General Info > News Releases > News Releases 2011-12 > 11/07/2011: Body of Art

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 7, 2011 

MENDOCINO COLLEGE, 1000 Hensley Creek Road, Ukiah, CA 95482

Contact:         Jim Mastin, Director of Public Information & Auxiliary Services




Mendocino College Repertory Dance Company presents Body of Art

November 18 & 19 at 8:00 PM and Nov. 20 at 2 PM

Mendocino College Center Theatre


Body of Art


“Humans have marked their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years. These permanent designs – sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal – have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment.  Ancient, mysterious, and powerful, tattoos still hold a critical place in the modern world. “(Lineberry, Smithsonian Magazine)


Body of Art performances are Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18 & 19 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m. in the Center Theatre on the Mendocino College Ukiah campus.  Tickets are $10 general and $8 for ASMC cardholders, children and seniors, and may be purchased in advance at the Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah, the Mendocino College Bookstore or by calling 707-468-3079.


            Leslie Saxon West, Professor of Dance at Mendocino College, explained how the interest in body art developed.


“When Miriam McNamara, company member and assistant to the Dance Department, first presented the idea of using tattoos as body art for this year’s performance theme, I was at a loss,” said Saxon West. 


According to Saxon West, the practice of tattooing the body is ancient as exemplified in the oldest physical body in existence, the so called “Ice Man” who was discovered in 1991, frozen in a glacier in the Austrian Alps. He possessed a total of 57 tattoos on his body consisting of simple dots and lines, and it is speculated that these marks may have been the result of acupuncture.


            Tattoos hold different meanings for different cultural groups, according to Saxon West.  Such is the case in her dance, Tunnilik Arnaq which explores the ancient tattooing traditions of Eskimo and Inuit peoples of the arctic, specifically facial and hand tattoos on women.


 “I have been involved in Native American art and culture in Canada and Alaska for many years. My husband, Alan West, and I have traveled extensively in these northern regions, and have been inspired by the people, their customs, art, and traditions as well as the harsh yet spectacular environment. 


Tattooing practices of the Native peoples of the arctic was very common. Facial tattoos often signified social maturity, beauty, spiritual enlightenment, family accomplishments and shamanistic powers. A full set of lines was also a powerful physical statement of the ability to endure great pain, which was a respected quality. The designs on the hands and arms often combined tribal and family designs and formed, so to speak, a family tree.


Numbered, choreographed by Miriam McNamara, is a highly emotional and powerful piece that pays homage to the victims of the holocaust, specifically those who were interned in concentration camps such as Aushwitz and Birkenau, where the prisoners were tattooed with identification numbers. According to McNamara, “The dance speaks to the hopelessness, anguish and loss of identity that holocaust victims encountered as their days were numbered.”


Tattoos, which have increased in popularity in the last 10 years, hold personal meanings to those who acquire them.  This area will be explored through several solo dances.


McNamara’s solo, Year of the Dragon is a piece inspired by the tattoo of a dragon on her shoulder.  She explains that “The tattoo symbolizes strength, passion and creativity.  The movement in my dance is high energy with jumps, turns, rolls, tosses and drumming and the music is a fusion of traditional Japanese music with a techno/hip hop flair that will make your feet tap!”


In Memory choreographed and performed by guest artist Wendy Peterman of Corvallis, Oregon in collaboration with Marcelina Contreras of San Francisco is an exploration of the way we use tattoos to record significant life events artistically on our bodies.


The performance will not be without humor!  Short dances such as Tatt-as-trophy will bring a smile to even the most serious audience members’ faces! Another high point of the performance will be a live song and dance routine performed by local vocal phenomenon, Jenny Peterman, who will play the part of Groucho Marx as she sings and dances to the 1939 song,  “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.”


In conjunction with the Repertory performance, an exhibit of drawings by Mendocino college students will open in the Art Gallery on Thursday, November 17th with a reception from 4-6 PM.  Images by students from the Ukiah, Lake County and Willits campuses will show the breadth and scope of materials and techniques covered in art classes.  Students will also be exploring the theme of tattoo imagery.  An additional display of historic tattoo styles, images and equipment from the collection of world renowned tattoo artist and local Ukiah resident,  Lyle Tuttle will accompany the exhibit.



Created: February 07, 2012 @ 02:00 PM
Last Modified: July 31, 2012 @ 03:12 PM


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