Sam Steward "Obscene Diary" Exhibition
12:29 PM
sam steward tattooing.jpg
Professor Sam Steward is best known to the tattoo community as Phil Sparrow, a meticulous tattooer whom many credit with raising the bar of body art. Steward wrote the seminal "Bad Boys & Tough Tattoos: A Social History of the Tattoo with Gangs, Sailors, and Street-Corner Punks," a sort of diary on his 18 years tattooing during the 50s and 60s.

Last year, a much lauded biography was released revealing the many different lives of Steward beyond tattoo artist -- the academic, the writer and the "
exuberant erotic adventurer." "Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist & Sexual Renegade" by Justin Spring is lush with sexy stories culled from 80 boxes of letters, drawings, sexual paraphernalia, even pubic hair from Rudolph Valentino (with whom he had an affair). There's some talk of tattooing, but homosexual life dominates the narrative. I guess I wasn't clear about this in my first post on the book because I received a few emails from those who ordered it asking why I was pushing gay porn. It seems not many of you are exuberant erotic adventurers.

For those who are, a limited edition companion book was released by Spring entitled "An Obscene Diary:  The Visual World of Sam Steward." This art and photography compilation, complete with explicit sexual imagery, inspired the "Obscene Diary" exhibit at the Museum of Sex in NYC. The Museum says of the show:  "
This exhibition features the most comprehensive group of artifacts from the Steward Archive that will ever be made available for public view and asks patrons to reflect on what it would look like if their own sexual histories were documented and what this would say about the times in which we live."  [In the age of sexting and kissy-face profile pics on Facebook, I think our sexual histories are not so secret.]

Yesterday, the NY Times offered a multimedia feature on the exhibit, which is fantastic. It includes six photos accompanied by audio narration by Spring, giving context to the image. For example, in the photo above, Spring discusses Steward's tattooing and notes that he was the official tattooer for the Hells Angels from 1965-1970 in San Francisco. Each image is worth a click for these kind of gems.
Many thanks to Bill of TattoosDay for the NY Times link!

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