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How can a tattoo be seen as a work of art?

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By Dominic Johnson Arts Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 2:18 pm

(c) Briony Campbell In late October, the tattooist Alex Binnie will create the second of two tattoos upon the skin of my hands, in a live performance called Departure (An Experiment in Human Salvage). We‘ll be accompanied by three guest artists, whose performances will complement – and perhaps complicate – the attempt to shed new light on the status of tattooing as a practice on the contested border between fine art, folk art, or craft. How can the procedures of tattooing – the painful depositing of layers of inks below the surface of the skin – be reframed as performance? How can a tattoo be seen as a work of art? The use of tattooing in performance relates to a broader use of body modification techniques in visual art – usually painful acts such as piercing and scarification – most notably in the work of London-based artists Ron Athey, Franko B, or Kira O‘Reilly. While such work is sometimes misread as a symptom of the artist‘s masochism, the pain involved is somewhat incidental to the production of a lasting image: as a spectacle that has a lasting effect on its audiences, but also in the sense of a permanent trace on the skin of the artist. Tattooing takes its place alongside other similar techniques for puncturing, cutting, or otherwise marking the skin towards the production of strong imagery in art and performance. Commercial tattooing has undergone a boom in popularity over recent years, with the number of tattoo studios in Great Britain reportedly doubling in the last three years. This may suggest an increase in the acceptability and visibility of tattooing, partly due to the distancing of custom tattooing from their somewhat archaic association with sailors, soldiers, criminals, hookers, and other supposed ne‘er-dowells, and also partly thanks to the growing prevalence of tattoos on the bodies of celebrities. However, the use of tattooing in or as performance is less familiar, but draws on an older, rich tradition of exhibition and display of tattooed persons in European culture. These include: the little-known figure of Jean Baptiste Cabris, a French sailor who exhibited his heavily tattooed body around Europe at the turn of the eighteenth century, after being tattooed in the Marquesas. Or ‗the Great White Chief‘ John Rutherford, an Englishman who was exhibited as a ‗living specimen‘ in aristocratic circles in the 1820s and 1830s, after supposedly being captured and forcibly tattooed in New Zealand. These histories of exhibition and display inspired me to develop a performance that put the experience of tattooing centre-stage, as it were, by privileging the live action of permanent mark-making, and the piece was first shown at Fierce Festival in Birmingham in March 2011. The framing of tattooing as the defining technique of an art practice has more immediate precedents, and constitutes a small subcultural history of visual culture. Indeed, the art historian Matt Lodder recently discussed some art works involving tattooing, reading them in terms of the ways they articulate the theme of affiliation and social bonds in interesting ways. He mentions an infamous performance by Santiago Sierra – 160cm Line Tattooed on Four People (2000) – in which the artist commissioned a tattooist to draw a permanent line across the backs of four participants. Sierra‘s piece provokes serious and unresolvable ethical questions, and indeed this may be the key achievement of his practice (Claire Bishop argues as much in her recent book on participatory art, Artificial Hells). Other artists have appropriated tattooing in performance towards more ethically agreeable ends, in powerful and visually striking works.

Over a series of performance-installations, Sandra Ann Vita Minchin has commissioned a tattooist to recreate a painting by the seventeenth-century Dutch artist Jan Van Davidz de Heem. The resulting image – which took 120 hours to create – is a massive permanent image of the painting across her back. The theme of permanence is key to the work. The work‘s title, Ars Longa, Vita Brevis (‗Art is Long, Life is Short‘), reminds us of the odd status of the tattoo as a living artwork, whose permanence conflicts with the ephemerality of performance. The images created in tattooing may well seem disconcertingly permanent – which provokes anxiety and hand-wringing among commentators – although its volatile permanence is generally limited to the life of the wearer, which is often shorter than that of conventional drawings and paintings (a problem Minchin has overcome by arranging for her skin to be preserved after her death). If the prospect of archiving skin seems macabre, it‘s worth acknowledging that similar preserved tattooed canvases are available for viewing at medical museums, such as St Bartholomews Pathology Museum at Queen Mary, University of London, and the Wellcome Collection. In another striking series of performances, Mary Coble has had her whole body tattooed –without ink – using tattooing as the basis for a provocative feat of physical endurance. In Note to Self (2005), Coble collected information about homophobic attacks, and had the name of the victim and the location of her or his assault tattooed in a monstrous list across the back of her body, from her neck down to her legs. Coble intimates the physical hardship of a minority under continual attack, and she uses the controlled violence of tattooing to memorialise the suffering of others. In the second performance, Blood Script (2008), tattooing acts a metaphor for psychic endurance. She amassed an archive of words used in verbal assaults, and had them tattooed, verbatim, on the front of her body, in a large and bold gothic script. Tattooing without ink produces a crisp bloody line, and the marks fade with time to leave subtle scarring. However, as with all scars, Coble‘s flare up in coming months and years, reddening under heat or cold (she tells me that the word ‗Bitch‘ often emerges in a hot shower). I see this as a perfect metaphor for the experience of verbal assault, where the insult might leave a meagre (metaphorical) wound, but its aftereffects return to haunt the victim when one might least expect it to. In these and other examples, tattooing suggests a novel means of expanding the repertoire of artistic tools of the trade. These developments will make some audiences feel squeamish. Such discomfort should not suggest that artists are out to shock, or out to impress. Rather, the concomitant emotional or physiological reflexes – the flinch, the shiver, the grimace – are some of the potential feelings that might usefully take their place among an expanded range of sympathetic responses to the use of new techniques in art and performance. Tattoos: Eyecatching – but are they art? Tattoos have gone mainstream. Up to a third of adult Britons are now thought to have at least one. But not our art critic. Could he be tempted by a flaming dragon for his shoulder, or an intricate spider web on his neck?
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Saturday 24 September 2011

Artist at work … A woman adds to her collection of tattoos, watched by one of the 20,000 enthusiasts expected to join the London Tattoo Convention in Wapping docklands this weekend. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

they are participants in a cultural wave as huge as the Pacific surf. these markings are now a mainstream cultural force. the islands from which the word "tattoo" originated. gang members. parading faces completely covered in phantasmagoric designs finished off with piercings.000 or more visitors expected to attend this weekend's International London Tattoo Convention at Tobacco Dock in Wapping. tattoo museums and supply stores." Feldt admits there are no official figures on the growth or scale of tattooing. as visitors to the London convention claim? The answer is a flaming dragon of a yes. . "Guesstimates vary: between 20 to 30% of the adult British population now have a tattoo. and on the islands in the Pacific they encountered peoples for whom it was habitual and ritualistically important to decorate the body using a bone needle to force natural dye deep into the skin.A blue and red flowering. a noted tattoo artist who works at London's Exmouth Market. The European "discovery" of tattooing dates from Captain Cook's exploration of the Pacific in the 18th century. Marquesas islanders wore full-body tattoos. tattooing might seem a radical subculture that defines your whole existence. The once-salty docksides of Wapping provide a historically resonant place to stage this festival. for it was sailors who were known for their tattoos in the 18th and 19th centuries. Once associated with sailors. has seen the change happen. inky design written permanently into the skin of bare legs may be eyecatching – but is it art? Amy Savage thinks so. "collect" their tattoos from noted practitioners: "It's an art thing." says Boxell. every walk of life. who has equally rich and beautiful tattoos covering most of his left arm. Chances are that you. a collecting thing. yet each practised a different style: Maoris combined tattooing with facial scarification. It encompasses every age now. She got her first tattoo 30 years ago and has had a ringside seat at the cultural explosion. editor of Total Tattoo magazine. At its extreme." It is not only young people who are taking the plunge. "It's definitely more socially acceptable. it is one of humanity's most ancient arts. more creative. Not only is this an art. sinuous. a family member or a friend has tattoos. Samoans preferred them on buttocks and thighs. In the past five years the magazine has gone on sale at Morrisons and Asda. Sally Feldt. you surely see plenty of people around who sport the kinds of spectacular. The word for this art was "tatau". she stresses: "I know people in their 60s getting their first tattoo. Tattooing flourished in the inhabited Pacific islands. is just a more hygienic (hopefully) and technological version of this ancient method. She explains how she got the tattoos on the backs of her legs from Xam. with alternative fashion boutiques. Modern tattooiwhich is being done all around me at the convention by parlours offering state-of-the-art markings. Chiara and Fabio are part of the same movement or fashion or compulsion: they have come from Italy especially for the convention. evidence that a once-rarefied passion is approaching the norm. But again – is it art. She and companion Eddie Boxell. but the growing popularity of tattooing belies any such assumption. or circus performers. If you don't have tattoos close to home. They are early arrivals among the 20. One proof of this success is her glossy magazine that sells in Smiths and at supermarkets. a rockabilly club and performance stages to entertain the decorated multitudes when they tire of photographing and praising one another's illuminated flesh. highquality inkings that are walking around this convention floor. The expansive halls of this converted warehouse have become a fantasy realm of tattoo parlours. Cook took artists and scientists on his voyages." That figure takes it well outside the limits of a subculture and into the mainstream.

For the first European visitors. Entranced as I am by the strange beauty of blue. an escape from workaday reality. Are people now seeking to change their natures. a belief that a person is not one but many things. seduced by the alternative society they saw among the islanders of the south seas. so you feel part of a larger entity. Putting on the shining painted skin of a warrior changes your nature. Rockabilly is playing. Savage. . What I actually feel at the London Tattoo Convention is a seductive sense of adventure. it is stressed that some form of tattooing is universal among ancient peoples. then the stuff of 1950s fairground subculture. a modern tribalism? The trouble with such catch-all theories is the self-consciousness of tattoo enthusiasts about their art. precise manner. the sense of undergoing something that changes you. the longer you have to endure that pain. As an expression of their radical choice to stay in the Pacific and reject their Britishness. It was also customary in Rome to tattoo slaves. It is the weight of ritual. The change is permanent. It was considered erotic. that stops me personally from ever considering a tattoo. That makes tattooing a rite of passage: and so it was among the Polynesians before Christian missionaries discouraged them from marking their flesh. bu paradoxically repelled the god who ruled Paradise. I cannot imagine getting a tattoo myself. there's the pain. says she tattoos in a "neo-traditional" style. that imprints itself on your body. Japanese tattooing is on offer – the origins of tattooing in Japan go back into prehistory. Before he could be buried. Getting a ritual tattoo in the pre-modern Pacific was a way of becoming a man. Just by visiting a tattooist such as the celebrated Danish artist Eckel you can change who you are. but that is just one genre. careful and beautiful the work of art that is pounded by a needle into your body. green and red limbs in the sun that filters through the Tobacco Dock skylights. a chief. specialising in figures such as Gypsies that she renders in a convincing. seemed paradisiacal dreamlands of free love and unashamed physical beauty. but penetrated – as by a needle – by social media and constant internet information. including the blue woad-covered Britons described by ancient Roman historians. In fact." says Savage. tattooing has become a nautical stereotype. In he Pacific. At the convention. these islands. people are parading their opulent chromatic skins. At a tattoo museum tucked in among the stalls. But it must also be part of its attraction. In 1789 the crew of the Royal Navy ship HMS Bounty. There are "tribal" tattooists here. rich. above all Tahiti. mutinied against the formidable Captain Bligh. I might start to get tempted by those parlours after all. for instance. "but some hurt more than others.. Is the rise of tattoo. Since then. a return to our roots. The modern art of tattoo is beguiling. anthropologists have associated tattoos with a fragmented conception of identity." So. a warrior. they got tattoos. and now a mainstream body art celebrated in picture books and conventions. You are a work of art. Well . that's as maybe. if I stayed here much longer. then. a tattooed chief in the Marquesas had to have his skin removed postmortem to be allowed in heaven. a new sense of self that is no longer bounded by being inside your own skin. My first boundary is the obvious one. "It all relatively hurts. the historical curiosity of today's tattoo enthusiasts leads them to look far earlier than the Pacific encounters of Cook and Bligh.. to become fabulous new beings? Perhaps there is something digital and post-human about it all. It has the feeling of a fantasy world. and to be honest. exoticism and fun. And the more extensive. Perhaps understanding my own resistance is a way to understand other peoples' acceptance.

The Chatam Studio in New York City is considered to be the birthplace of the American style tattoo. Incans and the Aztecs are known to use tattoos.A hundred years later. The Mayas. Greek and Japanese regions. Tattoos were sometimes also used as a mark or symbol of belonging to a tribal group or tribe. being outcast. 50 Porters Walk. The Greeks used the tattoos primarily to transmit messages between their spies. Wapping. looking at a nude statue of Apollo. the appeal of some kind of escapism grows. which punctured paper. Proof of tattoos being used as long as five thousand years ago has now been uncovered. clothes and other accessories have been present since time incarnate. then a haven for working class rich people. Later on.magical and sexy. As the world gets tougher. symbols of rank and seniority or being juniors. The word was coined by Captain James Cook in 1769. The tattoos of Japan were prepared by the women of Borneo. Greeks normally used the tattoos to indicate slavery. Wagner teamed with Lew Alberts. Tattoos have had other uses in different regions. Tattoos in Egypt can be found as early as before the Pyramids were made. talismans and security. as the poet Rilke wrote. A sharp-pointed comb would be dipped into lampblack and then moved around on the body. devotion. The re-induction of the tattoo to the west was the handiwork of William Dapher. Tattoos were also used to induce the sexuality in a person. "You must change your life". . He introduced a heavily tatooed Prince Giolo to the western world. rewards and awards for bravery. London History of tatoo Humankind has always tried to enhance their looks. Why would people not be lured into its fantastic alternative universe. The women of Borneo were the first to use tattoos to denote the status and place in life of the owner of the tattoo. The fad then spread from the Polynesian and Tahitians to the Europeans. known as the Painted Prince. The first machine was based on Edison's electric pen. The original way of creating tattoos was definitely much more brutal than it is today. One of the oldest ways of decorating oneself known to human kind was the tattoo. amulets. they have served as symbols of rights. Modern archeology has found proof of tattoos being used in the Egypt. Over the years. Tattoos have been one of the most frequently used body arts. Roman. He was a traveler of the South Seas. which literally means to tap or to mark someone. The first tattoo machine in America was patented by Samuel O'Reilly. where spider webs sprout on backs and flowers on elbows? Outside is the economic news. With the death of Samuel O'Reilly. The Asian world used tattoos to denote a woman coming of age or her marriage. being tattooed is a way of breaking out. 'tatao'. Tattoos were also used as a symbol of punishments. jewelry. and therefore more intense and efficacious. Tattoos have been used for all kinds of purposes ever since the dawn of time. It's just a bit more permanent and dramatic. his exhibitions gave immense popularity to tattoos. slavery and conviction. Like getting a 1940s hairstyle (also popular here) or reading fantasy stories. Charles Wagner took over the business. He had set up shop in the Chatam Studio area. The convention is open today and tomorrow at Tobacco Dock. the tattoo became famous in America. symbols of spirituality. Therefore. it was his apprentice. Japan used tattoos for religious purposes and other ceremonial purposes. religion. The word tattoo is derived from the Polynesian word.

incompetent so-called ―artists‖ as the majority of tattoo artists are skilled practitioners who take their work very seriously. Artists worldwide work at the conventions for a chance to meet idols and promote their own work. Dragon tattoos can be prepared in color as well as black and white. people are better informed and much more accepting of the past time. They were a mark of pride to prove to the community of their criminal reputation. Should Tattoos be Regarded as an Art Form? Posted by businessboombolton on 28/05/2012 · 2 Comments People say that tattoos look ―trashy‖ and ―cheap‖. There are around three kinds of dragons. tattoos have become more or less hygienic and offer their clients sufficient safety from skin and other diseases previously attributed to tattoos. Prison tattoos do show the person‘s experiences but as tattoo art is expanding and becoming more popular. When tattoo artists and enthusiasts alike are questioned. Now that integration of multiple styles has been taken. ‗Tattoo Freeze‘ hold the ‗National . It is nothing to do with the general art form as there are many talented artists who are still working to perfect the art. Dragon tattoos also look very good on the skin as compared to others. as the choice of image. An increasing number of people are interested in tattoos as they see it as an art form rather than a mark of the ‗wicked‘ or a specific tradition. Previously tattoo parlors were less on hygiene and were one of the major reasons where people could get skin infections or even aids. Tattoos are judged negatively because of previous owners. they should not be tarred with the same brush as lazy. though. it isn‘t just prisoners that are showing their true colours. As a result of this. design and artist communicates the person‘s interests and significance of their own imagination. tattoo conventions have been arranged all around the world to provide a service for enthusiasts to meet and discuss their passion. Today. reminiscence among many other topics. images and text can show interests of music. Symbols such as a tear applied just below eyes.‖ He also commented that it is a good change in the tattoo world that customers use their own imagination with ―real input‖ into their ideas and desired ink. and also share ideas and find inspiration. as they used to solely belong to the skin of prisoners and pirates. Furthermore. and religious imagery was a popular choice if the criminal had found God during conviction. family. The well heeled crowd would shy away from tattoos.Perhaps the most famous tattoo subject has been the Dragon. subjected to those who practice the art with either no or a small amount of artistic ability or poor handling of the machines as they are heavy and tend to shake due to needle‘s motion of up to eighty times per second. tattoos are used by people of all walks of life. which are picked by almost every tattoo artist due to the variety these tattoos give. they have a completely different outlook on the practice. Tattoo art conveys individuality. Today. Previously. Andy Bowler from Derbyshire tattoo studio ‗Monki Do‘ enthused that ―it‘s best when people [research tattoo art] themselves. dragons are universally known and have a universal appeal. only people from the working class used to get themselves tattooed. These were very common ―prison‖ tattoos. tattoo conventions are growing increasingly as copious amounts of shows are being arranged. As a worldwide phenomenon.

. so what is the difference with women? Throughout history. I feel that these multiple TV series have helped the tattoo industry immensely regarding the increasing numbers of customers. This is giving a false impression that can lead to complications when a naive customer visits a shop expecting their piece to be completed in less than an hour. therefore this should be the same with opinions of tattooed females.‖ He also adds that ‗every generation does through that‘. Women have proved that they are equal regarding these matters. More so nowadays. Condescending views have been made about women who love and ‗wear‘ tattoos. women have fought for their equal rights on issues such as voting and job roles. you are always going to be judged by the way you look. Men are virtually accepted into the community with tattoos covering them. thus creating an ever-growing competition for the prior artists to ‗up their game‘ if they want to maintain their reputation and customer reception. with negative opinions decreasing every year. but due to the media and editing of the programme. class and job roles.Tattoo Photography Awards‘ for those who have a keen eye for photography. mimicking a popular tattoo craze. Despite this set back. showing the positive reception of tattoos and how other art forms are being integrated together. and this is growing daily. ‗Suicide Girls‘ are seen as the modern soft porn pin-up girls with an alternative edge. This attitude is one that will assist the mainstream public into accepting these women for who they are. tattoo enthusiasts have commented that these shows convey the wrong impression about life of tattoo related labour. You see someone who is covered in tattoos. though it should not be this way.‘ brings an interesting statement to the discussion on the reputation of tattoos in a recent interview. Through the years. This is the harsh reality of discrimination and prejudice against tattoos. Copious amounts of people want to involve themselves in the lifestyle and labour of the tattoo industry. as well as how beautiful and expressive tattoo art is. Advertising is using tattoos in this manner – Yahoo published a billboard of a man‘s tribal sleeves as well as Juicy Couture. Japanese tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy. they are going to judge you for your tattoos. and continuously. People admire alternative women for their confidence and view of disregarding the negative things people say or think about them. including scrutiny of their sexuality. ‗its not fun to be looked down on… it‘s always going to be that way. male models covered in tattoo sleeves. women have constantly been regarded as less important than men. Mainstream advertising agencies are boasting tattoos. extrovert personalities and freedom – these are factors associated with art in general. TV series such as ‗Miami Ink‘ have increased the popularity of the tattoo industry. The programme shortens time it takes to draw/free-hand a stencil of a tattoo. thus. Magazine agencies are buying into the love of tattoos. best known as ‗The Godfather Of Modern Tattoo. fashion brand ‗Diesel‘ have launched a ‗tattoo‘ edition of their aftershave ‗Only The Brave‘ trademarked and well-known for it‘s fist sculpted container. as there is a vast and varied audience to address. These type of agencies are ones who aim to satisfy the needs of the audience who are accepting of the alternative culture. Female bodies decorated with tattoos are still a concern for most people. as well as the time it takes to actually do the tattoo itself. rather than judging them to be ‗tacky‘ and lower class. Jo Harrison. The ‗tattoo‘ edition has script embellished across the hand of the bottle. and it‘s like. ‗Jazz Publishing‘ is the main contender with famous publications such as ‗Skin Deep‘ ‗Skin Shots‘ and ‗Tattoo Master‘. More recently. you don‘t expect people to accept you for the beautiful person you are inside. tattoos are seen as a sign of expression. tattoos are gradually becoming more accepted to the mainstream society. She is part of an alternative-modeling agency for heavily tattooed and pierced women. a famous tattoo artist breaks the stereotypes for the typical female – she is a ‗Suicide Girl‘.

with alternative fashion boutiques. Is this media fascination with tattoos just a mere fashion trend that will cease to exist in years to come? And people who like to jump on the bandwagon will regret their choices of ink. as more and more people with ever-more impressive markings flow into Tobacco Dock. so they have a lifelong love affair with emblazonment. She and companion Eddie Boxell.This highlights acceptance. inky design written permanently into the skin of bare legs may be eyecatching – but is it art? Amy Savage thinks so. leading onto notions such as banning discrimination within the workplace and social circles. Tattoos: Eyecatching – but are they art? Tattoos have gone mainstream. and is here to shop for equipment as well as survey the scene. Or does this continued growth of interest in tattoos mark a start of acceptance and improvement of society‘s view of abnormal appearances." says Boxell. Could he be tempted by a flaming dragon for his shoulder. It is a skin thing. a rockabilly club and performance stages to entertain the decorated multitudes when they tire of photographing and praising one another's illuminated flesh. The expansive halls of this converted warehouse have become a fantasy realm of tattoo parlours. who has equally rich and beautiful tattoos covering most of his left arm. They lead your eyes and hold your gaze. They are early arrivals among the 20. under her tights. yet the female is regarded as ―butch‖ if she was covered with tattoos. The decorations shine up skin. watched by one of the 20.as if they were realistic! Could this be the continued effort of instigating moral acceptance of tattooed females? Or merely fashion? Time will tell. a dragon shoulder. People who are into tattoos know that it's an art.000 enthusiasts expected to join the London Tattoo Convention in Wapping docklands this weekend. you notice. But not our art critic. She is a tattooist herself. . Hence they should be treated with the same respect and admiration as other forms of art as they are methods of expression and creativity. a woman going by with elegant tattoos all over her arms and on her legs. A Japanese geisha portrayed on someone's arm. sinuous. a spider-web neck. tattoo museums and supply stores. or an intricate spider web on his neck Artist at work … A woman adds to her collection of tattoos. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian A blue and red flowering. a collecting thing. offers women‘s leggings that sport tattoo designs on them . Art forms should not be ridiculed nor degraded. But what they both admit began as "rebellion" has matured into aesthetic wonder and appreciation. Up to a third of adult Britons are now thought to have at least one. for both men and women.000 or more visitors expected to attend this weekend's International London Tattoo Convention at Tobacco Dock in Wapping. make it different and mysterious. a noted tattoo artist who works at London's Exmouth Market. She explains how she got the tattoos on the backs of her legs from Xam. art from different cultures are admired and inspiring – Tattoos are an art form. You find yourself ignoring clothes and looking at an inky foot. She and Boxell both got their first tattoos when they were below the legal age of 18." emphasises Savage. ―Ed Hardy‖ clothing. "collect" their tattoos from noted practitioners: "It's an art thing. They were 16 and 14 respectively.

editor of Total Tattoo magazine. has seen the change happen.They are participants in a cultural wave as huge as the Pacific surf. As an expression of their radical choice to stay in the Pacific and reject their Britishness. seduced by the alternative society they saw among the islanders of the south seas. then the stuff of 1950s fairground subculture. and now a mainstream body art celebrated in picture books and conventions." It is not only young people who are taking the plunge. Modern tattooing. the historical curiosity of today's tattoo enthusiasts leads them to look far earlier than the Pacific encounters of Cook and Bligh. Chances are that you. tattooing has become a nautical stereotype. seemed paradisiacal dreamlands of free love and unashamed physical beauty. yet each practised a different style: Maoris combined tattooing with facial scarification. highquality inkings that are walking around this convention floor. Cook took artists and scientists on his voyages. "It's definitely more socially acceptable. for it was sailors who were known for their tattoos in the 18th and 19th centuries. and on the islands in the Pacific they encountered peoples for whom it was habitual and ritualistically important to decorate the body using a bone needle to force natural dye deep into the skin. evidence that a once-rarefied passion is approaching the norm. every walk of life. But again – is it art. a family member or a friend has tattoos. these markings are now a mainstream cultural force. Chiara and Fabio are part of the same movement or fashion or compulsion: they have come from Italy especially for the convention. Marquesas islanders wore full-body tattoos. At its extreme. Samoans preferred them on buttocks and thighs. If you don't have tattoos close to home. tattooing might seem a radical subculture that defines your whole existence. these islands. Once associated with sailors. parading faces completely covered in phantasmagoric designs finished off with piercings. In the past five years the magazine has gone on sale at Morrisons and Asda. "Guesstimates vary: between 20 to 30% of the adult British population now have a tattoo. . the islands from which the word "tattoo" originated. is just a more hygienic (hopefully) and technological version of this ancient method. At the convention. The once-salty docksides of Wapping provide a historically resonant place to stage this festival. gang members." Feldt admits there are no official figures on the growth or scale of tattooing. Tattooing flourished in the inhabited Pacific islands. mutinied against the formidable Captain Bligh. Since then. Not only is this an art. At a tattoo museum tucked in among the stalls. Japanese tattooing is on offer – the origins of tattooing in Japan go back into prehistory. more creative. In 1789 the crew of the Royal Navy ship HMS Bounty. above all Tahiti. For the first European visitors. which is being done all around me at the convention by parlours offering state-of-theart markings. The word for this art was "tatau". It was also customary in Rome to tattoo slaves. including the blue woad-covered Britons described by ancient Roman historians. The European "discovery" of tattooing dates from Captain Cook's exploration of the Pacific in the 18th century. Sally Feldt. they got tattoos. but the growing popularity of tattooing belies any such assumption. it is stressed that some form of tattooing is universal among ancient peoples. it is one of humanity's most ancient arts. In fact. you surely see plenty of people around who sport the kinds of spectacular. She got her first tattoo 30 years ago and has had a ringside seat at the cultural explosion. as visitors to the London convention claim? The answer is a flaming dragon of a yes." That figure takes it well outside the limits of a subculture and into the mainstream. It encompasses every age now. or circus performers. she stresses: "I know people in their 60s getting their first tattoo. One proof of this success is her glossy magazine that sells in Smiths and at supermarkets.

careful and beautiful the work of art that is pounded by a needle into your body. people are parading their opulent chromatic skins. and to be honest. The modern art of tattoo is beguiling. bu paradoxically repelled the god who ruled Paradise. there's the pain. a belief that a person is not one but many things. Entranced as I am by the strange beauty of blue..Is the rise of tattoo. rich. It has the feeling of a fantasy world. green and red limbs in the sun that filters through the Tobacco Dock skylights. so you feel part of a larger entity. It is the weight of ritual. The change is permanent. Just by visiting a tattooist such as the celebrated Danish artist Eckel you can change who you are. "It all relatively hurts. looking at a nude How can a tattoo be seen as a work of art? . as the poet Rilke wrote. Putting on the shining painted skin of a warrior changes your nature. says she tattoos in a "neo-traditional" style. the sense of undergoing something that changes you. "You must change your life". There are "tribal" tattooists here. and therefore more intense and efficacious. It was considered erotic. that stops me personally from ever considering a tattoo. the appeal of some kind of escapism grows. It's just a bit more permanent and dramatic. the longer you have to endure that pain. "but some hurt more than others. a chief. Getting a ritual tattoo in the pre-modern Pacific was a way of becoming a man. that's as maybe. but that is just one genre. that imprints itself on your body. Are people now seeking to change their natures. specialising in figures such as Gypsies that she renders in a convincing. Savage. anthropologists have associated tattoos with a fragmented conception of identity." So. Before he could be buried. magical and sexy. an escape from workaday reality. a warrior. Rockabilly is playing. exoticism and fun. I might start to get tempted by those parlours after all. Why would people not be lured into its fantastic alternative universe. As the world gets tougher. That makes tattooing a rite of passage: and so it was among the Polynesians before Christian missionaries discouraged them from marking their flesh. to become fabulous new beings? Perhaps there is something digital and post-human about it all. And the more extensive. Perhaps understanding my own resistance is a way to understand other peoples' acceptance. But it must also be part of its attraction. a modern tribalism? The trouble with such catch-all theories is the self-consciousness of tattoo enthusiasts about their art. In the Pacific. precise manner. if I stayed here much longer. for instance." says Savage. Well .. Like getting a 1940s hairstyle (also popular here) or reading fantasy stories. a tattooed chief in the Marquesas had to have his skin removed postmortem to be allowed in heaven. a return to our roots. a new sense of self that is no longer bounded by being inside your own skin. What I actually feel at the London Tattoo Convention is a seductive sense of adventure. then. being tattooed is a way of breaking out. I cannot imagine getting a tattoo myself. where spider webs sprout on backs and flowers on elbows? Outside is the economic news. You are a work of art. but penetrated – as by a needle – by social media and constant internet information. My first boundary is the obvious one.

The framing of tattooing as the defining technique of an art practice has more immediate precedents. the use of tattooing in or as performance is less familiar. Tattooing takes its place alongside other similar techniques for puncturing. the tattooist Alex Binnie will create the second of two tattoos upon the skin of my hands. after supposedly being captured and forcibly tattooed in New Zealand. Indeed. and indeed this may be the key achievement of his practice (Claire Bishop argues as much in her recent book on participatory art. rich tradition of exhibition and display of tattooed persons in European culture. This may suggest an increase in the acceptability and visibility of tattooing. We‘ll be accompanied by three guest artists. and other supposed ne‘er-dowells. The resulting image . but also in the sense of a permanent trace on the skin of the artist. Sierra‘s piece provokes serious and unresolvable ethical questions. by privileging the live action of permanent mark-making. or Kira O‘Reilly. and also partly thanks to the growing prevalence of tattoos on the bodies of celebrities. Franko B. Sandra Ann Vita Minchin has commissioned a tattooist to recreate a painting by the seventeenth-century Dutch artist Jan Van Davidz de Heem. Other artists have appropriated tattooing in performance towards more ethically agreeable ends. soldiers. Over a series of performance-installations. and the piece was first shown at Fierce Festival in Birmingham in March 2011. These histories of exhibition and display inspired me to develop a performance that put the experience of tattooing centre-stage. as it were. in powerful and visually striking works. whose performances will complement – and perhaps complicate – the attempt to shed new light on the status of tattooing as a practice on the contested border between fine art. How can the procedures of tattooing – the painful depositing of layers of inks below the surface of the skin – be reframed as performance? How can a tattoo be seen as a work of art? The use of tattooing in performance relates to a broader use of body modification techniques in visual art – usually painful acts such as piercing and scarification – most notably in the work of London-based artists Ron Athey. cutting. Or ‗the Great White Chief‘ John Rutherford. hookers. Artificial Hells). after being tattooed in the Marquesas. the art historian Matt Lodder recently discussed some art works involving tattooing. Commercial tattooing has undergone a boom in popularity over recent years. partly due to the distancing of custom tattooing from their somewhat archaic association with sailors. folk art. 17 October 2012 (c) Briony Campbell In late October. reading them in terms of the ways they articulate the theme of affiliation and social bonds in interesting ways.  By Dominic Johnson Wednesday. but draws on an older. However. or craft. in a live performance called Departure (An Experiment in Human Salvage). a French sailor who exhibited his heavily tattooed body around Europe at the turn of the eighteenth century. with the number of tattoo studios in Great Britain reportedly doubling in the last three years. an Englishman who was exhibited as a ‗living specimen‘ in aristocratic circles in the 1820s and 1830s. the pain involved is somewhat incidental to the production of a lasting image: as a spectacle that has a lasting effect on its audiences. or otherwise marking the skin towards the production of strong imagery in art and performance. While such work is sometimes misread as a symptom of the artist‘s masochism. criminals. and constitutes a small subcultural history of visual culture. These include: the little-known figure of Jean Baptiste Cabris. He mentions an infamous performance by Santiago Sierra – 160cm Line Tattooed on Four People (2000) – in which the artist commissioned a tattooist to draw a permanent line across the backs of four participants.

tattooing acts a metaphor for psychic endurance. However. . Blood Script (2008). professional journals. Dominic Johnson’s ‘Departure (An Experiment In Human Salvage)’ is on Thursday 25 October 2012. These developments will make some audiences feel squeamish. and the marks fade with time to leave subtle scarring. reddening under heat or cold (she tells me that the word ‗Bitch‘ often emerges in a hot shower). and had the name of the victim and the location of her or his assault tattooed in a monstrous list across the back of her body.chelseatheatre. and she uses the controlled violence of tattooing to memorialise the suffering of others. reminds us of the odd status of the tattoo as a living artwork. Mary Coble has had her whole body tattooed –without ink – using tattooing as the basis for a provocative feat of physical endurance. Rather.– which took 120 hours to create – is a massive permanent image of the painting across her back. The work‘s title. or out to impress. Tattooing without ink produces a crisp bloody line. The images created in tattooing may well seem disconcertingly permanent – which provokes anxiety and hand-wringing among commentators – although its volatile permanence is generally limited to the life of the wearer. In these and other examples. In another striking series of performances. The theme of permanence is key to the work. and the Wellcome Collection. University of London. Coble‘s flare up in coming months and years. If the prospect of archiving skin seems macabre. which is often shorter than that of conventional drawings and paintings (a problem Minchin has overcome by arranging for her skin to be preserved after her death). ‘SACRED‘ at Chelsea Theatre starts on 19 October 2012. In Note to Self (2005). in a large and bold gothic script. tattooing suggests a novel means of expanding the repertoire of artistic tools of the trade.uk THE CHANGING CULTURAL STATUS OF THE TATTOO ARTS IN AMERICA As Documented in Mainstream U. Life is Short‘). I see this as a perfect metaphor for the experience of verbal assault. Ars Longa. but its aftereffects return to haunt the victim when one might least expect it to. She amassed an archive of words used in verbal assaults. In the second performance. Such discomfort should not suggest that artists are out to shock. verbatim. on the front of her body. Vita Brevis (‗Art is Long. whose permanence conflicts with the ephemerality of performance. Newspapers and Magazines By Hoag Levins America's core cultural reference books. Coble collected information about homophobic attacks. Reference Works. the grimace – are some of the potential feelings that might usefully take their place among an expanded range of sympathetic responses to the use of new techniques in art and performance. from her neck down to her legs. as with all scars. the shiver. it‘s worth acknowledging that similar preserved tattooed canvases are available for viewing at medical museums. For more information visit www. Coble intimates the physical hardship of a minority under continual attack. where the insult might leave a meagre (metaphorical) wound. and had them tattooed.S.org. such as St Bartholomews Pathology Museum at Queen Mary. the concomitant emotional or physiological reflexes – the flinch.

The cultural status of tattooing has steadily evolved from that of an anti-social activity in the 1960s to that of a trendy fashion statement in the 1990s. and "by-appointment" services only. has undergone dramatic changes. Tattooing is recognized by government agencies as both an art form and a profession and tattoo-related art work is the subject of museum. The second is the "tattoo art studio" that most frequently features custom.newspapers and magazines recognize tattooing as a wellestablished art form that. Today's fine art tattoo studio draws the same kind of clientele as a custom jewelry store. advertises itself with garish exterior signage. or high-end antique shop. two distinct classes of tattoo business have emerged. artists trained in traditional fine art disciplines began to embrace tattooing and brought with them entirely new sorts of sophisticated imagery and technique. to the surprise of many. Tattooing today is the sixthfastest-growing retail business in the United States. professional sports figures. fashion boutique. During the last fifteen years. by the late 1980s. ice skating champions. Advances in electric needle machines and pigments provided them with new ranges of color. and often operates with less than optimum sanitary procedures. become accepted by ever broader segments of mainstream society. tattoos are routinely seen on rock stars. marketing campaigns aimed at middle. middle-class suburban women. fine art design. The physical nature of many local tattooing establishments also changed as increasing numbers of operators adopted equipment and procedures resembling those of medical clinics -particularly in areas where tattooing is regulated by government health agencies. delicacy of detail and aesthetic possibilities. tattooing had. Today. offers "pictures-off-the-wall" assembly-line service. movie stars and other public figures who play a significant role in setting the culture's contemporary mores and behavior patterns. The first is the "tattoo parlor" that glories in a sense of urban outlaw culture. . The market demographics for tattoo services are now skewed heavily toward mainstream customers.and upper middle-class professionals. The single fastest growing demographic group seeking tattoo services is. over the last three decades. gallery and educational institution art shows across the United States. fashion models. In the 1970s. the ambiance of an upscale beauty salon. First adopted and flaunted by influential rock stars like the Rolling Stones in the early 1970s.

" ".. age or sex category. in its section.500 BC).. however. secret society or warrior association. when local graphic artist Patrick Levins became the first person to be certified under the strict new tattoo regulations.the earliest surviving examples of tattooed human skin come from 12th -Dynasty Egypt (1938 BC).. As societies grow ..J. In a religious context. but representational evidence suggests that tattooing was practiced in Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt (4.. until the late 20th century.In Europe and North America. In February. he received a document authorizing him to "practice (his) profession as a registered tattoo arts operator" anywhere in the county.. Tattooing in preindustrial societies dominantly relates the tattooed person to a social group or totemic clan. "Tattoo. The repertory expanded to include designs influenced by other tattoo traditions. with the face and body as canvas.From the 1960s onwards. unveiled comprehensive new regulations for the growing numbers of tattoo artists operating within its borders. tattoo marks are clearly symbolic. Penn. [1] It is a mark of the changing times that the county government chose to officially describe tattooing as both a "profession" and an "art. changes in the social status of tattoo art in Europe and North America has led to considerable experimentation with forms and styles. like those of other regions across the United States. are being forced to alter their attitudes and laws in response to the changing cultural status and popularity of tattooing. as distinct from a purely decorative context.. N. 1998. For instance.. Located just east across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. in late 1997." In fact.." the 1996 edition of the 30volume Macmillan Dictionary of Art explains: "The art is attested in almost every culture worldwide.. the county is a sprawl of suburban communities.. tattooing was largely connected with two groups: members of the armed forces and prisoners. tattooing is widely recognized as one of humanity's oldest and most meaningful art forms. 30-Volume Dictionary of Art For instance.. especially those of Japan and Oceania." [2] 16-Volume Encyclopedia of Religion In its extensive treatise on the subject. Camden County.~~~ Main Report With Footnotes The state and local governments of New Jersey.. the 16-volume Macmillan Encyclopedia of Religion notes: "Tattooing resembles painting..

" [4] Governor's Proclamation In 1982. there has been a marked revival in the art. media has documented.." Time reported.more complex and the division of economic and social labor becomes more refined..000 years to the Egyptians. Time magazine was one of the first national publications to note the trend as part of a profile of San Francisco tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle. In contemporary times "they have adorned the arms and chests of sailors." THE PUBLIC RECORD Over the last twenty years. a general emphasis on individuality. allowing considerable scope for self-expression and making statements about the self. It has re-emerged as a fine art attracting highly trained and skilled practitioners. Current creative approaches are infusing this traditional discipline with new vigor and meaning. nature and humankind. Contemporary tattooed men and women wear on their bodies subtle and beautiful expressions of a continuous tradition that links deity. so do the designs and colors multiply. whose designs on singer Janis Joplin and members of the Rolling Stones were drawing national attention. after a decade or two of decline.. At a time when these artists from around the ." [3] The Encyclopedia of Religion notes the changing nature of tattooing during the last several decades: "After World War II the practice subsided.. the Governor's Office of California issued an official state proclamation that declared. the invention of the electric tattooing needle). tattoos are enjoying a renaissance. As the technology of the art develops (for example. extensive tourism. "As an art. and improvements in the techniques of professional tattooing. as it prepared for an international convention of tattoo artists. Now. "The tattoo is primal parent of the visual arts. Time Magazine In 1970. roustabouts and construction workers.. They have become the vogue of the counterculture. a broad range of U. tattooing becomes more a matter of individual choice and serves the purpose of self-expression. analyzed and commented upon the dramatic changes that have altered the social status and cultural implications of the tattoo arts since the 1960s. the role of electronic media in bringing the practices of other cultures into the American home.S. but because of the influence of the 'counterculture' of the late sixties. tattoos have been traced back 4..

in the Journal's Leisure & Arts column. That year. Fine-art tattoos are beautifully drawn."[7] USA Today In March of last year. even senior citizens...are joining the ranks of tattooers and their designs are being exhibited in museums and featured in expensive coffee table books. leading an effort to improve the image of tattooing. much as an art patron commissions a work of art. they reflect the Japanese influence in tattoos. "The same old designs that World War II had birthed were being chopped out in studios in every dingy port in the world.S. Today's typical tattoo studio is clean and comfortable with tattooing areas that resemble medical-clinic rooms.The new-style tattooee doesn't merely pick out a design from the tattooer's wall.. furthermore. wrote Ward. Esquire magazine reported: "Serious artists.became just another form of self-expression and style." [8] St. teach and celebrate their skills. he has an image in mind when he arrives at the studio and then discusses it with the tattooer." But by 1972 a new. was that "what was formerly considered a sleazy perversion.." Ward noted... The result. "Tattooing by the '60s was in a rut.Fine art tattoos... reporter Ed Ward wrote a succinct history of the changing tattoo art scene as part of the newspaper's coverage of the National Tattoo Association's annual convention in New Orleans. the national daily newspaper USA Today reported: "The once-rebel art of tattooing has achieved mainstream popularity in 90's America.appeal to an affluent."[6] Esquire Magazine In 1989. professionals. tattoo art of the World War II era.world meet in California to share. as an expanding group of artists combined fine art disciplines with fantasy motifs executed in the lush. Louis Post Dispatch . highly detailed tattooing style of the Japanese. tattoo arts had become a subject of interest even for such publications as the Wall Street Journal. The people who come in on any given day might be students.mediocrity was rampant.. well-educated clientele."[5] Wall Street Journal By 1986.. "modern" tattoo art scene surfaced across the U.. it seems appropriate to remind Californians that the tattoo is indeed one of the most ancient arts..S. The results were tattoos that were more like rich bits of tapestry than the stark pen scratchings that had characterized U.. fine-art tattooers are.

changing the definition of a tattoo from the sign of a deviant act to a just-slightly scandalous but quite public beauty mark. [13] ... Tattooing in women has quadrupled. Louis Post Dispatch in Missouri reported last May: "Tattoo shops. took a closer look at the clientele patronizing tattoo art studios in and around Hazen. another had a tiny white baby seal on her ankle.the spreading popularity of tattooing among welleducated women in affluent suburban communities -. one figure skating mom and one figure skating coach" who were "women with full lives at home." One woman wore a small rose tattoo on her shoulder. and individuals with psychiatric problems. now ink middle-and even upper-class clientele. church and in the community. a middle-class suburb of Bismarck. tattoo parlors have moved out of bars. However. back alleys and carnivals to Main Street.even the terminology implies something of skill and value -. has alerted its readers: "Tattoos were most common among motorcyclists... the Anchorage Daily News told Alaskan readers: "What is striking about body art -.."[11] This trend -.The St."[10] SUBURBAN WOMEN Canada's Toronto Star reported in September of 1997 that when Beth Seaton. once catering to bikers and bums. They couldn't be less like the leather-wearing biker with skeleton tattoos on his chest. middle-class adult women have fueled it..is one of the most striking aspects of the new attitudes about the art form. these stereotypical associations have changed over the past 20 years. gang members. criminals. The medical journal Physician Assistant which circulates to doctors' offices throughout the country. But mostly.Now that more customers come from mainstream America. making the outrageous seem cool."[9] Anchorage Daily News In March of this year. professor of mass communications at York University conducted a study of the clientele at one of Toronto's most popular tattoo art studios."[12] The daily Bismarck Tribune of North Dakota in November.is how it has moved from society's margins to the mainstream.. and it is estimated that almost half of the tattoos now being done are on women. Models and MTV sparked the trend. she found that 80% of the customers were "upper middle-class white suburban females. Tribune reporter Lauren Donovan reported that the 30-40-year-old age group of "Soccer Moms" is the fastest growing demographic of the local tattoo market. She wrote that four typical clients included "two hockey moms. 1997.

News & World Report. In the United States..tattoo parlors are experiencing a growth trend due to three major changes in the tattoo industry: a greater number of tattoo ink colors. and as games on the Internet. today.. tattooing was the sixth-fastest-growing retail business in 1996. accountants and homemakers..." [16] Lawyers. Accountants and Homemakers Florida's Palm Beach Post. the industry has been expanding by more than one studio a day.it makes them feel special. and cellular phone stores. in toy stores. bagels. informed its readers: "Tattoos .1% of all NBA players . Since then. Inc." [17] Professional Athletes "Professional athletes had a lot to do with the mainstreaming of tattoos. they have become more socially acceptable. have become widely acceptable.'a tattoo makes them feel good -.."[18] In 1997.. the Associated Press reported that 35. Professor Myrna L. in November of 1997. Inc. the fact that fine artists are entering the field and the proliferation of celebrity tattoos.S.9 percent increase in nine months. explained that the local tattoo industry that once catered almost exclusively to "bikers. in November of 1997." [14] THE MAINSTREAM MARKET The conservative weekly news magazine U.. socially acceptable and desirable. different. tattooing is an outward expression of the internal process of identity building.." Sports Illustrated noted: "Tattoos have become the sport's world's most flaunted form of self-expression." the Post said.for some young women.The national marketing magazine About Women. the Chicago Tribune reported: "Tattoos have begun to appeal to people from every walk of life.. Armstrong of Texas Tech University School of Nursing told About Women. Ten years ago.' says Armstrong.. after Internet. published an article that reported: "Tattooing is on the rise among adult women. almost half of all tattoos are being done on women. computer.because many famous.. that several trends play into this interest in body art. including professional women. when it conducted a preseason survey of all 29 NBA teams. appearing on celebrities. they are everywhere. only boxers or wrestlers had visible tattoos. high profile people in music and sports have tattoos. in April of 1998." [15] Public Celebrities The same month. paging services. in every sport. sailors and topless dancers. "They made them visible." is now applying ornate art works to the skin of "lawyers. a 13..

Much like millionaire rock singers. Bonnie Clearwater."[22] Meanwhile. that same year. the Times reported: . turned out to be so successful that it went on a national tour. [19] Professional sports observers estimate that similar percentages of America's national league football. In 1995. 1997." another exhibit devoted exclusively to the art of tattoo designs.had tattoos. in its May 1998 review of the development of the local tattoo art studios since that business was legalized in March of 1997.. appearing in such institutions as Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art whose curator. described the event as being about 'bringing a popular culture into a world of higher art'. galleries and art institutions across the country. when she reviewed the tattoo-based art exhibit "Pierced Hearts" at the Drawing Center of New York City. 1840-1961.who also constitute one of the country's largest groups of millionaires -."[20] MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES The tattoo-related arts are studied and celebrated by leading museums.have had a major impact on the nature of the tattoo business.. Aside from raising the visibility of tattoos. these legions of sports figures -.tattoos have moved beyond peace signs for hippies and skulls for bikers. [23] Publications such as the New York Times have continued to cover tattoo art events. A recent fashion in tribal designs -." [21] The show. they have created a new market for high-end custom tattoo art studios geared to an affluent and demanding clientele that only patronizes vendors who provide high standards of service in clean. story. Village Voice art critic Elizabeth Hess wrote "Every artist in town will want to see 'Pierced Hearts' because it's the real thing.. hockey and baseball players also have tattoos.is now displayed on the ankles and arms of Madison Avenue executives. opened at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City.. "The Devil's Blue: American Art and Practice through the Port of New York.the art form has evolved from drunken-sailor initiation rite to quirky fashion statement. For instance. Madison Avenue Executives Other professional groups are also helping support the rise of a new upscale genre of tattoo art studios quite different from those seedy establishments once found only in urban tenderloin districts. the New York Times reported "Tattooing in New York is coming of age. In a February. respectable surroundings. movie stars and fashion models.inspired by the work of American Indians and tribes from places like Borneo and Thailand -. which included 300 drawings of tattoo art from the 1800s to the present.

on tattoo art. the Detroit Institute of Arts hosted a conference of scholars from around the country to study the tattoo arts. [27] In October of 1997. Once considered a back-alley art form. Isabela Basombrio of the museum's educational department pointed out to reporters that "the mainstreaming of the tattoo has produced a number of outstanding artists who have developed their own styles and are documenting their own history.S."Thousands of tattoo fans gathered in Detroit recently for one of the nation's biggest tattoo conferences. issue of Art in America. whose etchings and drawings are based. added pieces of tattoo design work to its permanent art collection. Speakers included anthropologist Margo DeMello of San Francisco University. a part of the Smithsonian. Fitzpatrick is himself the founder of the World Tattoo Gallery in Chicago which showcases similar artists. the medical journal Physician Assistant alerted its readers that cultural attitudes about tattoos in the U. the National Museum of American Art. The July. 1997. for instance. bringing new profits to tattoo parlors and even attracting attention from art museums. tattoos have been moving into the mainstream. [30] In April of 1997. in an article entitled "Preparing for a Career in . in part. have changed during the last two decades and that "Tattooing is a recognized art form in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. New York."[24] Later that year in Detroit." [26] In fact. the Hallways Contemporary Art Center in Buffalo.000 people and that "body art has captured the public imagination. folklore scholar Daniel Wojcik of the University of Oregon and art historian Dora Apel of Wayne State University. the University of Colorado-Boulder museum mounted a cultural and anthropological exhibit of body art called "Tattoo. In March of this year." The Denver Post reported that the exhibit's opening drew 1. hosted a gathering and art exhibit entitled "Needlework: A Festival of Woman Tattoo Artists. but also of the growing numbers of female tattoo artists who are yet another group changing the nature of the art and atmosphere of the professional tattoo business. [28] The conference was organized in cooperation with Erie County officials who regulate local tattoo artists." It was not only evidence of the museum-quality treatments tattoo artwork is receiving around the country. in 1986." [25] In its 1996 article on the subject. featured an article on the work of Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick." [29] Art journals take serious notice of art created by tattoo artists as well as art derived from that genre of drawing.

Tattooing proper has been practiced in most parts of the world. Sometimes the term is also loosely applied to the inducement of scars (cicatrization).Illustration. The word tattoo itself was introduced into English and other European languages from Tahiti. a mummified human body dating from about 3300 bce. In the Americas. or they serve to identify the wearer‘s rank. Sometimes pigment is rubbed into knife slashes (e. The usual technique was simple pricking. but some California tribes introduced colour into scratches. or the skin is punctured with thorns (Pima Indians of Arizona and Senoi of Malaya). needles set in a wooden handle are used to tattoo very elaborate multicoloured designs. If certain marks on the skin of the Iceman. Tattoos have also been found on Egyptian and Nubian mummies dating from approximately 2000 bce. in Tunisia and among the Ainu of Japan and the Igbo of Nigeria). then they represent the earliest known evidence of the practice. Gauls. Tattooing was rediscovered by Europeans when the age of exploration brought them into contact with American Indians and Polynesians. and many tribes of the Arctic and Subarctic. permanent mark or design made on the body by the introduction of pigment through ruptures in the skin. and parts of Malaysia. [31] tattoo. pigment was pricked into the skin by tapping on an implement shaped like a miniature rake. Their use is mentioned by Classical authors in relation to the Thracians. Micronesia.g. in many cases covering much of the body. tattooing was forbidden in Europe. many Indians customarily tattooed the body or the face or both. though it is rare among populations with the darkest skin colour and absent from most of China (at least in recent centuries). Decoration is perhaps the most common motive for tattooing. are tattoos. where it was first recorded . Tattooed designs are thought by various peoples to provide magical protection against sickness or misfortune. In Japan. In Polynesia.. status. and ancient Britons. but it persisted in the Middle East and in other parts of the world. In moko. Burmese tattooing is done with a brass penlike implement with a slit point and a weight on the upper end. Greeks. ancient Germans. or membership in a group. The Romans tattooed criminals and slaves. a type of Maori tattooing from New Zealand. shallow coloured grooves in complex curvilinear designs were produced on the face by striking a miniature bone adze into the skin. After the advent of Christianity." School Arts magazine advised America's student counselors that the tattoo arts were a "growing field" offering job opportunities for students trained in fine art principles. most Eskimos (Inuit). and some peoples of eastern Siberia made needle punctures through which a thread coated with pigment (usually soot) was drawn underneath the skin.

. Stimulated by Polynesian and Japanese examples. Europeans tattooed abroad—attracted much interest at exhibits. along with a revival of body piercing. and laser surgery. the inks thus released were absorbed into the body. and religious motifs are now similar in style and subject matter throughout the world. These nano-beads. convicts and British army deserters were identified by tattoos.by James Cook‘s expedition in 1769. American. The United States became a centre of influence in tattoo designs. The first electric tattooing implement was patented in the United States in 1891. Tattooing has declined in many non-Western cultures. and the laser treatment itself left no scar.S. The tattoo was removable. especially with the spread of U.S. but European. later. tattooing had a short vogue among both sexes in the English upper classes. All such methods may leave scars. however. tattooing ―parlours. skin grafts or plastic surgery. During the late 19th century. military. Members of gangs frequently have identified themselves with a tattooed design. In the 19th century. The nautical. Tattooed Indians and Polynesians—and. and later the inmates of Siberian prisons and Nazi concentration camps were similarly marked. tattooers‘ pattern sheets. Methods of tattoo removal include dermabrasion. and circuses in Europe and the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries. created a permanent tattoo if left alone. characteristic national styles of the early 20th century have generally disappeared. implanted in the skin using traditional tattooing methods. the spread of viral infections such as hepatitis and HIV. Tattooing of both men and women became fashionable. sprang up in port cities all over the world. In the early 2000s a group of scientists developed inks made from nontoxic pigments that could be contained within nano-beads. There are sometimes religious objections to the practice (―You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon you‖ [Leviticus 19:28]). released U. when tattoos are applied under less-than-sterile conditions. The health risks of tattooing include allergic reaction to pigments and.‖ where specialized ―professors‖ applied designs on European and American sailors. patriotic. and Japanese tattooing underwent a renewal of interest in the 1990s. fairs. by means of a single laser treatment that would rupture the nano-beads. romantic.