Sunday, June 5, 2011

Anthropology of Fashion: Tattoos and Makeup

Andrea Saltzman, architect, founder of the division of Fashion Design in the Architecture department of the University of Buenos Aires and author of the innovative book  "El Cuerpo Diseñado" (The Body Designed) writes:
"Since the beginning of civilization the human body has been one of the most fertile canvases for artistic expression and for the communication of concepts. The decoration and ritualization of the body with paint, a form of body modification, is spread throughout most of the world´s cultures dating as far back as the paleolithic era."
Saltzman continues:
"When Charles Darwin investigated primitive cultures in the XIX century, he found that there was no territory, from the North Pole to New Zealand where the natives did not color their skin or use tattoos. This includes the people who lived in extreme climates, as in the south of Argentina.  The inhabitants used hardly any clothing at all, as if their need to adorn, beautify and modify the significance of their skin was more imperative than bundling up."
Scar Pattern on the body of a Surma fighter
This touches upon one of the focuses of fashion theory as described in a previous post on Petit Poix.  Clothing design is inspired and treated as just one more layer of the "self". Our skin surface is treated as clothing.  The line between clothing and the wearer is fuzzy. Julie Rose worked as a tattooer for two decades and now designs in fiber. This is probably not coincidence.  In design the arts intermingle, cross into each other and as with tattoos and clothing, the lines are not defined. She states:  
Julie Rose Tattooer 
Scenic Turnout Blog
"I thought that if and when I stopped tattooing, I'd go back to painting or drawing, but neither of these art forms calls to me. Working with fiber, like tattooing, is tactile in nature.  Tattooing isn't just "drawing on skin." When one tattoos, one has to stretch the skin, hold it taut, hold the person, touch their skin. People also have an odor, both good and bad, as does fiber. Fiber feels more alive than a canvas or a piece of paper. It demands that one respects it's nature, as does working with skin as canvas. "
In her blog Everything is Interesting Julie gives a wonderful brief insight into the industry and culture of tattoos. How to Become a Tattooist (A Quick History) and Why You Should Not Get a Tattoo.

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