Date of Award


Document Type

MA Project - Open Access

Project Type

MA Project - Curatorial Proposal

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Stephan Pascher

Second Advisor

Kathy Battista


Tattoos. Works of art on the skin, but what does it mean? One does not just brand themselves without a just cause. There is much that goes into a tattoo; selection of a design, collaboration with an artist, color selection, actual tattooing, and the aftermath/healing. This is the same process no matter the size of the piece. Even as a simple quote in black across a section of skin, there is more behind the ink and skin. There is an individual with a story. The exhibition, Humanizing the Tattoo: Looking Beyond the Skin’s Surface will explore the human relationship to tattoos. With works from over eight artists, this exhibition will look through history and current tattoo trends to discover the human experience. The exhibition will start historically from military tattoos of World War Two and go to Today’s trends. Another important element is the storytelling aspect, where through interviews and clips, we can hear the voices of those with tattoos and their stories behind it.

The human experience of getting a tattoo is a very personal experience. It is a decision only the person receiving the tattoo can decide. This is also something, as a society, we never trully look into to. What causes someone to get a tattoo, over not getting one? Why do some have a great need to be tattooed, while others have no desire? It is an interesting split among people who want and do not. Also with tattoos, we are interested only in the work, but not the person behind it. It creates a wall between the works and the person, “a split between (as translator) and body (the displayed tattoo) inevitably takes place in performative tattoo discourse. The spilt allows as interactive play among the subject, viewer, and the tattoo.” (1) The tattoo becomes similar to an object for the wearer to become the speaker for. This exhibition wants to break that image down and create an equal one for both. One could not exist without the other.

Tattoos are two-sided beings. They showcase the artist who performed them and the person receiving one. For the artist, the tattoo shows their skill set in this art form and what they contribute to the community. To the individual getting the tattoo, it is adding to their person as a whole. They decided to get a tattoo because something was missing to them or they wanted something their persons forever. This exhibition will showcase the stories behind the art and how it has become the people’s art, “Artistic tattooing is one of the most prevalent and accessible art forms in America- easily characterized as the people’s art.” (2)

In the exhibition Humanizing the Tattoo: Looking Beyond the Skin’s Surface we will explore the human experience with tattoos. How it has changed over time? It is an ever changing art form that is constantly evolving. This both with the art form and those interested in receiving a tattoo. There are no limits, “Tattoos are images without a frame, bounded only by the horizons of the body itself.” (3)

(1) Lei, Daphne. “The Blood-Stained Text in Translation: Tattooing, Bodily Writing, and Performance of Chinese Virtue.” Anthropological Quarterly 82 (2009), 100.

(2) Noonan, Claire. “Art Expressed on a Living Canvas: Proposing a Balance Between the Protection of Free Expression and the Governmental Interest in Regulating the Tattoo Industry.” Loyola Law Review 60 (n.d.), 155.

(3) Buss, Laura, and Karen Hodges. “Marked: Tattoo as an Expression of Psyche.” Psychological Perspectives 60 (2017), 22.