Skin deep

‘Maori Tattoo’ at the Peabody Essex, Jim Henderson and Ann Torke at Boston Sculptors, and Student Shows at the MFA and SMFA
By RANDI HOPKINS  |  February 12, 2008
Hans Neleman, “Piri (Dave) Iti”

Moko — the facial and body tattoos of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori people — were originally chiseled into the skin of Maori men and women by means of an albatross bone and vegetable-based pigments, to create vivid visual expressions of tribal status as well as to mark personal achievements and experiences. For hundreds of years, these curvilinear, monochromatic tattoos have been an expression of prestige and honor among the Maori, with tattoos in different areas of the face signifying particular characteristics: profession, power and standing, marriage status. Between 1907 and 1962, moko was forbidden, but in recent decades, the art form has been revitalized in protest against laws denying the Maori access to their lands, language, customs, and beliefs. The ancient art form is the subject of “BODY POLITICS: MAORI TATTOO TODAY” which opens at the Peabody Essex Museum on February 23, with large-format contemporary portraits taken by Dutch-born, New York–based photographer Hans Neleman, plus related 19th-century and contemporary Maori woodcarvings that further illuminate this tattoo tradition.

“Body Politics: Maori Tattoo Today” at Peabody Essex Museum, East India Square, Salem | February 23–February 1, 2009 | 866.745.1876

“New Work: Jim Henderson” and “Ann Torke: The Residue Series” at Boston Sculptors Gallery, 486 Harrison Ave, Boston | Through March 9 | 617.482.7781

“Students Curate Students: Islands of Isolation” and “Student Annual Exhibition” at Museum of Fine Arts [“Students Curate Students”], 465 Huntington Ave, Boston | February 16–March 30, and School of the Museum of Fine Arts [“Student Annual”], 230 the Fenway, Boston | February 15–March 8 | 617.369.3718
Two new exhibits at Boston Sculptors Gallery in the South End make inventive use of contemporary methods and materials. “NEW WORK: JIM HENDERSON” comprises two bodies of work using sandblasting as a modeling tool. In one, Henderson incorporates images of abandoned dolls into sculpture made by sandblasting jagged holes into sheets of glass; in the other, he makes sculpture from wood pieces that are sandblasted to accentuate their grain and texture, then cast into bronze. In “ANN TORKE: THE RESIDUE SERIES,” common household and studio detritus collected by the artist is suspended in classically inspired cast resin forms. There’s an artists reception for both shows on February 16 from 3 to 6 pm.

 The dire sentiment conveyed by Roy Orbison in “Only the Lonely” finds visual expression in “STUDENTS CURATE STUDENTS: ISLANDS OF ISOLATION,” a show of work by seven MFA candidates in the joint School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University graduate-degree program organized by participating artist Georgie Friedman and opening in the Courtyard Gallery at the Museum of Fine Arts on February 16. Using color photography and video, the artists investigate experiences of emotional and geographical separation. And across the street at the Museum School, the “STUDENT ANNUAL EXHIBITION” opens February 15, with work by Museum School students including Ana Licuanan, Lawrence Getubig, and Georgeanne Krampien, the winners of this year’s Yousuf Karsh Prize in Photography.

On the Web
“Body Politics: Maori Tattoo Today”:
“New Work: Jim Henderson” and “Ann Torke: The Residue Series”:
“Students Curate Students: Islands of Isolation” and “Student Annual Exhibition”:

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