Some four thousand years ago, and by the hands of some tens of thousands of workers, the Giza pyramids were constructed as a monument to great Egyptian pharaohs. A world away, yet on the same twenty-ninth latitudinal line as those better-known pyramids, celebrated tattoo artist Dillon Forte is building a monument to sacred geometry on a ranch in Wimberley, Texas.
It sounds far-reaching, but so can many of Forte’s ideas. Within ten minutes of pulling up to his ranch’s black gate in a blacked-out Dodge Ram, he’s telling me his theory that Old Baldy, the only mountain in the vicinity, is actually a pre-excavated pyramid, built with the same limestone as those in Egypt.
Sacred geometry encompasses the divine mathematics used to build ancient religious sites, and some—like Forte—believe it orders the natural world. He has inked his graphic, shape-centric, and interlocking geometric designs on celebrities from Chris Hemsworth to Kat Von D to Usher, in locales from the Maldives (where he performed the first “underwater tattoo”) to a glacier ice cave in Alaska to the face of Mount Everest. As a self-described gnostic, he has studied varied religions and beliefs of which sacred geometry is a part. On Instagram, where he has almost a quarter million followers, he imparts wisdom from ancient and contemporary Eastern philosophers like Vyasa and Osho to more modern sages like Bill Hicks and Tupac Shakur.
Forte Tattoo Ranch is a testament to his enthusiasms. When finished, sometime next year, the ten-acre compound will host meditation retreats, sound baths, tattoo seminars, and yoga sessions, as well as the occasional wedding or event. Guests, including tattoo clients, 70 percent of whom come from out of state, will stay in three on-site glass pyramids and wander the grounds filled with Forte’s original, geometric sculptures; an open-air pavilion; and a large, domed temple. Eventually, a mini regenerative farm will sustain itself with cattle, chickens, and bees. Forte sees the whole operation as another of his art projects, if a cumulative one—an experiment in the “principles of permaculture as art,” as he recently wrote on Instagram.
His ideas for the space, and his varied and far-ranging thoughts in general, come at me fast on the ranch, where he currently sees about one client a day. Outside of the tattoo studio, an excavator reminds me that this is—or will soon be—an operational farm.
The studio itself is sparse, but clean and well decorated, with an appropriately ranch-y twelve-point buck looming over the workspace. Otherwise, everything is black—the furniture, the accent decorations, Forte’s opaquely inked forearms, and the incinerator toilet meant to aid the ranch’s sustainability initiatives (and also look cool). Muscle memory activated, Forte immediately heads to a tattoo station before remembering I’m not here to get inked. Instead, he shows me the land.
The first task of every day is to feed the chickens, a dozen or so Ayam Cemanis and Orpingtons in varying shades of obsidian that are allowed to roam the property daily. Next to the coop, boxes of beehives are arranged on cement hexagonal blocks. When we reach the back of the property, Forte points out the footprint for the forthcoming temple, the showpiece of his envisioned ranch. He jokes that it kind of looks like the shape of Texas, already understanding, after two years as a Texan (he came from, yes, L.A.), that his new neighbors would probably covet a temple devoted to their state.
Forte’s dream of owning his own little slice of farmland began with the prime-time Paramount drama Yellowstone. Like a lot of us, he watched the Duttons and felt a stirring to return to the land, to the proverbial “simpler times.” He noticed how Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan built an empire out of an integrated multiverse of Western style and stories. Just as the showrunner inspired folks nationwide to pick up belt buckles and land parcels, Forte wants his tattoo ranch to spread the gospel of his all-black, tattooed, and geometric aesthetic and the guruesque principles behind it.
Around the time he was watching the Duttons battle to keep control of their legacy ranch, Forte was growing disillusioned with his home state of California, and with Los Angeles in particular, which he calls “morally void” and “the land of demons.” In the typical West Coast–to–Texas trajectory, he felt stifled by his state’s cost of living and business owning, as well as the stiff regulations California imposed on tattooers during COVID. So he left urban life and pristine beaches for the Wild West of GOP-controlled policy and 101-degree temps (notably not compatible with black apparel or goth-adjacent sensibilities). At first he set up shop in Austin, but it too closely resembled L.A. for his taste. Having already settled his family in Wimberley, he moved his shop to the small town and set to work building out the ranch in late 2022.
And perhaps because he can hang in this way—hating California just like a Texan—Forte says he hasn’t received any pushback: not from the ranch’s seventysomething neighbors, and not from the 2,800-strong populace of Wimberley. Stepping off a plane into Texas, he says, is like “a big, warm hug.”
Respectfully, sound baths and yoga and meditation retreats sound very Californian to me, though Forte very much wants to rebrand those holistic modalities away from the woo-woo, Goop-y vibes they’re currently associated with. Forte’s typical client can read as a Cali type: a late-thirties man, often an entrepreneur, and often a “seeker” who’s never been tatted before and wants a spiritually significant design for his first foray. Forte says ayahuasca is his greatest marketing tool: many folks come to see him after a trip, wanting some vision indelibly inked on their flesh. Such a person might crave—or even expect—a holistic tattoo experience replete with accommodations and metaphysical amenities.
Already, as a rancher, the tattoo artist has had to contend with simple knowledge he’s missed due to his city slicker isolation, things that might seem obvious and intuitive to his new rural peers. I ask for an example of one such lesson. Well, he tells me, apparently you cannot paint beehive boxes all black, no matter how much it vibes with your aesthetic. In the Texas heat, the dark color would absorb light and bake the creatures therein.
Thus, another piece of ancient wisdom is unlocked.
- More About:
- Style & Design