Sunday, 17 November 2013

What do you believe in?

Thanks for the loan of the catalogue Mary!  I understand it is for sale from the Agnes Etherington Gallery for $22.

This week through the good graces of Mary MacDonald at Eastern Edge Gallery, I learned about another tattoo project:  Bernard Clark's Tattoo Portraits.  It is an exhibition originated by Agnes Etherington Gallery in Ontario.  This gallery has always been of interest to me.  They've done craft, African artifacts and a number of things that have aligned with my interests and so I keep a watch out for their name in the gallery listings.  I recommend them if you are ever in their neighbourhood, which is Queens University in Kingston.  Bernard Clark has done a lot of work for Skin & Ink magazine (do you want to see the pile of tattoo magazines on my living room floor?) and even photographed Angelina Jolie.  Celebrity factor in spades.  I studied the catalogue for the show.  The essay was basically Clark's resume and the photos didn't impress me because there was much evidence of Photoshop to manipulate the images.  When I shared the publication with Ned Pratt, he observed that the backgrounds had been dropped in.

I have a growing concern about the photography of tattoo subjects.  Last year when I had the good luck to be in Chicago for the SOFA Art fair, I noticed this image:

Invitation image from the Packer Schopf Gallery in Chicago.

I found it disturbing because, I felt (and you are welcome to disagree with me), they treated the tattoo individual like a sideshow freak. The image, at least in a version I saw, had really poor contrast and so was difficult to "read".  When I showed the photo to my son he commented simply, "Mom, they made him look like a toad".  It was a sensationalistic image that did not respect the fact that this was a man and not an animal.  Now, I know we are all mammals despite the fact that Socrates defined men as "featherless laughing bipeds".  But I do not want tattooed people to be laughing stocks.  I don't think it is fair; legal perhaps but not just.

Whenever subjects devolve into objects I get wary because it usually is an indication of disrespect.  Have you ever noticed how serviced has replaced served in the common usage of the English language?  Prostitutes "service" their customers, they do not serve them.  The auto mechanic services your car but he or she serves you.  Can you see the difference?  Sentence structure usually goes: subject, verb, object– with subjects being the doer and objects being the done to.  Language usage is a very clear indicator of held beliefs.

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