The tattoo is far from taboo, especially at an exhibit opening next week at University of Northern Iowa’s University Museum. Kim Taylor, the museum’s collections manager, says the feature display called "Body Art: Adornment Across Cultures" covers many of the varied ways people around the globe decorate their bodies.
Taylor says, "We kind of do a world survey of different kinds of body art and it includes hair styles and scarification in Africa, body painting in New Guinea, tattoos in New Zealand and Polynesia and in Japan." Taylor is also an anthropologist and says while body art has been practiced for centuries in other nations, it’s only grown in popularity in the U-S in recent years.
She says the exhibit will portray how body art was popular in Iowa before the state was even a state. She says, "We have an Iowa section that will include the Meskwaki, so it’ll be traditional body painting, ceremonial clothing and headdresses of the Meskwaki, and we will also have a section of prehistoric indigenous peoples in Iowa." That area will feature artifacts borrowed from the state archaeologist’s office, including beads, necklaces and ear ornaments. Through photographs, artifacts and tools of the trade, Taylor says the exhibit explores and challenges ideals of beauty and highlights the wide range of characteristics considered to be beautiful in various parts of the world.
She says the exhibit includes a local section, zeroing in on Cedar Valley tattoo and piercing shops and African-American hairstyles. She says the exhibit will likely bring a lot of people to the University Museum who have never been there before. Taylor says, "That’s right, in fact we’re expecting a show for the reception, because we’re going to have a lot of the local people that have been involved. I interviewed them and took photographs so some of their faces will be on the wall in the exhibit. Most of them are saying they will be coming to the opening so it’s going to be an art show at the opening with the live body art."
The exhibit opens September 10th, with the special opening celebration on September 12th. It’ll be featured through the end of the year. For more information, call (319) 273-2188 or visit www.uni.edu/museum .