These aren’t the stories our parents told us as children. Starting Monday, the Art Lounge at the second floor of the Memorial Union will feature the photography exhibit “An Anthology in Flesh: Storytelling in Tattoo Art.”
The exhibit, which will be on display until Mar. 13, looks at the personal significance of the chosen tattoo as well as the devotion it takes for a tattoo artist to create the images.
“It takes a different type of person to get a tattoo,” said Jordan Mitchell, an employee at the piercing and tattoo studio Urban Body in downtown Davis. “[Tattoos] are more visual, more of a constant reminder.“
The conventional roles of the artist and consumer have also changed with the practice of tattooing.
“When you see art, it’s usually the artist that makes meaningful art. Now it’s different – now the consumer puts the meaning in the art,” said junior art history major Jeffrey Lagman, one of the curators for the exhibit.
“An Anthology in Flesh” delves into themes of personal exploration through tattoo art and the social implications surrounding the tattooed individual. Perpetuating debates include Lagman’s questions of “Is it art? Or is it craft?” The collection is intended to argue the former.
The exhibit, designed and executed by the class of Art History 401: Curatorial Methods, sets photos of different tattoos side by side to highlight the contrast between the works to explore the ways viewers interpret the art.
“[The pieces] really resonate with juxtaposition in the curatorial space,” Lagman said.
He described two pieces in particular: A photo of the abstract, logical tattoo called “The Mathematics of Love” on a customer known as Ely in contrast to the rational, graphic “No Weak Heart Shall Prosper” on Rex Flores. The two disparate pieces – both done by Kai Smart from Primary Concepts Tattooing & Body Piercing in downtown Davis – together create an effect greater than the sum of its parts.
“Ely came to me as a client with a very defined idea of the tattoo design,” Smart wrote in her artist’s statement for the exhibit.
She also stated that Ely already had a specific vision of the tattoo he wanted because there was a very particular and personal meaning behind the art.
“I worked on a design for a while, but then I found an image on XKCD.com, depicting hearts instead of variables in various mathematical equations,” Ely wrote in his collector’s statement for the exhibit.
“To me, [the design] represents the inscrutable and mysterious nature of the human heart, and how we, in all our education, still cannot ‘solve‘ it,” Smart said.
Mitchell’s personal experience with tattoo art at Urban Body fits with the themes of the exhibit. Tattoos that represent personal struggle and achievement, he said, are not uncommon, using an example of a tattoo created to commemorate the completion of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
In addition to the stories behind the actual tattoos, Lagman described the work behind the showcase itself – the small budget received, the long hours dedicated and the extreme poignancy achieved in the coming exhibit. He said he believes the end result will be impressive.
“We think the exhibit speaks for itself,” Lagman said.
“An Anthology in Flesh: Storytelling in Tattoo Art” opens in the Art Lounge on Monday and will be on display until Mar. 13. For the gallery’s hours, visit campusunions.ucdavis.edu/thegallery.
LAURA KROEGER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.