“The Living Canvas: Art and the Body” Coming to Patriot Hall Gallery

Body decoration has a long and interesting history, dating from ancient times in Asia and Africa.  Captain James Cook brought a form of the word “tattoo” with him in his journals of a 1771 voyage to East Asia and the Pacific Islands, and over the hundreds of years since then, the indelible marking of a person’s skin has slowly made its way into the mainstream, with symbolism continuing to vary across different cultures.

Today, with the impact of our ongoing fascination with celebrities, the increasingLiving-Canvas availability of talented artists and ever-growing palettes, and a shift in attitudes over the last generation, it appears that in America, tattoos are here to stay—and they have come a long way since the crude “Popeye anchor.”  The art form has caught on among people of all ages, races, socioeconomic status, gender, and it even transcends liberal/conservative mindsets.

Sometimes I am still surprised to see who sports them—a very conservative co-worker has a discreetly placed but stunning scenic one, an almost gallery-quality work body-artof true beauty.  A successful businesswoman I know totally shocked me recently by gathering up her long hair and showing me the new “queen bee” on the nape of her neck—and she’s in her fifties!  Many of my friends (mostly younger than I, but not all) collect them as a means of personal expression and as a remembrance of important things in their lives.  The tattoo has arrived.  With this proliferation, it’s easy to forget that ten years ago, tattooing was illegal in the state of South Carolina, but enthusiasts have always found a way!

In celebration of body art, Gallery 135 at Patriot Hall will open “Living Canvas: Art and the Body,” September 13 from 6 to 9 p.m.  The exhibit features live models showing body art including body painting and henna, as well as tattoos.  According to the Sumter County Cultural Commission, “artists’ presentations in Patriot Hall Auditorium by Tomac Henson of Mission Tattoo of Santa Barbara, CA,  Ashley Emerson of 5 Aces in Sumter, and Tyson Steen (of Triple E Training Center in Columbia, SC) will provide an intriguing whirlwind tour of the Art of Tattoo, exploring its history, the techniques, the styles, as well as current developments.”

The event is open to the public, and admission is FREE.  Refreshments will beface-painted-child available, along with musical entertainment.  Patriot Hall is located at 135 Haynsworth Street in Sumter.  For more info, please call (803) 436-2661.

Now, in case anyone wondered—no, I don’t have one, and don’t intend to.  I must admit that in the wilder days of my misspent youth, when it was still considered a form of rebellion, I certainly considered it.  But ask around—friends, co-workers, relatives—and I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at the number of tattoos surrounding you in your daily life!

by Colette Daniels

“Living Canvas” is made possible by the Sumter County Cultural Commission, which receives funding from the SC Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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