By Lisa Cook | Photos By Heshphoto
There is a pile of business cards tossed into a drawer inside a small blue desk. One card stands out every time the drawer is left open, beckoning with its outstanding surreal artwork, to be lifted out, ogled and appreciated.
There is a pile of flyers and postcards gathered on a table. Inspiration pieces used to fuel the talents of a graphic designer. One flyer stands out amongst the many. The outstanding surreal artwork beckons to be lifted out, ogled and appreciated.
Fulfilling their destiny, the card and flyer reveal through contact information the inspiring artist that has created them. Denver artist SANDI CALISTRO. Well known for her ethereal and fantasy style of drawing, she transfers her imagination onto paper and then beautifully onto human skin. She has recently become an admired and respected fine arts painter.
Sandi moved to Denver twelve years ago from Southern Maine. Working tirelessly on her artistic skills, she has made quite an impact within the Denver community as well as other cities in other states.
She co-operated along with William Thidemann, Matt Hays and Missy Rhysing) at the now defunct gallery/tattoo parlor KAZE (3245 Osage Street, Denver CO).
Sandi now operates and works at RITUAL TATTOO & GALLERY (2033 West 32nd, Denver CO 80211. 303.455.1558).
KAZE didn’t feel like a regular tattoo parlor, mostly because there was a gigantic art gallery that dwarfed the tattooing area. A wall with a mural of Sandi’s work separated the two areas. Behind the divider the walls were adorned with transfer paper that held hundreds of illustrations of tattoos the resident artists had drawn. A very large portion of these drawings belonged to Sandi. There were so many sheets of past tattoo mock-ups that they covered the entire wall leading to the second floor. It’s always an awe inspiring moment to absorb the many beautiful pieces and to realize most of the designs have become finished tattoos on real people.
Sandi was not a stranger to tattoos as a child. She grew up with a dad that came home with new ink on his body regularly. Although she loved the artwork, she admits to being terribly frightened of the thought of needles carving a path across her skin. She finally mustered up the courage (with her mother as chaperone) to experience her first tattoo.
Sandi’s first tattoo on her own body at the tender age of fifteen was of a flower on her pelvis that has slowly faded and lost its shape. A sweet memory and a reminder that all things will eventually change.
Fifteen year old Sandi was also taught the art of Stick and Poke tattoos (or Poke and Stick... the artist pokes the skin with the needle and the needle sticks) by a friend of her brothers. When she poked a few onto herself she was hooked and started tattooing everyone in her high school. By the age of nineteen she knew she wanted to become a full time tattoo artist. Sandi started creating flash sheets and selling them to local tattoo shops in Boulder and Denver, earning her her first apprenticeship at a Boulder shop called ROCK STAR TATTOO (1119 13th Street, Boulder CO). She worked diligently and practiced tattooing on grapefruits, pig skin and other objects that resemble human skin and are frequently used for learning technique.
When Sandi moved to Denver she began working as a tattoo artist at TWISTED SOL (56 Broadway Denver CO). She was drawing out tattoo ideas on paper and giving tattoos, but had not begun painting with acrylic paints on paper until interacting more with other artists in the community.
She felt inspired and challenged by her comrades (local artists in Denver) and happily pushed herself to develop her own skills to an even higher level.
Because of this happy push, Sandi has developed a style and medium that has allowed her to become a well know fine arts painter in Denver. Her paintings, much like her tattoos, pull influences from the 1920s’ through 1950s’. Stylizing similar to art nouveau and art deco. A make up of beautifully drawn women with gigantic doe eyes (a style she admits was taken from Japanese anime). This mash-up and unique approach draws you into her paintings. Many collectors are gathering up Calistro’s works. Local restaurants and venues have prints and original SANDI CALISTRO’s hanging on their walls.
Kevin Stawbridge eagerly convinced Sandi to become her manager. He began booking art shows and worked with her on blossoming her painting career. With Kevin’s help, Sandi and her artwork travel with group gallery shows around the country and she tries to have at least one solo show per year. Recently a circus themed show at BLACK BOOK GALLERY (555 Santa Fe Drive,Denver) brought a large crowd and a fun time along with a show at the well known in the underground SUPER ORDINARY GALLERY (3350 Brighton Blvd, Denver).
With a grateful attitude to all of the Denver friends and artists who have inspired her along the way, Sandi describes the Denver art scene as “a hidden gem.”
With talent and determination like SANDI CALLISTRO, our hidden gem is going to get into the spotlight and shine brilliantly.
Sandi is currently living and working in Denver. When she is between traveling gallery shows you can book your very own appointment to receive a tattoo (she is extremely sought after and there can be up to a six to eight month waiting list).
Ritual Tattoo & Gallery
2033 W. 32nd Denver, CO 80211