Indelibly Yours

Jen Lee HANDS ACROSS THE ARMS: Jen Lee's 'True Love' print evokes familiar tattoo tropes.

A tattoo can be described as a work of art that speaks to you so completely that you feel it must become a part of you. As the new show "Indelibly Yours: Smith Andersen Editions and the Tattoo Project" demonstrates, the nature of that art is as different as its wearers.

On display until July 1 at the De Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University, the show ranges from specific tattoo designs displayed in dazzling colors to prints depicting people posing with or receiving tattoos. The inventive prints bring into splendid life the everlasting ink that normally resides only on the skin and beautifully displays the connection that exists between marking the skin with ink and drawing on a printing plate.

The show features the prints of 10 different artists who were approached by Smith Andersen Editions to work specifically on this unique project. Smith Andersen Editions has served as an artistic venue for printmakers and artists for the past 40 years. The press, located in Palo Alto and run by Paula Kirkeby, operates as an imaginative sanctuary where experimentation with monotype and monoprint is avidly supported.

The 10 artists In "Indelibly Yours," five of whom are known for their work with tattoos and five for their printmaking, were all invited to spend time at the press working on prints that highlight the savage beauty of tattoos. Tattoo artists Ross K. Jones, Mary Joy, Jen Lee, Jeff Rassier and Kahlil Rintye found a certain freedom in the project that is generally not afforded to those working with tattoos. Similarly, the project allowed printmakers Enrique Chagoya, George Herms, Kathryn Kain, Kara Maria and Richard Shaw to experiment with and investigate new symbols and artistic fashions.

The show provides a visual procession through the act of combining two seemingly very different art forms. In actuality, at times it is difficult to distinguish between the art of the printmakers and that of the tattooists. Many of the artists submitted three prints of the same tattoo in shockingly different color combinations and patterns, such as Kathryn Kain's Tattoed Mermaid, which revolves around a Don Ed Hardy mermaid design that is shown in three prints, each with a unique and shimmering selection of colors. There are also paintings depicting figures with tattoos, such as Kenjilo Nanao's Great Tattoo, which displays two figures in each print, all of which have interconnected sections of a large serpent tattooed across their backs. All of the pieces capture the imaginative and edgy spirit that pervades the tattooed image.

Indelibly Yours

Runs through June; Tuesday-Sunday, 11am–4pm; free

De Saisset Museum

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