Calling all Body Art Expressionists

If you’ve got MOM tattooed on your bicep or a butterfly inked on your ankle, the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art is looking for you. A colorful new show opens February 2, 2014, highlighting the art of tattooing through photos, video and interviews.

Tattoos have evolved into a respected art form and Saint Mary’s Tattoo Curator and Museum Manager, Kyla Porter Tynes, is planning an exhibit that tells the story of this style of expression. “Tattoos have gone mainstream,” says the Museum’s PR director, Heidi Donner. “They’ve come out of the shadows and Kyla is approaching them as art.”

Last week, Tynes held the first open call for members of the Saint Mary’s community to document their tattoos. Students, faculty and staff shared their stories in interviews, which will be featured alongside photographs and videos.

The reasons for getting a tattoo are as varied as the people who have them. They can celebrate everything from military service to ethnicity and family – even gang ties. Senior student Taylor Neill says she and her sister have matching tattoos that say ‘sorella’, the Italian word for sister. “When she moved away we realized just how much we loved each other and that we really were best friends,” says Neill. “We wanted tattoos to represent our inseparable friendship.”

The exhibit also reflects society’s changing ideas about tattoos. “You can even go to white collar law firms and see people with tattoos,” says Tynes, who has been touring tattoo parlors and interviewing body art fans around the Bay Area.

The goal of the exhibit is to create a space where the history and diversity of tattoos can be admired and understood on a campus where diversity is cherished and welcomed.

If you have a tattoo and would like to be part of this upcoming exhibit, contact Kyla Porter Tynes at

See some of the tattoos the museum has photographed.