Everybody has heard of Sailor Jerry and Ed Hardy, but how about Rosie Camenga?While those two ended up on almost every shirt in New Jersey, Rosie Camenga could be selling hot-dogs for all we know. Even Ed Hardy, who was so inspired by Rosie’s art that he singlehandeldly got it into museums, hasn’t been able to reach him. That’s why there is 1910-? written in Rosie’s biography.
In the late 60’s, Sailor Jerry and Rosie had tattoo shops a block apart. While Rosie’s drawings started off crudely, they evolved and got so great that Sailor Jerry had a schoolboy admiration. So why are those two making millions while their favorite artist is broke? Perhaps Rosie’s art wasn’t “artistic” enough to be featured on a sparkling purple t-shirt. His work was crude but at the same time very complex, and wasn’t the typical commercialized flash, which sets it apart but also kept him from achieving mainstream success.
He is the underground artist of the tattoo world who mysteriously fell off the map. Actually, his whole career is filled with mystery. None of his flash-art is actually signed or dated (well that might not have helped his marketability), and is written in poor English. This is also seen in the actual art, with pictures of a reaper playing a guitar or a woman clutching an eagle with no explanation. When he does include text, it makes the images even stranger, like the dragon tattoo that says next to it “you are in the dark, but I can get you”.
So even if you can’t find his art at the mall, it is very complex and beautiful, and definitely worth checking out.