Coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill by Noelle Leavitt and Jenn LeBlanc

Louisiana tattoo parlor expresses frustration through art

By Noelle Leavitt

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Tattoo artist Bobby Pitre has much to say about the BP oil spill, but he’s not doing it with words — he’s doing it with gobs of paint on billboards outside of his tattoo parlor in LaFourche, LA.

Huge paintings of President Barack Obama, the grim reaper, and an amputated body cover the front of his business — Southern Sting Tattoo Parlor — allowing him to use his own form of freedom of expression.

“It’s just a way to vent your frustration,” Pitre said. “It could’ve been prevented with a few more safety steps, you know. But they chose to ignore it, to save a few bucks, well a few million bucks, still, look at what it’s costing them now, you know.”

He also has a mannequin, wearing a gas mask, holding a dead, oil-saturated fish standing on the corner of his storefront.

“My little girl loves to fish. That’s pretty much what it is, the fish are toxic now with the oil. We can’t go out and fish,” Pitre said.

Passersby honk car horns throughout the day, sharing their annoyance with Pitre about the BP oil slick.

“On the side of the road, I could scream a hundred times a week if I wanted to,” Pitre said, adding that his art is a more useful way to assert his disappointment with the oil industry.

“People are pretty upset. There’s a lot of people that are actually working out there. As long as they’re making money, they’re alright right now. It hasn’t really hit home because they’re not starving right now,” he said. “It should’ve been stopped a long time ago, it could’ve been prevented — that’s why I’ve got this painting right here, ‘Deep Water Drilling 101’.”

Inside his parlor he has three paintings: Two of BP CEO Tony Hayward, and one of
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindel. The Jindel painting is very supportive of the governor, and outside his shop Pitre painted “Bobby Jindel for President.”

“It’s pretty tragic the way it happened,” Pitre said. “Just the spill, the amount of oil that’s coming out is ridiculous.”

Pitre actually used to work in the oil fields. He was a welder and a fitter at the ship yards, so he’s very familiar with that end of it too.

Now, he spends his days as an artist, helping people express themselves with body tattooing.

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