For someone who describes her artistic medium as “telling other people they’re good at art,” Juanita Mondragon sure has a vision like an artist. “I’ve always loved art. I know what I like. I have a subconscious mind for beauty, for the different. I’m no artist, but I met a man who was an artist.” Spoiler alert — she married that man. Her husband, Travis King, is an award-winning tattoo artist with a rapidly growing clientele. Together, they’ve set out to change the stigma that comes with tattoo parlors and end the debate on whether tattooing should be considered an art form.
Their plan of attack? Four years ago, Juanita and Travis opened a tattoo studio on Baxter Avenue called Prophecy Ink. This isn’t your typical tattoo business. The spot doubles as an art gallery that supports local artists. Most of their employees even have their own specialties outside of permanent inking, from photo realism to cartoons. “We want to raise the bar of tattooing,” Juanita explained as she led me through her impressive collection of masks, caricatures, and paintings. “We’re in the midst of an evolution of art. There are some amazing artists here, and Bardstown Road and Market Street are exploding with artists. The time is right and the stars have lined up.” Their idea to merge the two worlds of galleries and parlors spouts an air of sophistication and prestige, and Juanita is the catalyst. She is the administrator in charge of running the shop, but her passion lies with the gallery. “I think Travis saw my vision and said, ‘Go for it.’”
|Juanita and her husband Travis prove that a tattoo parlor and art gallery can co-exist beautifully. |
Photos by Melissa Donald
Opening the gallery has created a platform for Juanita and Prophecy Ink to make a mark on the community in more ways than one. “Tattooing makes the money, but the art is our way of giving back. If it has anything to do with art, we’re all over it.” Some pursuits include sponsoring music venues, hosting an all-female art show, and supporting Carry the Fallen, an event to raise awareness and help prevent suicide in military veterans. “If you’re a client of ours, and something is dear to your heart, then it’s close to ours. It’s all about being present in the community and having a voice in the things that matter.”
Juanita is keen on providing a supportive atmosphere for her artists and clients. “I try to buy a piece of art from every show.” Her network of artists is growing as large as her collection, extending all over the world and cultivating talent that defies race, age, and gender. “I’ve never been a bigger supporter of the artist than now, in more ways than I could ever imagine. I will make you a believer of yourself. I’ll probably speak more passionately about your art than you will. You have an advocate in me.”