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University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus

University of Colorado Denver, Newsroom

From prisons and gangs to NFL stars -- tattoos now part of popular culture

Tattoo Nation: Exhibit and film comes to campus

10/8/2013
​AURORA, Colo. - A tattoo is a form of body modification or ornamentation made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. In recent years, the tattoo has shifted from a social taboo, showing gang affiliation or prison time to an acceptable and commonplace form of personal expression. 

Tattoo Nation an exhibit and documentary film opened Oct. 4 in the Fulginiti Pavilion on the Anschutz Medical Campus. 
 

(Photo above left to right artist Eric Schwartz, curator Simon Zalkind, Associate Professor Cristina Kreps of University of Denver, Anthropology)

In the 1940s and 50s, the Chicano pachuco gang culture brought tattooing to the American public, moving from prisons to the barrios, but even as late as the 1960s, tattoos were illegal in the U.S.
 
Directed by Eric Schwartz, the documentary film, Tattoo Nation, recaptures that history and introduces many of the best and most famous artists in the country. Schwartz gets 'up close and personal' with many of these artists including Ed Hardy whose designs are well known. Schwartz spent years getting to know both artists and collectors, developing a mutual trust.
 
Currently in the U.S., 40 percent of 18-40 year olds have a tattoo. In 2010, 25 percent of Australians under age 30 sported tattoos, and one of the fastest growing demographics is Canadian soccer moms.
The average price for a tattoo can range from $250 to $20,000. There are approximately 350 annual tattoo conferences in cities including London, U.K. and Las Vegas. 
 
Why do so many get tattoos? The answers are as varied as the individuals who have them. Many tattoos express feelings toward family members; others document significant life events. One woman in the Schwartz photography exhibit said she had the image of her mother tattooed on her back so that she would be with her forever. 
 
Tattoo Nation is the final exhibit for the Fulginiti Pavilion for 2013 closing Dec. 19.  Additional screenings of the documentary will take place in the Gossard Forum on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m. and Friday, Nov. 1 at 3:30 p.m. 
 
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