Does anybody really care very much that the fine art of tattooing human skin was effectively restricted to male “tattooists” until roughly 20 years ago? That’s the entire premise of “Tattoos: Women of the Ink,” a pedestrian hour doc from Turner Original Prods. that tries with dubious candor to elevate tattoo art to the level of godliness.
Because the women in this program dared challenge the men-only fraternity of flesh artistry, they are held right up there beside Susan B. Anthony as brave, dynamic pioneers. What seems to be forgotten is that these are tattoos we’re talking about, not voting rights. To attach such philosophical mumbo-jumbo to the ill-advised painting of one’s skin is a little bit silly.
“Women of the Ink” takes us to tattoo conventions in Los Angeles and Orlando. Fla., where otherwise normal humans have serpents painted across their torsos and pictures of their parents stitched into their shoulder blades. Some people have checkerboards shot onto their stomachs, allowing them to play games wherever they go.
Representing the new breed of female tattooist is Juli Moon, who comes at her craft from something of a New Age approach: “I see myself as a translator of energy, a translator of thought.” As opposed to, say, a translator of ink.
She later adds, “When you tattoo the flesh, you tattoo the spirit.” O.K.
Other, more earthbound tattoo artists such as Pat Fish, Vyvyn Lazonga, Mary Jane Haake and Debi Kienel discuss the respect they’ve had to fight for, while host Peggy Knapp speaks reverently of the tattooed women of the last century who served as sideshow freaks. Now, they are decidedly more mainstream in their freakishness.
While many of the designs these women stitch into skin are breathtaking, “Women of the Ink” is, in the main, a singularly boring exercise because it takes itself so seriously, treating the tattoo as something akin to a religious experience. What’s lost is any discussion beyond the art itself about tattoo toxicity, about the diminishing of any societal taboos and gauging the mindset of both tattoo seekers and injectors.
Yeah, it’s kinda interesting that there are women in the tattoo profession. Kinda. More interesting would be to look at the feelings of their human canvasses 10 years after getting the tattoo. Chances are, that fire-breathing dragon just above their pubic bone doesn’t feel quite so unique anymore. Tech credits are fine.