'Love Me, Love Me Not' Is Artist Timmy Sneaks' Credo with Boston Solo Show

by Robert Nesti

EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor

Saturday August 6, 2022
Originally published on July 26, 2022

Before he became a full-time artist, Timmy Sneaks was a successful tattoo artist. That was eight years ago when Sneaks decided to pursue art in an intensive way. His challenge proved successful. He was able to secure a place in the 2015 Art Basel show in Miami and was well on his way to achieving his dream.

Currently, through September 17, those in Boston can attend Sneaks' solo show at Newbury Street's Pellas Gallery. Entitled "Love Me, Love Me Not," the show presents a variety of pieces from the mixed media artist using an array of mediums including spray paint, acrylic, pastel, oil, collage, resin, and marker.

Pellas Gallery co-owner Alfredo Pellas told the publication Boston Man: "We have sold several dozen of his works and every time he brings something to the gallery it's more refined than the last. He's really what you search for in an artist, always pushing the limits, refining and honing his craft yet maintaining that power where you can see any of his works and immediately say 'That's a Timmy Sneaks piece.' My father and I have collected several of his works and will keep on collecting. We are really proud to be his lead gallery and will always do our best to catapult him to new heights."

Partnering for the exhibit will also be Sneaker Junkies. Sneaker Junkies has been a driving force behind the fashion and footwear scene in Boston and New England for over 15 years. They will be showcasing the latest and most exclusive Sneaker Junkies arrivals.

EDGE recently spoke to the Sneaks about how he transitioned from a tattoo artist to painting full-time, the importance of social media, and why he named his show, "Love Me, Love Me Not."

EDGE: You started your career as a tattoo artist. How did that happen?

Timmy Sneaks: I had always been into tattoos, way before I was even old enough to get them. When I was in middle school I would draw tattoos for friends or draw pieces on family members. It was right around the time the show "Miami Ink" was just coming out which allowed me to see more of the tattoo process from the standpoint of a shop.†

EDGE: How does ink influence your art?

Timmy Sneaks: A lot of the time I'll use similar imagery in my art that I would look to use in tattooing. Actually, in many ways I use a similar process from collecting inspiration, to drawing up a layout for the piece and being able to use a steady hand to pull long lines.†

EDGE: Is this your first Boston show?

Timmy Sneaks: I did a show with Pellas last year, called "Lost In Space." I've done a bunch of other events in Boston but this will only be my second actual gallery show in Boston.†

EDGE: Why call it, "Love Me, Love Me Not?"

Timmy Sneaks: I think that mostly just comes from this idea of "this is me and my work" you can love it, or not. Either way is okay but at the end of the day I'm getting to do what I love to do and that's what matters to me.†

EDGE: After you left the tattoo world, you challenged yourself to paint for a year and get into Art Basel in Miami. How did that go?

Timmy Sneaks: I've always had an intense work ethic, and tunnel vision (which is tattooed on me) towards goals. It's like if I put my mind to things I know that anything is possible. Which sounds cliche. But there is actually truth in that. And that went well. I had gotten into art Basel at the last minute and it was a great intro into seeing the art world at a closer glance.†

EDGE: What was it like when you sold your first painting?

Timmy Sneaks: When I sold my first piece it was sort of like this "wow" moment. It seemed like everything I had been working for was finally starting to fall into place. I felt like I had spent a lot of time having to prove people wrong. People thought it was crazy to be a full-time tattoo artist at the time. Then when I was leaving tattooing to paint full-time people thought that was even crazier. But that doubt from other people is also motivation.†

EDGE: How important has social media been in your development as an artist?

Timmy Sneaks: Social media has had such a major impact for artists in general. I remember first getting Instagram, I was still in art school, and telling my Dad, "I definitely think this Instagram thing is going to change everything for me."

I was super into entrepreneurship and was reading Gary Vaynerchuks book, "Crush It" at the time. It talks about how every person was going to basically be their own brand and that it would be possible to make money doing anything you loved. Which I think is something the generation before did not quite understand at first. I've been saying since the beginning that Instagram is like walking around with a gallery in your pocket. To be able to see and interact with collectors from other parts of the world is pretty incredible when you think about even just 20-25 years ago that being a lot more difficult.†

EDGE: How would you describe your art?

Timmy Sneaks: I usually describe it as pop art but also contemporary. For me, it plays a lot off of nostalgia. Much of the imagery/influence I use comes from childhood memories, a time that everyone can relate to no matter the age group. I'm influenced by so many different periods in art history from Italian Futurism, to Cubism, to Pop Art, to abstract expressionism. A lot of the work comes from the idea of "over-stimulation." The world we live in, everything is coming at us so fast and ever-changing. I'm constantly trying to fit everything I can into one piece because that is basically how we receive information now. We are constantly on sensory overload. Think of how many images, and videos, and sounds the average person is taking in today compared to 20 years ago. How many TikTok videos are we aimlessly scrolling through, or [the] Instagram explore page with millions of images. This has all influenced me.†

EDGE: You work in various mediums — do they dictate the result, that is, a particular medium to achieve an effect?

Timmy Sneaks: I've always hated the idea that an artist has to work in one particular way. I remember getting feedback from one of my shows from a collector who didn't seem to like the idea that I worked in so many different ways. It's all so subjective anyway. I don't take criticism harshly, but the funny thing was that I didn't really take it as criticism anyway. I've always kept this Warhol quote close to heart: "How can you say one style is better than another. You ought to be able to be an Abstract Expressionist next week, or a Pop artist, or a Realist, without feeling you've given up something... I think that would be so great, to be able to change styles. And I think that's what's going to happen. That's going to be the whole new scene" (Andy Warhol, 1963). I just work off of what I feel, whatever I am into that day or time. If you looked through my internet tabs on my phone you would just see thousands of open ones. Almost all of them have something to do with a new way of working or a "how-to" on something.†

EDGE: Your work is heavily influenced by pop art — can you speak about that connection?

Timmy Sneaks: Pop art to me is something that every person can relate to. These are objects or imagery we see every day. Or if we don't see them every day, we have seen them enough for them to have had some sort of influence on us. One of the things I find most interesting when people are viewing the work is that they find something different each time. It's fun to see that the work can make an 80-year-old collector or a 20-year-old collector smile.

EDGE: Do you have an artist who has influenced you?

Timmy Sneaks: I definitely have a list of artists that have influenced me but some of my favorites would have to be Tom Wesselmann, George Condo, Frank Stella, Matisse, John Baldessari, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Basquiat, De Kooning, Boccioni, of course Picasso.†

EDGE: What is more permanent — a work of art or a tattoo?

Timmy Sneaks: Hmm, I would have to say the art. Another Warhol quote close to my heart is: "The idea is not to live forever, it is to create something that will." That's what's important to me.

EDGE: How many tattoos do you have?

Timmy Sneaks: Haha. It's hard to put a number on it but I would say I'm about 3/4 covered. Every time I say that I'm done getting new work, it usually ends up not being true.†

EDGE: Do you have a favorite one?

Timmy Sneaks: I don't necessarily have one favorite. Each piece brings me back to a moment, a reason why I got the piece. Not that they all have a deep meaning. Some do, others I just wanted or enjoyed the imagery and art or artist and wanted to add to the collection. Like everything else, the tattoo world has changed and advanced so much over the last 10-15 years. It really is a true art form now in my opinion.†

Robert Nesti can be reached at [email protected].