We started out with the new Tattoo exhibit; Collette and I are what you would call lightly tattooed but we know people more involved in that lifestyle. And we're just interested in tattoos, from a historical perspective, as art and socially as well.
We thought the ROM would be a perfect place for such an exhibit, I've enjoyed pretty much every show I've ever seen there but I was not overwhelmed by this particular one. I was not underwhelmed, mine you, I was just whelmed.
Part of the problem was that it was a rather small exhibit. Perhaps if you know nothing about the history of tattooing it would be interesting but there was nothing really in depth, it was more like a teaser. A little bit about the cultures around the world where tattoos have some cultural significance; a little bit about the North American subcultures where tattoos became a novelty and from which people were able to make a living through them, in sideshows and such
Below is the picture of one of the most famous of tattooed ladies. Her husband discovered tattooing, as did many people at the beginning of the last century while travelling through the South Pacific. He met a gent there, returned from England, who said that he was making 60 dollars a year just by being heavily inked And thus started a robust sideshow industry in the west
Besides the South Pacific, where tattooing has been a part of their ritualized lives for centuries, the exhibit examined the tattooing practices from other cultures, from the Yakuza in Japan, the Maori in New Zealand and the East L.A. gang culture.
Our biggest grief with the exhibit is that there were not enough photo's of actual tattoos. There was a lot of artists renderings, they had mocked up "sleeves" of fabric with ink drawing pulled down over mannequins but there was a real sparsity of actual tattoos. And there were not enough personal stories about the tattoos. We learned a little. The lady pictured in the sequence above is a 100 year old Phillipino tattoo artist who became fond of a western artist and permitted him to tattoo her. But those interesting stories were few and far between.
But that was not the only exhibit we saw at the ROM. There was also an exhibit featuring the art of Seattle based glass blower Dale Chihuly. The name was not familiar to me but as we moved through the hall I realized that I have seen some of his work before, on TV and in real life. I've always enjoyed blown glass but Mr Chihuly definitely takes it to another level
The boat above is filled with different blown glass pieces. In outdoor installations, Chihuly would toss them in ponds and rivers to float around, he came up with the boats as vessels (get it) to collect them together
He's been doing this a long time and he's the kind of artist who leaves himself open to creative whim and also the kind of artist (with backgrounds in architecture and design) who lets function help him push out new forms
There is a lot of variety to his work but my favourite installation was title Persian Carpet. You walked into this little room, looked up and found a glass ceiling filled with hundreds of individual pieces of blown glass
They had bean bag beds scattered around and it was good for the perspective but also a required comfort, you really could spend a long time laying there, staying up, discovering one new detail after another
The Chihuly exhibit was successful because it was all about the art and they showed that art. The Tattoo exhibit tried to more than the art, it tried to encapsulate a very complex topic and, well, they fell a little short If it had had more art I would have been more satisfied but it was a good start. If they combine the annual Tattoo Convention with the ROM, well I'd probably walk away with some new ink
As it is, you may walk away after watching the video