In living color

A dozen tattoo enthusiasts accept museum's invitation to show off their body art

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BENNINGTON — When it comes to telling stories, every person has a different method of getting their message across. For some people, the best way is through images inked across their skin.

On Saturday night, twelve people stood side by side, their inked images on display for all to see, during "Tattoo 3." Hosted by the Bennington Museum, the event was a live exhibit that allowed tattoo enthusiasts to come together and to show off their art and to tell the story behind their ink. It also introduced those without tattoos to an art form that might not be familiar to them.

Aside from the "exhibits," local tattoo shops — Body Blend Studio in Shaftsbury and Raz-A-Tat Tattoo from Bennington — were at the event with some of their own work on display. Lucky Sinz Tattoo Parlour came from New York and Strange Brew Tattoo and Ink Dog traveled from Brattleboro for the event.

According to Deana Mallory, coordinator of the event and director of the museum's public programs, the idea for the exhibit came from the museum's director, Robert Wolterstorff. Standing in line at the grocery store, he saw someone with a lot of tattoos. At first, he didn't really understand tattoos and why people got them, so he decided he needed to learn more about it.

Mallory said that the mission of the museum is to display all forms of Vermont's art, history, and innovation and that tattoos are included in this because they are an art form.

"Tattoos are deeply personal, but also inherently public. You're kind of bearing your soul a little bit whether you share the story or not, you're putting a part of yourself out there."

The live exhibit has had positive feedback in the past, which is what helped lead the museum to hold it again. The first year they had a harder time getting people who were willing to be on display for the event, but after they participated they enjoyed it so much, that they helped spread the event by word of mouth. Mallory estimated that more than one hundred people turned out for the event.

Many of the participants dressed in a way that allowed them to show off their artwork. For some, that meant tank tops or shorts, while one of the male participants stood shirtless to show off his chest tattoo. One wore swimwear to show off all of her art.

Behind each model their stood a board with an introduction to each person, a space with three individual tattoos, and a story about how each person and how they got interested in tattoos. Voters got to on which person they thought had the best individual tattoos and which had the best tattoos overall.

Keri Winnie was named as the winner of the best overall, and Katherine Rose was named the best individual tattoo winner. Each winner was presented with a gift certificate to the tattoo parlor of her choice.

Winnie, who said she has so many tattoos that she stopped counting, has drawn and designed each of her own tattoos — which she believes makes them even more special. Winnie has gotten many of them done at the Raz-A-Tat tattoo parlor in Bennington, but more recently, she's begun giving herself her own tattoos. She hopes to expand her education on tattooing.

She got her first tattoo for her eighteen birthday and hasn't stopped getting them ever since. Many of her tattoos are inspired by her family members, such as a skull and rose she got in honor of her mother, who loves both of those things.

Winnie said she has gone to the event every year since its inception, but this is the first year she decided to put herself on display. She said being on display wasn't uncomfortable for her, since she enjoys having people see her tattoos and ask questions.

"I've been waiting all winter to wear shorts, so people can see my tattoos," Winnie said.

Rose, who has a total of eight tattoos, had her tattoo sleeves on display for best individual tattoos.

Her sleeves are inspired by traditional henna designs and intertwined with those designs are a Buddha and a rose. The Buddha was inspired by a childhood nickname that her parents gave to her, while the rose symbolizes her last name. Work on her sleeves began about two years ago, and Rose spends time researching before she finalized her tattoo ideas.

From a young age, Rose knew she wanted to one day have tattoos once she was old enough and her ideas changed over the years. She got her first tattoo at age 16 and loves the way tattoos tell stories — and she enjoys hearing stories behind other peoples' tattoos.

"This was actually really fun, and I enjoyed being here," Rose said. "A lot of people enjoyed the line work on my tattoos and said they thought they were really beautiful."

She said that she wished she had gotten more of a chance to see other participants' tattoos throughout the event.

Rose said the suggestion that she participate in the event came from her tattooist at Body Blend in Shaftsbury.

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