The walls of Ink Alternative in Ronkonkoma was covered with art Sunday.
That's not unusual for a tattoo shop -- except that instead of the typical "flash cards" featuring common tattoo art such as butterflies and skulls, the work of 11 local artists adorned the walls.
Amalia Wendell, a tattoo artist at the shop, came up with the idea last year. It's now an annual event, complete with barbecue fare and a DJ.
"We're artists, so we want to support local artists," said Wendell, of East Northport. "We are exposing the community to art they wouldn't normally see."
All of the artists featured, including Wendell and fellow Ink Alternative tattoo artist Cristal Matthews, are either friends or customers of the shop, which employs only female tattoo artists.
Shop owner Alfred Mendez said the art show is a way to make art accessible to the community.
"It doesn't cost $50, or $20 or even $1 to get into a gallery," he said. "When you see the art, you are seeing what people are thinking and what they are doing with their lives through their work."
Mendez opened Ink Alternative 19 years ago with the idea of having an all-female staff. He said he was hoping to create a work environment of caring, thoughtful employees, in addition to talented ones.
“Getting a tattoo is a very personal experience,” he said. “My intention was always to hire women because they show love. This is a family.”
He said he is always looking for a way the tattoo shop can benefit the community, so he was happy to give Wendell the OK when she brought up the idea of an art show.
On Sunday, friends, customers and artists mingled on the lawn and in the shop.
Robert Fernandez, of Holbrook, had four pieces of mixed media hanging on the walls. He said he was invited to show his work through another artist friend who is a regular customer at Ink Alternative and he was happy with the results of the show.
“I love this,” he said. “If they did this every weekend, I’d be here every weekend.”
Peter Bune, of Brooklyn, is a friend of Wendell’s and brought his nephew, Sage Brosi, 9, of Commack to see the work.
“He told me that he’s not an artist, so he wanted to come here to learn,” Bune told Wendell at the event.
As Wendell prepared her station to tattoo someone, she leaned over the counter to greet Sage.
“We’re all artists,” she said. “You just don’t know what kind yet.”
Photo: Peter Bune of Brooklyn looks at the art display at tattoo shop Ink Alternative in Ronkonkoma. (Aug. 21, 2011)