Photo of Whang-Od Oggay by Lars Krutak.
I had to weed through the muck of dumb celebrity tattoo gossip and features focusing on the bad rather than beauty of tattooing, but I did come up with some gems. I also threw in a few that made me mad but were noteworthy. Here we go...
One of my favorite recent features was this Guardian photo show "What lies beneath: people with full-body tattoos bare all." Cheezy title, but great photos of a diverse group of collectors, including our friend Drew Beckett.
I was also so excited to read that the Philippines' oldest living mambabatok (tattoo artist), Whang-Od Oggay (shown above), has been nominated as a "National Living Treasure or Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA)" for her role in perpetuating the traditional art of Kalinga tattooing. I first learned of Whang-Od through Lars Krutak's writing "The Kalinga Tattoo Artist of the Philippines," and through the work of the Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon Tribe, who are reviving the ancient tattoo arts of their Kalinga ancestors here in the US. Hers is an amazing story and truly deserving of such an honor. Also check this video profile on Whang-Od (from 2013).
Lars' work is also discussed in the Smithsonian Science News article "Is tattoo ink safe?" The article explores a paper that Lars co-authored entitled "A medical-toxicological view of tattooing," which looks at the toxicological risks of the ingredients used in tattoo inks and also what happens to the pigments during tattoo removal. Lars is quoted in the article explaining further:
There are no regulatory requirements concerning the production and sterility of colorants, which can carry multi-resistant bacteria and carcinogens and trigger serious allergic reactions and viral infections. [...] New research is needed to contribute to the future development of safe tattooing, and this article is a first step in the right direction.In Australia, plastic surgeons & tattoo removal specialists want greater regulation of the tattoo removal industry, especially considering the damage that is being done by those with a laser machine and little experience.
On the US legal front, a federal judge tossed a lawsuit challenging the visible tattoo ban of the Chicago Police Department. In July, three Chicago police officers, who served in the military and have symbolic tattoos, filed the suit claiming that the ban violates their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and expression. However, U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras ruled that "the city's goal of having a professional-looking police force trumps the officer's desire to express themselves by keeping their tattoos visible while on-duty." We've been seeing more and more challenges to police department tattoo policies, with different results, but it appears that the legal tide is still with upholding these bans.
It was painful for me to read the TechInsider article on "trendy sacred geometry tattoos" -- which is anything but sacred. It features work from some good artists, but throwing it together in an Instagram Listacle format was tacky and lacked respect for patterns that should be taken as something more than the next cute Pinterest tattoo pick.
Thankfully, I felt better reading this profile and Q&A with Paul Slifer, the Massachusetts native who owns Red, Hot and Blue Tattoo in Edinburgh, Scotland. A few years ago, when I was visiting that fabulous city, I stopped by the studio, and they were really warm and welcoming. Plus the artists there know how to put on a beautiful tattoo. Check 'em.
One of the biggest stories in recent headlines was the tattoo of Justin Trudeau, Canada's new Prime Minister, which is a Haida-inspired raven with a globe as part of the body. As noted by Radio Canada International, the tattoo was done by Robert Davidson, an artist of Haida and Tlingit descent. Interestingly, the article brings up cultural appropriation and tattoos:
There has been controversy in North America over cultural appropriation-the fashion industry and non-natives using aboriginal symbols. But Peter Lantin, president of the council of the Haida Nation, told the National Post "when Justin Trudeau visited...again in 2013, he seemed to take an interest in the culture and, of course, his father was technically family."Read more on the issue of appropriation and Haida tattooing here. As a follow up to the Trudeau tattoo story, the BBC has this article on tattoos of other world leaders.
Aaaand let's wrap up this news review with some quick & dirty links:
* An Australian man with a Hindu goddess tattoo angered a crowd in Bangalore, India.
* Patrick Thomas of OC Tattoo on Pet Portraits, Graphic Design, and Tattooing his Sister.
* "My Life with a Face Tattoo" is an interesting BBC video profile of one Dundee man.
* And the most tattooed city in the UK is ...
All Images Copyright Lars Krutak
Tattoo anthropologist Dr. Lars Krutak is no stranger to Needles & Sins. In February, we profiled the tattoo hunter, discussing his research into indigenous body modification practices worldwide. We also love his Kalinga Tattoo book on the vanishing tattoo practices of the Kalinga people in the Philippines.
This Saturday, July 30th, Lars will be giving a lecture at Sacred Gallery on his research and displaying photos and video from his journeys. Here's what Sacred says of the event:
Unimax is proud to present Dr. Krutak, on July 30th at 3PM, at Sacred Tattoo, 424 Broadway, N.Y.C., who will spend an hour revealing tattoo as a statement of worldviews, where humans, nature, and the supernatural are united. He will show where and how tattoo still represents the reenactment of ancient myths, ancestral traditions, and the actions of deities and cultural heroes. Video clips from his documentary series "Tattoo Hunter," seen on the Discovery Channel supplement the presentation as well as some large format on-location photos by Krutak, from the collection of Wes Wood.It promises to be a fascinating talk. Highly recommend it.
For those of you in and around D.C., this Wednesday, July 27th, from 6:45 to 8:45 PM, Lars will also share his work in "Skin Deep: The History and Art of Indigenous Tattooing." His books will be available for signing as well.
If you can't make it, check out some of his writings and images online at LarsKrutak.com and The Vanishing Tattoo.
Tattoo Anthropologist Dr. Lars Krutak is no stranger here on Needles & Sins. We've linked his articles numerous times, from research on ancient skin sewing rituals to his visiting the oldest tattoo studio in Greece. We've applauded his documentary series for Discovery, Tattoo Hunter, which explores indigenous body modification practices worldwide. And we've listed his latest book, Kalinga Tattoo: Ancient and Modern Expressions of the Tribal, as a holiday gift guide pick.
What we haven't done is look beyond his work and profile Lars himself. This past weekend, The Borneo Post beat us to it. The article discusses his 15+ years researching tribal tattoo traditions and rituals, a number of which he has experienced himself. It focuses particularly on Lars's work in Borneo, as he was recently in Kuching to give a presentation at the Gathering of the Tribes 2011, a cultural expo that brought together international tattooists and tribal performers from across Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo). It's a great read and includes a touching story on his visit to the last Iban tattoo artist, who was dying.
Inspired by the article, I just interviewed Lars myself for Skin & Ink. Of course his many adventures could not possibly fit in a limited word count, so I'm offering some bonus bits from our talk below.
As a kid, was there any indication that you'd follow the path you're on today? Were you playing archeologist as a child or poured over National Geographics?
Living in Mexico 1979-81, we traveled all over the country and I visited every Maya/Aztec/Zapotec archaeological complex, so I thought I was going to be an archaeologist, especially after "Raiders of the Lost Ark" dropped. It didn't hurt that my parents had a Nat Geo collection with every issue dating back to the early 50s (which I still have), and I took that love of archaeology and anthropology to college. I double majored in anthropology and art history at the University of Colorado at Boulder (1989-1993) and never looked back.
Was your interest in tattoo sparked during your graduate work at Univeristy of Alaska Fairbanks or beforehand?
After undergrad, I chased my (then) girlfriend to San Francisco in 1995 where I landed my first salaried job at Campbell-Thiebaud Gallery that was operated by Paul L. Thiebaud, the son of Pop Artist Wayne Thiebaud. Right around the corner was Don Ed Hardy's Tattoo City in North Beach so I used to peek in the window on my lunch breaks. Also, my good ole buddy Tony Barton (Hell or High Water Tattoos, New Orleans) was starting to tattoo at that time, and this provided the initial awareness and interest in tattoos. I left San Fran in January 1996 to pursue graduate work in Fairbanks, Alaska, and as I was walking across campus during the second week, I met an Inuit woman with tattoos on her chin. I was hooked at that point, wanted to know more, and that's when I became obsessed with documenting tribal tattoos.
What continues to motivate your research after all this time?
The main thing that motivates me is that these traditions are vanishing around the world before being accurately recorded. Time has always been my enemy, and I wish I would have been born 100 years ago.
Tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak, of Discovery's Tattoo Hunter series, has authored a gorgeous 424-page, 8-pound hardcover on indigenous tattooing in the Philippines:
Kalinga Tattoo: Ancient and Modern Expressions of the Tribal
The book is the first to explore the vanishing tattoo practices of the Kalinga people (whose ancestors also practiced headhunting). It also looks at today's revival of the art, particularly by the Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon Tribe, who are a growing organization of Filipino-Americans dedicated to studying and sharing these tattoo traditions. [I've been a long-time fan of the Tribe and encourage you to read more on their work here & check their YouTube page.]
Here's more on what's inside the book:
KALINGA TATTOO: ANCIENT AND MODERN EXPRESSIONS OF THE TRIBAL is a photographic masterwork that explores the vanishing art of Kalinga tribal tattooing in the remote mountains of the northern Philippines. Combining the visionary talents of numerous international photographers and the words and stories of nearly fifty Kalinga elders, Kalinga Tattoo is the first book to tell the story of this incredibly rich tradition of indigenous body art that is believed to be 1,000 years old.
Read more here.
Kalinga Tattoo is published by Edition Reuss, the same publishers of my Black Tattoo Art and Black & Grey Tattoo books, and so the crafting of this large-format tome is of the exceptional quality Edition Reuss is known for.
For North American orders, signed copies, and other special offers contact Lars Krutak directly. The books are also available on Amazon.com and LastGasp.com.