Ornate Tattoos on Exhibit

Through November 29, the Virginia Museum of Fine Art has an exhibit on “Japanese Tattoo: Perseverance, Art, and Tradition“.

To say they’re ornate is an understatement. They are fantastic. I’m not a big fan of tattoos, but the artistry is incredible. This enormous picture shows a variety of tattoos, some of which are still in progress. In the exhibit, you’ll see that it’s mostly men. There are a few women – the picture below has a female on each end, but I’m pretty certain the rest are men (the other side does not show their faces).

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Japanese tattoos have a long history. Its perseverance is from its long history of old rules and new ones. Mainstream Japan is not very accepting of it, regarding it as part of an underground or criminal activity. Even in the art world it’s not fully accepted.

This part of the exhibit shows life size fronts and backs:

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Here is a closer look of three different men:

The women had their own section in the gallery:

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This weeks photo challenge is to demonstrate the word “ornate”, i.e. something that is “breathtakingly extravagant”. These tattoos are that. The time and effort, the designs – those designs are intricate! – and the sheer volume of what has been done are both breathtaking and extravagant.

More information is on the wall (thank you everyone who has commented that they appreciate me putting these in the posts):

You can get a better look at any of these by double clicking the picture and zooming in. To see what others did, click here for the weekly photo challenge.

Virginia Virginia Museum of Fine Art Weekly Photo Challenge

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I am a backyard adventurer, philosopher and observer, recording my life in journals and photographs. Visit my blog at www.livingtheseasons.com.

23 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Odd, but real art. Brings up all sorts of questions. How do the “canvases” stay still…giggles? How do the artists manage with moving breathing canvases?
    But the thought of these people in their 70’+…skin and muscle sags…is there “corrective tatting? (and docs do tell that ink does migrate to internal organs…)
    But whatever. Free to choose.
    Thanks for the colorful festive post!

    • I’m surprised too at how many tattoos I see in everyday life, but you’re right that these are in a class of their own. I loved seeing them, but sure wouldn’t do it myself.

    • Thanks Darlene! I’ve had these pictures for nearly a month and just wasn’t getting them posted. This week’s photo challenge was a great opportunity to put them out there.

    • It was amazing. It’s here through November 29, so don’t take too long. The museum is open every day, so if you’re here for Thanksgiving, you could go before or after the turkey is done!

      • Oh, I wonder if I’d be able to make it before then. I’m heading to Salisbury, MD for Thanksgiving, and I’m not sure I can make it to Richmond before that. Darn. I guess I’ll just have to enjoy them from your fabulous post.

    • Thank you – I’m glad you liked it. That’s a great point about how every tattoo has a story behind it. Every time I’ve asked someone about theirs, it’s always been an interesting to listen to them. Thanks for the great insight!

  2. Wow, you won the prize with this find for ornate. That’s a lot of ink–and I would think, pain. Can you imagine? The artwork is truly amazing, the body as a canvas.

    • I would think it’s pretty painful to do all that ink too. But they’ve done a fantastic job of using their bodies as a canvas (I like how you pointed that out – thanks!).


  3. That is ornate, and extravagant! I’m not a fan of tattoos in general, but they are fun to look at in an exhibition. Some are really artsy. I just chatted with my hairdresser on Saturday because she is in school to be certified as a permanent makeup artist. A big business for that school is to remove tattoos that people got in their youth :)

    • I can see where someone would want to get a tattoo removed later, especially if it was name specific or just bawdy. You’re right though – the exhibit was really great to look at. That’s part of what I like about the museum – I might not be enthused about the topics in their exhibits, but overall I’ve liked them anyhow. I’m not an Elvis fan, but that one was done really well and I enjoyed seeing it several years ago.

  4. Great post Nancy, although I would never get a tattoo…such a permanent declaration of a moment in time (when I was an art student I got a checkerboard pattern shaved into my head…luckily it grew out!).
    And I feel disturbed at the lack of cohesive design on the bodies of inked up Westerners…a patchwork of clumsy visual clutter.
    HOWEVER I love the tattoos you’ve shown. Beautiful, complete works of art…the body as a whole being used as one cleverly mapped out canvas.
    P.S. I cannot comment on the the role the Yakusa may have had on the lives of the people featured in the exhibition!?

    • You’re right about the cohesiveness of the designs in the exhibit. It was beautiful to see, even though I’d never do that. The Yakusa definitely has an influence in Japan – I can see where the Japanese would associate tattoos with them! Thanks for the comment and compliment!

    • I agree with you on the bad ones – I don’t understand why someone would do that to themselves! These were definitely not bad at the exhibit. I didn’t like them, but they were a good quality.

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