For Crystal Turk and her husband, tattoo artist Turk, authenticity is an absolute must, especially when it comes to anything creepy. Step into Left Hand Black (1947 Fern St. in South Park), the couple's tattoo shop / art gallery, and you'll see the proof right there in the gory pudding.

The dark gray walls are covered in grim paintings of Satan, skulls and demons. There's an entire wall full of morbid antiques and oddities, like candles shaped like human fingers, jars filled with strange creatures and doll heads smiling freakishly from behind a glass display case. It's like walking into a witch doctor's studio, or a goth kid's ultimate fantasy.

The eerie space is the perfect set for Horror Business, an exhibition of Halloween- and horror-themed art painted on meat cleavers, knives and hatchets. It opens with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, and will be on view through Nov. 2.

More than 70 artists, both local and international, will have pieces in Horror Business. That's a major step up from the 40 artists who participated last year, when the Turks first put on the show. 

"We just thought it would be exciting to do something for Halloween that was different, and everyone could have a chance to buy something that wasnít just regular art," says Crystal Turk, 34, who runs the gallery at Left Hand Black. "Because when you're looking to decorate your house, you want something unique and different, so I figured painting on meat cleavers was pretty original."

Can't argue with that.

Since she and her husband have an affinity for macabre antiques, they encouraged artists to work with cutting instruments that had actually been used by a butcher. Turk especially likes the ones with dents on the back because they indicate that the knife or cleaver got stuck on a bone and had to be pounded to cut through it.

"I think the antique ones are just cooler, you know what I mean?" says Turk, 35, who opened the tattoo shop with his wife last July and will show two pieces in the exhibition. "All the new shit is really sterile now. You look at the old-school ones, man, and you can just see in them the pitted metal or the pounding marks in the back. This thing has been through many animals. You can almost get energy from it.

"And if you read it properly," he adds, "or if you feel that [energy], then it's going to help inspire your piece. It's going to be just that little bit better, in my opinion."

Finding legit butcher-shop or slaughterhouse tools isn't easy in San Diego. The Turks scour eBay and hit up estate sales and antique stores when visiting the East Coast, where Turk says slaughterhouses and butcher shops are more prevalent.

"To me, if [the exhibition] was everybody paints on this brand-new thing, I don't think I would be into it," he says.


Write to alexz@sdcitybeat.com. You can also bug her on Twitter.

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