11:00 pm - Sunday December 10, 2017

Controversial Aspects of Hispanic Heritage Explored in’Tattoo Nation’ Documentary

Tattoos adorn
the bodies of 45 million Americans and the phenomenon of ink-on-flesh is
now global. One area often overlooked when discussing tattoo art is the
contribution of the Chicano community. “The elevation of the tattoo to the
status of art can be directly traced to Chicano culture,” notes Eric
Schwartz, director of the feature-length documentary motion picture,
“Tattoo Nation.”

When speaking after screenings of his 86-minute film on college campuses
and art museums, Mr. Schwartz discusses how he was gradually allowed into
the inner circle of Chicano artists. “There was an element of distrust at
the start,” Schwartz notes, “but when they saw that my interest was genuine
and respectful, they were pleased to educate me about the rich history of
Chicano art in general and tattoo art in particular. Of major interest was
the prison practice of tattooing images of the Virgin Mary which many do
for divine protection, to pay respect, or to seek penance.”

Schwartz, a sculptor and photographer, started a photographic series he
named “The Tattooed” after becoming fascinated by the growing tattoo
phenomenon. “During photo sessions, people told me captivating stories
about their tattoos. I got intrigued and as I began compiling them it grew
into an entire film about the artists and the people who are their living
canvasses,” Schwartz stated.

“I soon realized that the amazing art that we see today — and one of the
main reasons people get tattoos — emerged from a marginalized segment of
Americans, the Chicanos. It’s really the story of the birth of a unique
American art form. I felt it was important for people to know how this
happened so that the people who gave us this art get the credit.”

Since its release, “Tattoo Nation” has emerged as the definitive look at
how tattoos went from underground and illegal just a few years ago to mass
acceptance and the status of art. The film has received rave reviews when
screened at film festivals around the country.

“It is gratifying to hear the reactions of people who come up to me after
the screenings,” Schwartz states. “Those who are into tattoo art are
excited about seeing the history of the art, and they’re amazed by the
beauty of so much of it. Plus, I hear from parents who now say they have a
better understanding of why their children have tattoos.”

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