Tattoo artist shines in national debate

Body art finds a role in political debate. - Contributed photo
Body art finds a role in political debate.
— image credit: Contributed photo

By Steve Wehrly, Journal reporter

Local tattoo artist Marcus Justiss doesn’t usually get involved much in politics, but when environmental activist Hannah Clark proposed that he design a tattoo in support of creating a local National Monument, he didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes!”

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell started the ball rolling when she told voters at the San Juan County Fair in August that the only thing she had not done to support designation of local federally-owned lands as a National Monument was to get a tattoo to show the president.

Local environmentalists picked up on the Journal story and asked Friday Harbor tattoo artist Justiss to design a temporary tattoo in support of the idea. Justiss said he was “thrilled” to be asked, saying, “I’m absolutely in favor of anything to enhance our local environment, and if my design helps get it done, I’m very happy.”

Cantwell and local Congressman Rick Larsen (D-Everett) had previously introduced legislation in Congress to designate about a thousand acres of land scattered through the San Juans as a National Conservation Area, but the bill stalled in Congress, leading them to ask President Obama to declare the lands as a National Monument by executive order under the Antiquities Act.

“Senator Cantwell has been a champion for the people across Washington State who want to see these unmatched small islands, bluffs, lighthouses and habitat lands in the San Juan Islands protected forever. She’s done everything but ‘get a tattoo’ — so hundreds of Washingtonians this week are joining her to ‘ink’ their support for protecting the San Juans,” said Robb Krehbiel, program associate with Environment Washington. “We want these islands protected forever. President Obama can ‘ink’ his support too—by signing a declaration to protect these BLM lands as a National Monument.”

Environment Washington distributed hundreds of the tattoos as part of its statewide campaign to call attention to the National Monument proposal.

The designation would include Patos Island and its famous lighthouse, which are depicted on the tattoo. The campaign culminated in rallies around the state on Saturday, Sept. 29, as part of National Public Lands Day.

“The San Juans are one of Washington’s treasures, but the federal land on the islands does not have the protection it deserves,” said Environment Washington’s Krehbiel said. “The hundreds of tattoos that people put on this week sent a clear message to the President and Senator Cantwell: support the San Juans National Monument.”

Justiss said he did the design without compensation, but admitted the publicity has been “nice.”

“I’ve been here at Surina Business Park for over a year, and this little design has brought me a ton of attention,” he said.

“And Cantwell can now count me as a supporter,” Justiss added.


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