Sunday, May 22, 2016


May 2016 - Toronto ON

We went to see the Tattoo Exhibit titled Tattoos:Ritual, Identity, Obsession, Art.

It provided fascinating insights into ancient practices, histories, meanings and the revival of the global phenomenon of body art.

I've always admired tattoos as we see them today. The very first one that caught my eye was back in the 90s in Hawaii. We were on the Big Island and went to see the active volcano. There was exciting volcanic activity at the time and the road was blocked by the National Forest rangers.
I digress, but we had another encounter with these amazing people in 2011 when we were rescued on the Mauna Loa road.

Anyhoo, back to the tattoo on the ranger, he had shorts on and had the Cat in the Hat on his shin. Loved it.
John has always said he wanted a tattoo of our last cat, Parnell.

We took the subway to Museum station.

As soon as you step out of the subway at the Museum station you are at the ROM and the Tattoo exhibit starts outside with these huge portraits framed with bamboo.

Before you enter there were some posters announcing the show.

Photography was encouraged and you could post to Twitter.

The ROM announced the exhibit as follows:
Coming from the musée du quai Branly in Paris, where the exhibition received rave reviews, Tattoos: Ritual. Identity. Obsession. Art.explores the 5000-year-old multifaceted world of tattooing, showcasing a visual history of body art and markings, ancient tools, and commissioned tattooed silicone body reproductions, inked by some of the most respected tattoo artists in the contemporary world.
Trunk of a travelling tattoo artist.

Anna Artoria Gibbons was a tattoo attraction that worked for 35 years in circus and carnival sideshows, including the Ringling, Barnum & Bailey Brothers Circus (from 1921 to 1923), the Hagenbeck-Wallace in 1924 and others. Artoria was the stage name for Mrs. C. W. (Red) Gibbons.

Artoria was born on a farm in upper Wisconsin. Her parents were poor and by the age of 14 she decided to leave home. When she was interviewed by Arthur Lewis, writer and author of the book, Carnival, she said, "I never been no place in my life." While hanging around a local carnival sideshow she met Red Gibbons. "Him and me got to talking, tole me the show didn't have no tattooed lady and would I like to be one." Said he was the tattoo artist and if I let him tattoo me I could join the show and see the world. Well that's what I done. We was married soon after that and we both had a good life. There ain't hardly no place in the country I ain't been to but when he died (late 1940's) I went into retirement out on the west coast."

In the 1950s Artoria came out of retirement and worked with the Dell-Travers ten-in-one show: " Last year I saw Mr. Potter's advertisement in "Billboard." I applied for the job and here I am folks, to show you the most amazing tattoo in the world, covering more than eighty percent of my entire body."

Artoria's tattoos were amazing: magnificent reproductions of paintings by Raphael and Michelangelo and a few patriotic designs but for those few exceptions the main inspiration is Italian. "My husband done everyone of them," she said proudly."They're all masterpieces. He was crazy 'bout eyetalian (sic) painters."

Here's an interesting story of 14 historicals figures who had tattoos.

Because some elements of the Paris exhibit could not be transferred to the ROM, the museum turned to its own resources, drawing on artifacts and pieces from its Arctic, Egyptian, Pacific, East Asian and natural history collections, including a sculpture of a Nubian concubine with clearly marked tattoos.

As a result, the exhibition has a whole new section on tattooing in North American indigenous cultures, featuring an etching of an Inuit woman with face tattoos.

Armenian woman in the early 20th century sold into prostitution whose face was tattooed by her pimp.

 I had no idea of the history and diversity around the world regarding tattoos. When we were in New Zealand in 2015 we were fascinated with the Maori culture and their amazing tattoos.

It includes sections on tattooing in Japan, where it is known as irezumi; in New Zealand, among the Maori, where it is called ta moko; and Polynesia, where it was known as tatau, from which is derived the English word tattoo.

Looks a lot like a mask we bought in New Zealand.

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What would you choose for a tattoo?

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  1. Many thanks for the link, Jackie :) I have to be honest and admit that I really don't much like tattoos, no matter how popular they've become or the historic significance, but I do appreciate you taking time to share.

  2. I have no doubt that may people love these tatoos however I am not one of them. I can never understand how anyone wants to mutilate ones body. Hope you have a wonderful week.

  3. What an unique and interesting exhibit! I remember being fascinated as a child by our next door neighbor who had been in the Navy and had tattoos on his arms from those days. I thought he painted them on every day.
    I don't think I'd ever get a tattoo myself, but I know many who have. I'm just not a fan of the whole body tattoo look.

  4. An interesting and unusual display! Happy to meet you via Lisa's photo link up.

  5. I could never want a tattoo. It's interesting to see this sort of exhibit though... I'm surprised that you could photograph. Museums and galleries often have a no-photo policy on temporary exhibits.

  6. What and interesting display... I would love to see this. I have a tattoo right above my wrist and it's interesting to see how people perceive me because of it. Most of the stigma is gone now a days but there is still some left. I know a ton of people, like Margaret (I totally respect your opinion Margaret), think of it as mutilation but I think most people who have tattoos see them as art. At least I do :-D. Great post Jackie!

  7. Very interesting. I got my first and only tattoo the year I retired. It's a simple hummingbird just like a silver pin my father made for my mother many years ago. It was a tribute to my change in life and a remembrance for each of them. - Margy

  8. Great post - we went to this exhibition when we were in Toronto last month, as I think we discussed elsewhere, so I can see this really captures the flavour of it. We were racing to see as much of the museum as possible so probably didn't spend as long there as you did, but we enjoyed it. I have no tattoos and would be far too squeamish to have any: some of these pictures have me curling up in agony just looking at them. I used to work with a young man who had a half-sleeve and was saving up for the full sleeve. I was interested when he was telling me how he created the design, but when he got to the process - aargh!
    The Glasgow Gallivanter


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