New exhibit explores how the body is adorned
● By J. Chambless
A painting of a henna tattoo and elaborate dress by Navanjali Kelsey.
Adornment in its many forms is the focus of “Adorned: Body and Art,” which opened last weekend at the Oxford Arts Alliance.
The show is an admirable stretch for the gallery, incorporating a globe-spanning range of works.
Dave Nibouar shows a photo of Masai women dressed in dazzling robes and jewelry, and another image of a woman coated in red clay, including her hair, which is turned into a kind of sculptural adornment.
There are small photos contributed by people from the Oxford area who share their tattoos, which range from small and simple to dazzlingly complex. There are several paintings by Navanjali Kelsey of the elaborately patterned gowns and henna tattoos of Indian women, and several photos of full-body painting on female models by Jennifer Montgomery.
Matthew Amey's pendants, which are based on traditional floral tattoo forms, are exceptional. His sinuous octopus pendant is a standout.
Perhaps the highlights of the show are the 1800s-1900s tattoo designs that reflect the showgirls of a bygone era, along with birds and American patriotic motifs. The designs have the simplicity of folk art, and harken back to an era when tattoos were usually inked by amateurs.
Bringing tattooing up to date, there's a display of photos and blog entries that document the evolution of a tattoo design from inspiration, through design, and eventually its appearance on flesh.
As a step out of the norm, “Adorned” has a refreshing range of media and just a bit of the subversion that tattoos and body decoration still manage to evoke, even in this era when tattoos and body piercings have entered the cultural mainstream.
“Adorned: Body and Art” continues through Feb. 27 at the Oxford Arts Alliance (38 S. Third St., Oxford). Gallery hours are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit www.oxfordart.org for more information.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.