Skip to content
Recess homepage


Invisible Man Tattoo

Doreen Garner

A photo of tattoo
A photo of tattoo

Due to the process-based nature of the Session program, this project will undergo constant modifications; the features of this page provide accruing information on the project’s developments.

January 9–March 3, 2018

Visitor info
To make an appointment, please sign up no later than 10 am the same day at

Read our safety guideline

On January 9, Doreen Garner will begin work on Invisible Man Tattoo, transforms Recess into a pop up tattoo shop offering designs that reflect the histories and experiences of Black people and the African Diaspora. Throughout the project, Garner will provide dozens of tattoos to visiting patrons while covering Recess’s walls with the selected images and possible designs.

Garner’s sculptural and installation work focus on the exploitation of Black bodies by the medical industry from 1800’s to the present day. The artist probes the frequently-suppressed history of Black people who were used as trial and error subjects in medical operations and tests – often being denied anesthesia and surviving multiple surgeries in the process. Invisible Man Tattoo will mobilize these themes in concert with Garner’s practice as a licensed tattoo artist to address the persistent erasure of Black resilience and Black excellence within textbooks, curriculums, and mass media as well as the state sanctioned exploitation of Black bodies at the hands of medical and political institutions within the United States.

Visitors will be able to schedule appointments to receive tattoos through an online appointment system on the Recess website. Select free flash tattoos will be provided to visitors who identify as Black. In addition to the free collection other more elaborate flash tattoos will be available for purchase for Black visitors as well as visitors who do not self-identify as such. In exchange for receiving a tattoo, each recipient will be asked to record a video diary discussing the historical and social relevance of their selection. The recorded testimonies will be on view in the shop waiting room throughout the Session.

While the American traditional style of tattooing can be seen on the walls and in the portfolios of tattoo shops across the US, rarely are Black figures or Black culture included in these renditions of American life. What is instead most often portrayed is a mythology of a rugged “resilient American,” typically white and male, as well as sexualized representations of busty white women. Deeply attentive to these omissions and false narratives within the tattoo community, Garner positions Invisible Man Tattoo as a Black-owned business. The designs, co-created by Garner and Donte Neal, will commemorate the bravery and resilience of Black heroes and revolutionary icons—from the enslaved Africans who led slave ship revolts aboard the Brig Creole, the Hermosa, the Comet, and the Enterprise to The Black Panthers, abolitionist leaders, and Black Americans subjected to enslavement, medical torture, and racial oppression. Invisible Man Tattoo will employ tattooing as a means of registering and rendering visible these complex realities.

Session invites artists to use Recess’s public platform to combine productive studio space with dynamic exhibition opportunities. Sessions remain open to the public from the first day of the artist’s project through the last, encouraging sustained dialogue between artists and audiences. Due to the process-based nature of Session, projects undergo constant revision and the above proposal is subject to change.

About the artist

Doreen Garner

Doreen Garner (b.1986) is a Brooklyn-based artist born in Philadelphia, PA. Select exhibitions include “White Man on A Pedestal” Pioneer Works (2017) “Surrogate Skin: The Biology of Objects” MoCADA (2016), “Ether and Agony” Antenna Gallery NOLA (2016) “SHINY RED PUMPING” Vox Populi Gallery (2015), and “Something I Can Feel” at Volta Art Fair (2016). Garner has completed residencies at LMCC Workspace Program (2015) Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2014) Abrons Art Center (2015-16) Pioneerworks (2016) and GAPP Residency at the Toledo Museum of Art (2016). She holds a BFA in Glass from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and an MFA in Glass at the Rhode Island School of Design and is a recipient of the Toby Devan Lewis award, Van Lier Fellowship award and a Franklin Furnace Grant. Currently Garner is an Artist in Residence at ISCP practicing as a sculptor and inscriber of flesh.


See all

Opens May 2, 2024

The Meeting Place

Helina Metaferia

A site for transformative gatherings by and for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) women (cis and transgender)

On view: March 7–April 19, 2024

Lavendra/Recovery Project

E. Jane

fueled by a reverence for the artistic legacy of Black American R&B divas

November 11, 2023–January 25, 2024

Session & Assembly Collaboration: BARRO

Marcela Torres and Assembly

Torres in collaboration with Assembly will explore the history of New York through its soil and natural clay deposits.