Thursday, September 29, 2016

Toronto: Body of Art

Tattoo exhibit, Royal Ontario Museum, photo of Fang-od Oggay. June 2016. Photo by Jake Verzosa.

Fang-od Oggay, the subject of the photo above, is a beautiful woman. The above photo was on a super-sized poster outside the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum), enticing passersby to visit the exhibit called Tattoos: Ritual. Identity. Obsession. Art.

The woman as photographic subject pulled me in, as did the dappling of light on the picture.

Below are a couple of other photos of Fang-od Oggay:

Fang-Od Oggay with a man she just tattooed. Credit: Mawg64

Fang-Od Oggay. Credit: Mawg64

I should look so good when I'm 100 years old. Not to mention being so physically and occupationally active.

A number of tattoo connoisseurs make pilgrimages to Fang-Od Oggay in order to get a tattoo from her. Here and here and here are three such stories.

But this post is about art, specifically about who "owns" the art. Well, ownership is part of it, but it's more than that. It's about this question: Who is the artist?

For example, I am featuring Fang-od Oggay in this article. Am I the artist? No. I think it's clear I am not presenting myself as an artist in this article. I am clearly presenting someone else's art.

But whose?

I am featuring a photograph, taken by a professional photographer, whose work was used in an international art exhibit, of Fang-od Oggay, who is wearing the art created by another tattoo artist.

Is the photographer (in this case, Jake Verzosa) the artist? After all, he created the photograph, selecting the subject, the pose, the decision to wear/not wear clothing items, the light, the focus, the crop, the frame, etc. He presumably sold the photo - or the rights to the photo usage - to the exhibitor, as a product of his creativity and skill.

Or is Fang-od Oggay the artist, as the wearer/owner of the art and as a tattoo practitioner in her own right?

Or is the person who placed the tattoos onto Fang-od Oggay the artist?

It's not my intent to single out Mr. Verzosa in any way - it's a universal question I have when we photograph another person's art and then present our photo as a creative product in itself.

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