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Tattoos will be the subject of the Field Museum's latest exhibition

Zach Long
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Zach Long

The Field Museum is showing a bit of (synthetic) skin this fall, when its latest exhibition devoted to the art of tattooing debuts. Simply titled "Tattoo," the exhibit was developed by Paris’s musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac and includes 170 tattoo-related objects from throughout history, including several silicone models covered in contemporary tattoo designs. The Field Museum will be supplementing the exhibit with some items from the museum's own collection.

Guests will learn about the long history of tattooing, which dates back more than 5,000 years to ancient Egypt. Artifacts on display will include a 19th-century “puncturing pen” (which was patented by Thomas Edison), a 17th-century tattoo stamp and art by 98-year-old Whang-od Oggay, a contemporary Filipina artist who still practices traditional tattooing techniques.

The exhibit will look beyond the cultural stereotypes that have surrounded the practice of tattooing, viewing the phenomenon as both an art form and a means of personal expression. “The central message of the exhibition is about human creativity," says Alaka Wali, the Field Museum's Curator of North American Anthropology. "It’s important to understand creativity’s different manifestations and not dismiss cultural practices and art forms because they were somehow stigmatized."

"Tattoo" opens on October 21 and will be on display at the Field Museum until April 30, 2017. 

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