Invitation to the Gallery: Art Skin-Deep, Community Oriented, Universal.

Author:Shapiro, Beth Hemke
Position:Book review

Work Title: Invitation to the Gallery: Art Skin-Deep, Community Oriented, Universal

Work Author(s): Beth Hemke Shapiro


Byline: Beth Hemke Shapiro

Some of us turn to art for its ability to soothe the spirit, while others prefer pieces for their message, no matter how jarring. Thought-provoking and unusual, this assortment of art books will inspire and challenge readers with its varied responses to the world, whether on a small scale or a global level.

Body Art

With tattoos becoming mainstream, it's easy to forget the long history of painting, carving, and incising on the human body. Experienced documentary photographer Chris Rainer, a contributor to Time and National Geographic publications, captures an amazing display of body art in Ancient Marks: the Sacred Origins of Tattoos and Body Marking (Earth Aware Editions, 978-1-932771-75-6). The foreword immediately provides some attention-grabbing statistics: "If the skin of the average human body were laid out as flat as a map, a sheet of parchment, it would cover more than twenty square feet. Had Leonardo da Vinci chosen the human form as his canvas, he would have had a work surface four times the size of the Mona Lisa."

Rainer's more than one hundred riveting images link individuals of different ages, colors, and sexual orientations by his use of the black-and-white medium. Tattooed males hold each other in front of their sculpture at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada. Young men pierce their cheeks with large knives at a Chinese vegetable festival in Phuket, Thailand. A pregnant Ethiopian woman from the Karo tribe shows scarification marks on her vast belly, a common practice among people with very dark skin that precludes effectively displaying dark tattoos.

Another photographer, Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura, "...plays literally with his own skin," according to one writer, as he impersonates and photographs himself as various well-known western figures. In Yasumasa Morimura: Requiem for the XX Century (Skira Editore, 978-88-6130-299-0), a series of images depicts Morimura as Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, and Che Guevara. As Hitler, he frolics with a globe and is then shown opposite the poem, "Mr. Morimura's Dictator Speech." He also transforms himself into Einstein, posing seriously as for a portrait on one page, and startles viewers on the next with his goofy expression. Morimura works in video, too; this book includes a description of his plan to capture Lenin's May 1920 speech...

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