthrough.  Feeling spiritually born again, as though awakened from a dream or illusion, I was reminded of local  legend Rip Van Winkle that had slept for 20 years after drinking and bowling with little folk in the mountains.   I chose from that point on to go by Rip Van Wagoner.  I made the decision to be ordained using that name as a ceremonial ritual marking my awakening and setting my intention and dedication to a spiritual life in search of the highest truth while striving to minimize the suffering among my fellow man.


     My life was miracle after miracle and I was on top of the world. I began looking to expand my business outside of tattooing, hoping to apply my art to new mediums, but that was not quite what life had in store for me.  I wrongly had my disability benefits revoked after a routine review and ended up losing almost everything besides my shop.  It took two years of legal battle before I was finally reinstated, but the damage was done leaving me to fend for myself to rebuild with no access to the resources that had allowed me to thrive in the past.   Stressed and depressed I spent the next few years fighting infection after infection, both in my arm and then my leg, unable to tattoo because of the pain and risk of cross contamination.  At this point I had to dive deeper into my art, not only for my emotional survival, but economic too begining to take on small painting commissions. 


    With my hometown of Catskill's growing focus on the arts in an effort to revitalize the Main Street shopping district, Thereforever Tattoos has evolved into Rip Van Wagoner's Gallaquarium, a living breathing psychedelic sacred space, studio, and gallery.  Adorned with my own visionary art and various aquariums to share the teachings of symbiosis and the fractal nature of our universe, the environment is vibrant with healing energies.   As I continue myself to heal, I will begin to take on select tattoo projects again, focusing on sacred, ritual, and healing works, bringing what I've learned out on the canvas of life back into the field of dermagraphics.   


    Creating art is one of the only times that I'm likely to find peace in this mad mad world, sometimes buried under frightening layers of pain and suffering.  In doing so I hope to transmute my pains into beauty, my experiences and strength into hope, and to let others that suffer know that they are not alone, not to give up.   Nothing worth doing in life is ever easy, all we can do is show up and do our best.  If not you who?  If not now when?  This is it, here we are, and the rest is history...in the making.


Thank you for visiting.

                                                 A hundred thousand blessings,

                                                      Richard "Rip Van" Wagoner