Artoria was a tattoo attraction that worked for 35 years in circus and carnival sideshows. Artoria was the stage name for Mrs. C. W. (Red) Gibbons.
Artoria was born on a farm in upper Wisconsin. Her parents were poor and by the age of 14 she decided to leave home. When she was interviewed by Arthur Lewis, writer and author of the book, Carnival, she said: I never been no place in my life. While hanging around a local carnival sideshow she met Red Gibbons. Him and me got to talking, tole me the show didn’t have no tattooed lady and would I like to be one. Said he was the tattoo artist and if I let him tattoo me I could join the show and see the world. Well that’s what I done. We was married soon after that and we both had a good life. There ain’t hardly no place in the country I ain’t been to but when he died (late 1940’s) I went into retirement out on the west coast.
Artoria’s tattoos were amazing: magnificent reproductions of paintings by Raphael and Michelangelo and a few patriotic designs but for those few exceptions the main inspiration is Italian. My husband done everyone of them, she said proudly. They’re all masterpieces. He was crazy ‘bout eyetalian (sic) painters.