The stories of tattooing are told and their local origins explored at the Museum of Latin American Art through a new exhibit titled “Ink: Stories on Skin.”
The recently opened exhibit runs through February and features the work of more than 50 artists to trace the local history of tattoos from 1930s Long Beach to Chicano influence on the art form.
It includes flash art, videos, drawings, and lessons on the meaning of certain tattoos.
There’s a lot of ink to absorb, and here are some of the things you’ll see and learn about in ‘Ink: Stories on Skin’.
1. Behind the art
You’ve seen anchors, swallows and of course ship tattoos a lot lately.
But what do they really mean?
At the museum exhibit, you will come across a useful image of a sailor branded with all the latest fashionable American traditional tattoos, which actually have real meaning behind them.
Each image is accompanied by an explanation. For example, congratulations on that swallow you just had on your neck! This means that you have just traveled 5,000 nautical miles. wow.
Your new forearm anchor? Well, either you’re in the merchant navy or you’ve just crossed the Atlantic. Either way, impressive.
And that ship on your chest? This tells us that you have just rounded Cape Horn. How was it?
2. Rise of the machines
The familiar buzz is well known to anyone who has ever gone under the tattoo needle. At the MOLAA exhibit, you’ll see old-school machines from the 1940s and ’50s. Some look incredibly artistic while others are downright creepy.
However, the scariest thing on display in this section is an old, stained document that reads “Instructions for tattooing small animals.”
If you read it carefully it seems to have something to do with branding farm animals so don’t expect to see old photos of little tattooed bunnies looking all hardcore near the hanging docks in the exposure.
3. View Live Art
Unless you are there to support someone getting a tattoo, tattooing is generally not a spectator sport. But at this exhibition, you’ll get to see some of the game’s best do it live.
Six people were chosen to take part in a section called “Our Stories”, which explores the meaning and significance of tattoos.
Each participant shared a story about issues such as adversity, domestic abuse, and gang violence, among other topics. Inspired by art from the museum’s collection, people were paired with artists to create a new tattoo.
The live tattoo began on August 26 with black and gray trailblazer Mike Mahoney.
He is followed on September 8 by Ivana Belakova, specialized in color realism, then it is the black and gray expert Freddy Negrete on September 23, followed by the master of realistic portraiture Nikko Hurtado on October 20, then Kari Barba, owner of Outer Limits, the oldest tattoo shop in the country, on November 10, and finally, geometric tattoo artist Roxx on December 8.
Ink: Stories about the skin
When: until February 2019
Where: Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach
Tickets: Museum admission is $10 for adults, $7 for children and seniors.