Tattoos are Art
December 12, 2010
Great art inspires. Art can evoke strong emotions; compassion, joy, sorrow, anger...the list is extensive. In the words of the artist, Mark Rothko (2010):
The fact that people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions...the people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when painting them. And if you say you are moved only by their color relationships then you miss the point.
I’m not an abstractionist. I’m not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I’m ...view middle of the document...
He was found between Austria and Italy in the Tyrolean Alps. "Oetzi" is the oldest known human to have medicinal tattoos preserved upon his mummified skin: approximately 57 of them, and they are placed over areas of the body that modern acupuncturists use to heal maladies like intestinal parasites and osteoarthrosis (Tattoo History, 2010). Further evidence shows that tattooing was probably practiced among peoples living during the late Stone Age. Mummified remains of a priestess of Hathor, from 2,000 B.C bear lines on the stomach, thought most likely to have either medicinal or fertility implications (Sanders, 1989, p. 9). Additionally, many aboriginal or polynesian tribal people used tattooing to indicate their tribe affiliation and ancestry.
Some of the most sophisticated and rank-symbolizing tattooing in tribal societies has been, and continues to be, practiced by the Maoris of New Zealand. While the women usually receive limited moko markings on the lip and chin area, men receive extensive facial and body tattoos, and they would routinely tweeze or shave their hair to ensure that everyone could see their markings. The moko process was extremely painful and wrapped up in many rituals. Higher status, or social identity in the tribe was given to those who were the most heavily tattooed. By steadfastly undergoing the tattooing and marking rites-of-passage, the recipient could demonstrate, to the other members of the society, their bravery (Sanders, 1989, P. 10). Bravery is also important in the Shan culture of the Society Islands. Young men without tattoos are seen as immature, since they did not have the courage to withstand the painful process. As well as proving bravery, or adult status, tribal tattoos have been believed to guarantee the bearer’s good luck, to charm or entice members of the opposite sex, to protect from affliction or accident, or to preserve the youth of the tattooed (Sanders, 1989, P. 11). Rather than a show of bravery, in the Maisin society, as studied by Barker & Tietjen, and reported by Enid Schildkrout (2004) women’s facial tattoos were once associated with puberty ceremonies and gender separation. Now, among the Maisins, facial tattoos serve more to show an assertion of individualized ethnicity, maturity and femininity, cultural pride, and artistic ability (P.334). Clearly, tattooing has been around for as long as history has been recorded, and as new artifacts are uncovered, it is apparent it has been around far longer than that. Tattoos were also used as a form of punishment in south Asia, Europe, Russia, East India and in convict transports to Australia. In Schildkrout’s (2004) article, Inscribing the Body, she states these “inscriptions were part of a system of control and surveilance” (P. 323). Tattoos that were not the least artistic in nature were used to mark slaves, both in ancient Greece and Rome and also in the United States. This branding, similar to marking livestock, made it easier for the rightful...