One of L.A.’s fairy godmothers, Francesca Lia Block, wrote a short story about a girl who falls in and out of love–and the arc of her romance is accompanied by tattoos that mysteriously appear and then disappear from her skin. The playfulness and magic of the story reminds of something we already know: a tattoo is (almost always) forever.
This fall, the Craft and Folk Art Museum is celebrating the mark the tattoo has made (forever) on Los Angeles. Examined simultaneously through the century’s tattoo movements (and there are many) and the legacy of famed tattoo artists, the exhibition skillfully highlights our city’s continued fertility for counterculture, rebellion, and reinvention. The show explores the symbiotic nature of tattoo and pop culture, diving into the blending of styles past and present. From an anthropological perspective, L.A. Skin & Ink makes the viewer privvy to the intricate system of apprenticeship and “kinship ties” that bind tattoo artists, as well as the real significance of body modification in a contemporary context. This visual anthropologist is smitten.
Goddess of Fire tattoo, Zulu. Color photograph, 2008. Courtesy of Zulu Tattoo.
The late-September opening of the show may have put CAFAM in the books as the first Los Angeles institution to give free admission (that night only!) to anyone with a tattoo. Highlights of the evening included temporary “L.A. Skin & Ink” heart tattoos and a charming elderly BDSM couple whose male half stripped to the waist, revealing his full torso tat of busty collared trapeze ladies. L.A. Tattoo legends Zulu, Esteban Oriol, Jill Jordan, Freddie Negrete were also in attendance. Check out Sullen TV’s video of the event here.
What’s next? Zulu Lounge’s Night at the Museum to benefit CAFAM. This November 10th event features an artist talk by Zulu, sounds by DJ Psychotropic, and a host of local performers. More here.
Rachel Elizabeth Jones grew up in rural Vermont. She came to southern California to study anthropology and ended up staying in Los Angeles to work at the Craft and Folk Art Museum. At present, she is enrolled to study visual anthropology at USC, and works on freelance writing projects in her spare time.
Top photo: CAFAM Window by GALO MakeOne Canote.