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May 3, 2013

Art of tattoos to be featured at Iroquois Museum

The Daily Star

---- — The Iroquois Indian Museum will open for the season with an exhibit titled “IndianInk: Iroquois and the Art of Tattoos.” On display from Saturday through Nov. 30, it will feature “contemporary tattoo art as an indelible statement of self-expression, cultural philosophy, indigenous identity, political stance, and personal statement,” according to a media release. The exhibit will also look back at the meaning and methods associated with historical tattooing.

Inspired by Tattoo Nation (1997), a Nation to Nation sponsored event and a conference presentation by Carla Hemlock of Kahnawake, IndianInk will showcase contemporary tattoo art, both the work of designers such as Lyle Logan, Teejay Dil, and Ike Hopper, and skin art selected and commissioned by others.

From the media release: 

“Once widespread among indigenous peoples of the Northeast, the patterns and practices of this  tradition of body modification had declined by the mid-1800s as a consequence of Christianity, assimilation, and relocation. Today, the art is undergoing a resurgence in Native and non-Native communities.

“Before the late-1960s, tattoos were associated with deviant types on the fringes of mainstream culture or brandished primarily by bikers, sailors,and those who had served time. While tattooing and other forms of body modification have become almost commonplace since the 1980s, especially among youth, the motifs presented in IndianInk employ a visual and symbolic language that is uniquely Iroquois in its expression, according to a media release.

“Family connections form the basis for many Haudenosaunee tattoos, with Clan symbols, names in the original languages, and memorials to those who have passed on common. For others, skin art becomes a statement of cultural identity with the repurposing of old style silver, beadwork, pottery and wampum belt patterns into original design composites.”

Kicking off the exhibit will be an opening reception from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. At 3 p.m., in the indoor amphitheater, tattoo scholar Lars Krutak will discuss indigenous tattooing in the Philippines, Indonesia, touch on Northeastern North America, and will include a video of skin stitching techniques in Thailand.

An illustrated lecture will take place on May 18 by interpreter Michael Galban on historical body modification practices among the Iroquois and other Northeastern Native nations and has firsthand experience with the traditional hand poking method of tattooing. Galban’s presentation is offered in partnership with Ganondogan Historic Site and will be part of Early Technology Day at the museum.  

On Aug. 17, the museum will host a motorcycle ride attracting bikers from across Iroquois country and culminating at the Mmuseum with a live runway-style tattoo expo open to all, with awards for Best in Show, Best Color, Best Black and White, Most Unusual. The bike ride will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the contest at 2 p.m.

The annual Labor Day Weekend Festival of the Arts on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, will feature painted and airbrushed temporary tattoos by guest artist Peter Loran.

The Iroquois Museum is in Howes Cave, For information, visit or call (518) 296-8949.