Most people already consider tattoos a form of art – after all, that's the point of inking a design permanently into your skin. But for some, the ink itself is only part of the picture. As mainstream culture's tenuous but increasingly warm relationship with tattooing continues to progress, there are some ambassadors from within the ink world that are taking steps to speed the process along.
The world of fine art – specifically performance art – has a reputation for taking things that are ordinary or mundane and turning them into huge productions. Given the rising popularity of tattooing in the U.S., it was only a matter of time before a community of performance artists turned their sights on the new medium. Here are a few examples of art that centers around tattooing.
What's in a name?
Many artists will tell you that art is a great way to meet people and make connections with others. For Los Angeles-based artist Illma Gore, that's just the beginning. She wants to cover her body with tattoos – but of a very specific kind. According to a local area news source KTLA, Gore is petitioning citizens and passers-by to pay her $10 to tattoo their name on her body. The story outlined that Gore is charging $10 to have a name tattooed on her leg. Or, for $100, people can send her a design of their own making, or $1,000 for a larger design. Gore has launched a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter, where she hopes to raise $6,000 to cover the cost of the tattooing.
If Gore's project seems strange, it pales in comparison to that of Spanish performance artist Santiago Sierra. According to The New York Times, Sierra performed a piece in 2000 when he paid four models to let him film them getting a single black line tattooed across their backs.
A new canvas
Tattooing has provided many up-and-coming artists with a brand new medium to practice their craft. While tattoos a century ago were typically performed by sailors or in shops specifically meant to cater to them, today's world is filled with painters, illustrators and other visual artists who are drawn to tattooing simply because it intrigues them. In an attempt to further illustrate the connection between old and new visual art, an Australian performance artist named Sandra Minchin-Delohery had a famous 17th-century painting tattooed onto her back. The project, titled "Art Lives Longer Than Life," will see the painting "Vase of Flowers" from Jan Davidsz de Heem cover Minchin-Delohery's entire back. According to The Age, Minchin-Delohery hopes to reappropriate visual art into a the new medium of tattooing, as well as raise awareness for cancer research. She received a $7,000 grant from the Australian government to complete the project.
Tattoos themselves make for astonishing pieces of art, but it's rare that the process itself is held aloft for artistic interpretation. However, The Independent noted that a British man named Dominic Johnson had his hands tattooed live on stage by an artist. According to the source, Johnson's hope is to draw more attention to the art involved in the process of tattooing. As he noted, the history of tattoos is richly intertwined with performance. In fact, some sailors and other travelers would put themselves on display after being heavily tattooed upon returning home.
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