Tragic Tattoo Tales: A Valentine’s Day Lecture and Reading with Tattoo Scholars
Observatory (543 Union St., Brooklyn)

Love, loss… and disfigurement, murder, and flayed skin (with a bit of cannibalism and sadism thrown in for good measure). What better way to spend your Valentine’s Day evening than to join us for a glass of red wine, a bite of delicious chocolate, and a lecture on the history of tattooing combined with a reading of a series of historical tattoo-centered short stories by authors such as Roald Dahl (1958), Saki (1911), Junichiro Tanazaki (1910) and John Rickman (1781)?

Tonight, please join us for an evening with tattoo scholars Anna Felicity Friedman and Matt Lodder (both heavily tattooed themselves) who will lecture about and read tales that interweave tattoo history with romance and the macabre. Through illustrated slide lectures, Drs. Friedman and Lodder will present comparative historical material to provide context and deeper understanding and to separate fact from fiction. Learn about wide ranging tattoo topics in both Western and non-Western cultures and have questions answered that the stories raise. Did people really preserve tattooed skin? What were people reading about tattoos in the early twentieth century? Were Maori really tattooed head to foot? What were the connections between Ukiyo-e and Japanese tattooing in the Edo period?

And the stories… Come hear the account of a young Maori woman and an English sailor who had himself completely tattooed to gain her favor, only to be forcibly returned to his ship (in John Rickman’s 1781 travel narrative from Captain James Cook’s third voyage). Cringe at the tale of a businessman tattooed in Italy with an elaborate scene, but who was prohibited from ever showing it to anyone, swimming, or leaving the country (in Saki’s 1911 “The Background”). Shudder at the story of a Japanese woman lured into a tattooer’s studio, drugged, and forcibly tattooed (in Junichiro Tanazaki’s 1910 “Shisei (The Tattooer)”). Enjoy the fantasy of a young and not-yet famous Chaim Soutine who, during a bacchanalian evening, rendered a dorsal portrait of a tattoo artist’s wife that later mysteriously turns up as a “canvas” in an art gallery (in Roald Dahl’s 1952 “Skin”). Additional images related to the stories will be screened during the readings.

Chocolate and red wine will make things festive.

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