The Field Museum’s new exhibit has an interesting twist on the whole gift shop concept.
This time, you also can arrange to bring home a tattoo.
Which is the name of the exhibit, “Tattoo,” that opens Friday. The exhibition delves into the many reasons people throughout history have chosen to permanently mark themselves.
It also explores the methods — often slow and painful methods — in which they did.
“The intention is always the same: To puncture the skin and deposit ink,” said Ryan Schuessler, the exhibition developer. “But the purposes vary greatly.”
“Tattoo” comes to the Field by way of the Musee du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris. This is its first showing in the United States. The exhibit explores over 5,000 years of body art from around the world, including a series of unique pieces by featured artists, tattooed onto silicone mannequins.
Installations include the original electric stencil pen, designed by Thomas Edison in 1876, which would inspire the first tattoo gun in 1891, and a manuscript of Russian prison artwork, meticulously copied by a prison worker, which was later used by KGB officials to identify prisoners.
Visitors can pick up free temporary tattoos, but for those who get really inspired, there is also a permanent option. The exhibit features a tattoo shop, where you can get inked while other visitors can observe the process. In all, 36 time slots will be offered over the course of the exhibit, which runs through April 30.
“This is definitely the most academic place I’ve ever tattooed,” said Joel Molina of The Chicago Tattooing Company. Molina is one of the artists who will be doing a residency in the tattoo shop and hopes the exhibit will open tattooing up to a new section of the population.
“Maybe I’ll get to tattoo a surgeon,” he said. “Or a soccer mom.”
For Molina, the exhibit offers a meaningful way to interact with the history of his art form and allows people to experience the “amuletic power” of tattoo.
“In Japan, firemen used to be tattooed to protect themselves from fire. Before they went into a blaze they would strip down to their skivvies and go in,” Molina said.
“What I take away is . . . magic is still alive and can end up in a museum.”