Arely Baugh's bicep is decorated with the self-empowerment tattoo "Forever Strong." Amy Lou Grande's upper back contains a birdcage flanked by budding flowers and the title of Maya Angelou's autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Ashley Anderson's forearm bears the image of her grandmother posing in a bathing suit as a teenager.
These faculty and staff members of Florida Atlantic University are flashing their tats for Academic Ink, a multimedia event themed around the university's tattoo culture. It will take place Friday on the school's Boca Raton campus.
“They’re not just the authority figures and professors who teach students every day. They’re the professors who give lectures and, oh, yes, they also happen to have tattoos,” says Baugh, of Fort Lauderdale, a 25-year-old graduate teaching assistant at FAU’s Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
FAU's authority figures decided to bare their inked skin for the camera after seeing photographer Z. Koppisch's ongoing project "Stories on the Skin," for which 2,000 students have been photographed and asked to recount the tales behind their tattoos.
"Basically, faculty and staff looked at the photos and said, 'Hey, why aren't you taking pictures of us? We have skulls and crossbones and footprints of our newborn babies, too,' " says Karen Leader, an art history professor and the event's organizer.
Koppisch said she shot each faculty and staff member in their “office milieu,” cropping out each subject’s face so the “focus remained on their personal tattoos.” In Koppisch's photo, Grande, a university police dispatcher on the Boca Raton campus, is captured against a backdrop of police cruisers. In another, Anderson's tattoo of her much-younger grandmother on a Bronx rooftop appears next to the original black-and-white photograph.
"My mom and I have had a contentious relationship for years, and my grandma has always been the buffer between us. We’re very close," says Anderson, 30, who works in FAU’s School of Communication and Multimedia Studies. She has 12 tattoos.
"My grandfather is the one who took the photo," she adds. "They were dating at the time. So it reminds me of my Italian heritage and family constantly."
Academic Ink will also include a temporary tattoo studio for visitors; a keynote address by author Margot Mifflin, whose talk is titled "Art, Sex and Power: A Short History of Tattooed Women"; and performances from associate dance professor Clarence Brooks, adjunct theater instructor Susan Cato, Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letter dean Heather Coltman and associate music professor James Cunningham.
All save Brooks have tattoos, which they will reveal during the event.
Academic Ink will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, March 28, at Florida Atlantic University's University Theater, 777 Glades Road, in Boca Raton. Admissions is free and open to the public. Go to StoriesontheSkin.org.
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