Behind the Scenes: The SAM Remix Tattoo Parlor
“Behind the scenes” responsibilities at an arts organization are not always the most glamorous work. In Public Programming at SAM, back-end work includes contracts, stage set-up, power point preparation, and many late-nights, among other things. The latest of my nights, but also one of the most exciting to work on, is the quarterly SAM Remix program. During Remix, my department has the opportunity to program the entire building in an effort to create a unique experience that engages audiences with the art on view through a more interdisciplinary and interactive approach.
One of my favorite aspects of adult programming is working with local artists to explore connections between their work and the art on view at the museum. As we developed programs to happen at the most recent Remix on November 6, I researched local artists who work with the human body as a medium in an effort to create an interactive component that related to Michelangelo Public and Private. Ariana Page Russell (formerly a Seattle-based artist but now living in Brooklyn) came to mind during my search, as she utilizes the sensitivity of her own skin through a range media to create many of her works. After digging a little deeper, I came upon Leather and Lace, a temporary tattoo project that took place at SOIL in 2007 and involved a collaboration between Ariana and Allison Manch, another Seattle-based artist whose body of work primarily features embroidered drawings and text. Allison also happens to work at SAM in the box office, which made getting in touch with them especially easy.
After having a few conversations with the artists and meeting with others from SAM’s Education Department, we devised a plan for a way to work the project into Remix. Allison and Ariana would create new temporary tattoo designs inspired by Michelangelo’s sculptures and architecture and print them on an Inkjet paper with transferable ink that could be adhered as temporary tattoos. We decided to create a “tattoo parlor” space in one of SAM’s art studios by bringing in more ambient furniture and covering the walls with flashes of the artists’ designs. Allison and Ariana also proposed doing a call to the public for additional tattoo designs inspired by Michelangelo through Facebook and Twitter; the artists ultimately chose their three favorites, which were created by Tina Grafos, Ben Hirschkoff and Troy Gua.
A few days before Remix, I received the final tattoos created by Allison and Ariana. It was interesting to finally see the different approaches each took to the designs, reflecting their individual practices. Allison created embroidered drawings of the David and the Sistine Chapel accented by details inspired by Peter Max‘s illustrations from the 1970s. Ariana continued her explorations of flesh coloration by creating an outline of the Sistine Chapel ceiling using photographs of skin. Despite some initial challenges in getting the parlor’s appearance aligned with the separate visions we all had in our minds and the constant line of anxious people we sustained all night, the program went extremely smoothly.
Ariana and Allison applied all of the tattoos, and as a result, Remix attendees were able to have an intimate experience within the evening’s intense atmosphere; the few moments each person had to speak with the artists and find out more about the project as their tattoos were applied were particularly engaging and provided first-hand insight into the creative process to those who participated. Developing interactive programming for adults is often challenging to execute but ultimately can introduce additional insights into works of art we may overlook when we are not part of the experience.
Erin Langner, Adult Public Programs Coordinator
Temporary tattoo by Allison Manch, Photo: Allison Manch