Bennington Museum puts body art on display

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BENNINGTON >> On Friday, the Bennington Museum hosted a living gallery, in which participants modeled their tattoos and shared their stories.

The program, "Living Exhibition: Tattoo Body Art" was free and open to the public, but a donation of $5 or more got patrons a "Love Bennington Museum" temporary tattoo. All of the other galleries in the museum were also open for the event, which was organized by the museum's director of public programs, Deana Mallory, and sponsored by Edie Sawitsky and Michael Keane.

Mallory said the idea for the gallery had come from the museum's executive director, Robert Wolterstorff. He had been standing in line for groceries, when he saw a person with multiplke tattoos, and reflected that he didn't "get" the entire tattoo culture. However, rather than reject the art form, Wolterstorff decided to learn more about it. "I don't want to leave this mortal coil an old fogey," he said, "We all have to embrace the new."

The program fits well with the museum's theme this summer, which has been to display the work of "grassroots" or "outsider" artists, self-taught artists who worked outside of the artistic structure of their time. Wolterstorff said he feels tattoo artists absolutely fall into that category.

Mallory was excited by the idea of the living exhibition, and began reaching out to find models, posting flyers around town and speaking with local businesses. "It's been a blast planning it," she said, noting that one of the best parts was the opportunity to reach out to a group of people who had never visited the museum before. Facebook was one of the best methods for finding interested people, she said, with one post asking for models reaching over 400 people.

One of those models, Logan Snow, was approached by Mallory at Spice N' Nice Natural Foods in Bennington, where she is assistant manager. "I was really iffy at first," she said, "I'm a pretty outgoing person, but I'm not really used to putting my body on display." She said what convinced her to participate was the negative cultural stigma that surrounds tattoos. "I wanted to change that," she said, "That's ultimately why I decided to do it."

The other models who participated in the gallery were Lilli King, Julz Irion, Tesa Beck, Steven Taylorroth, Jenna Hunt, Garrett Temme, Eric Snow, Kim Clark, and Lisa Missbrenner.

At the event, which was part of "First Friday" celebrations in Bennington, there was also a cash bar from Madison's Brewing Company, music personally selected by the models, and body painting demonstrations by Shaynelle Francis, a photographic makeup artist who has worked with Bennington Community Theatre. Body Blend Permanent Cosmetics by Chelsea Ross, out of Shaftsbury, and Rat a Tat Tattoos, of Bennington, both had tables set up with examples of their work.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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