Body Art and Modification

Recently I visited the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford which contains a large selection of anthropological and archaeological artefacts. These objects are encased in Victorian glass boxes and are grouped by function.

The Body Art section made a strong impression on me (see images below). My area of focus is femininity in art and illustration. It is fascinating that the female body itself can serve as a canvas for art. Tattoos and body modifications can be an expression of personality, social status and cultural identity.  

Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford, Body Art. Photos by Sabina Radeva, 2015.

Some body modifications, like the Haida tribe lip-plugs (see image above) may seem extreme. However, there are parallels with our western society where extreme plastic surgery, tattoos, corset binding and piercing may seem equally bizarre. In an article by Reba Maybury, in Sang Bleu Magazine, the author discusses how current trends and social media influence people's perception of their body. There is an increasing number of body modifications where people imitate the look of famous celebrities to attract attention on platforms like Instagram. The more unnatural and extreme the body transformation, the more viral their online presence becomes.

Next, I was interested to find how contemporary artists have interpreted the theme body art. I mainly found works incorporating tattoos. There are not many illustrations on the topic of body modification.

Terry Hays combines street art with tribal tattoo motifs. He paints with acrylics on wood and creates beautiful patterns. I was inspired by the bold colors and intricate details. I would like to incorporate more patterns in my own work.

Terry Hays, Pembina Highway, 2012.

YASCO, #39, 2009.

YSCO, #7.

YASCO, Odalisque, 2011.

YASCO, Odalisque, 2011.

Stacia Burrington, Little Legs, 2012.

Stacia Burrington, Little Legs, 2012.

Artist Yasmina Alaoui combines Eastern, Arabic influences, Tattoo styles and Henna patterns to create mesmerising body art. Alaoui layers her motifs on black and white nude photographs. I liked the contemporary feel of the Henna patterns.

I examined the work of Stasia Burrington, who combines cut out fabric flowers with pencil drawings to create beautiful body art studies. I liked the Kraft blooms with vivid colors applied on the delicate, simple drawings.

I was inspired by the theme Body Art, and the works I found by contemporary artists. The images which I selected in this brief research share similarities to my work. I am attracted to intricate patterns and surreal compositions. I would like to respond to this theme with an illustration which also incorporates elements of body modifications.