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Inkspiration

By Natalie Savidge

Michael Sarich
Michael Sarich

Nearly 1,200 people attended a members’ premiere at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno for “Like, Love, Lust: Michael Sarich” on Jan. 26. Members and guests were invited to wear a temporary “Devil Girl” tattoo created by Sarich, a University art professor since 1989, specifically for the event in order to gain free admission. 

Four former students of Sarich’s flew to Reno for his retrospective and spent that afternoon in a local tattoo parlor—taking the temporary out of the equation and permanently placing their own version of Devil Girl on their forearms.

“It touched me,” said Sarich, who’s 52. “I think they’re kinda goofy.”

The students were Gabe Toci ’04 (art), Evan Dent ’05 (art), Brian Porray ’06 (art) and Chris Bauder ’04 (art). The tattoo artist—“one hell of a painter and ink slinger”—according to Porray, was Eric "Eno" Kuiken, also a former student and the person responsible for the De Los Muertos skull on Sarich’s left hand.

Devil Girl
Tattoos
The freshly imprinted tattoos in the image belong to Gabe Toci and Brian Porray. Photo supplied by Nevada Museum of Art.

“It was important that he be the one doing the tattoo because he understands the connection that we have to Mike,” Dent, 29, said. “As far as I know, he is still planning on getting a Devil Girl himself.”

Each man had a different reason for the enduring tribute.

Sarich seemed to depend on Dent and Toci, his onetime class assistants. “He would sometimes refer to us as his hands,” Dent explained. “Gabey was his right and I was his left. I wanted my (Devil Girl) tattoo on my left arm for this reason.”

“For me, the image is a way to stay mentally connected to that time I had with Mike,” Porray said. “It’s a reminder of what hard work can do; a reminder to stay close to my core. Mike always said that artists should learn to be comfortable in their own skin and I always gravitated towards that advice and it's done well by me thus far.”

All four men earned a bachelor of fine arts degree at the University and are currently master of fine arts candidates at various schools. Dent, along with Toci, returned to the museum March 14 for an Art Bite session to discuss Sarich’s teaching style, methodology, and the influence he’s had on them and their art work.

“To me, he is my mentor, an amazing artist, and above all a dear friend,” Dent said. “The thing that I found most admirable about him is his approach to teaching. Mike expects his students to be rigorous workers and push themselves to extent of their abilities, and he was able to do this successfully because he was there in the studio every day working to the same standards.”

Porray described his experience while working with Sarich one summer. “Working with Mike in the summer is like being inside of a meat grinder,” he said. ”He pushes and pushes because the classes are extremely short lived. What those students were able to achieve visually in that short amount of time was incredible. Even now, I use that summer as a sort of filter—the bottom line in studio production—pushing myself for those kinds of bursts. That's one of Mike's greatest virtues as a teacher, to instill that discipline. He helps students find their voice at an accelerated rate.”

And how does Sarich decide which of his pieces to permanently engrave into his skin?

Of the many tattoos marked on his hands and arms, he says, “It’s usually something I use in my work for like five years,” Sarich said. “Something I use for a period of time so it has an anchor to it.”

His former students recommend taking a look at Sarich’s work in person, “to see the way that he layers icons and images, the difference in the marks that he uses, the way he treats the space,” Porray said.

“There is no way for me to look at his work without seeing him staring right back, and that becomes an extremely personal moment for me. Mike had a huge impact, not only my work, but how I navigate my life. Looking at his work is like having a conversation with him.”

And Porray will be able to have frequent conversations now that Sarich’s work lies forever on his left forearm.

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