Expressions of Individuality: Photographer Stacie Bird curates a show featuring the Art of the Body
The Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania will be holding a one-of-a-kind exhibition this month in their Downtown Gallery, 123 South Fraser Street, State College. Art of the Body runs from June 7-30 and will feature photographs of people with tattoos and piercings, taken by photographer Stacie Bird, who is curating the show.
A visual exploration of the uniquely human desire to adorn and decorate ourselves, Art of the Body will highlight the work of local tattoo artists. The First Friday opening reception will be June 7 from 5-8 p.m. The community is invited to come and meet the artists and join them on the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza for entertainment from local dance groups.
“Humans have expressed their identity, social status, and sexual desirability through self-adornment for thousands of years,” Bird says. “Through tattoos, piercings, scarification, makeup, and hair styling, we continue to express our individuality.”
Bird was born in Ohio and grew up in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania. She graduated from Penn State with a Bachelor of Arts degree in film in 1985.
“My parents are birders, so we spent many family vacations traipsing up and down the East Coast looking for birds,” she says. “I did not share this fascination, and when I was about 12 years old, my father gave me his old Pentax camera to keep me out of trouble during these trips.”
Both of Bird’s grandmothers were creative and visual people. Her father’s mother was a professor of drama at Allegheny College in northwestern Pennsylvania for more than 30 years.
“I grew up living every little girl’s dream – playing dress-up in the costume shop and helping with every backstage job from set design to lighting,” she says.
Bird is a board member of the Art Alliance and they had been brainstorming ways to increase the visibility of their Downtown Gallery and attract new audiences. Art of the Body grew out of this desire to attract new viewers and challenge people’s definition of traditional art.
“The Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania is using this show at its Downtown Gallery to showcase several local tattoo and piercing artists and by doing so, actively encourage the community to become involved in diverse art experiences and expand the boundaries of what is traditionally thought of as art,” Bird says.
One of the artists who will be featured in the exhibition is Adam Zimmer, co-owner/operator of Paper Moon Tattoo Company, at 125 South Pugh Street in State College. Zimmer has been tattooing for 11 years and specializes in watercolor, abstract, illustrative color, and black and gray tattoos.
Zimmer has always found tattoos to be intriguing, even as a child.
“When I turned 18, I went and got my first tattoo and I was hooked,” he says.
“Although I can do multiple different styles, I prefer to do watercolor and abstract tattoos. I’ve always loved working with watercolor paints, so the adaptation from paper to skin came pretty natural.”
Zimmer and Jordan Haines started Paper Moon Tattoo Company in the spring of 2018.
Art is a form of expression that cannot be categorized or defined in one specific way, for each piece brings about different thoughts or feelings from different people.
“To me, that is the beauty of the art world, and it is how we as tattoo artists help push that boundary,” Haines says. “Tattoo artists provide an extraordinary opportunity for an individual to physically express who they are as a person.”
Tattooing is an art form that has allowed Haines to feel confident in herself and with her body.
“I have the opportunity to pick something that will be a part of my life forever,” she says. “It is my goal to help clients find the confidence in themselves through needles and ink. The trust that can be shared through something that personal is unbelievable.”
Among other local artists featured in the Art of the Body exhibition are Shawn Elliot, Natalie Burkey, and Joshua Kunkel of Ikonic Ink Tattoo and Piercing Studio, 111 West Beaver Avenue, State College.
“The Art Alliance hasn’t done a show like this in its 50-year history so I’m not really sure what to expect,” Bird says. “Hopefully, we’ll see some new faces at our opening on June 7 for First Friday.”
Jason Klose is a freelance writer from Mifflinburg.