Body art is the most intimate art form, linking the self, the senses, and the social and political. Today, in almost any major city worldwide, you will encounter tattoos, piercings, henna painting and elaborate hairstyles. In recent years, body art has proliferated in an unprecedented way, borrowing motifs and practices from many different traditions. What is it that new and borrowed body arts do, and what do they tell us about the global culture that we now inhabit?
Anthropologist and art historian Nicholas Thomas explores these questions and many more in this wide-ranging survey of body arts from prehistoric origins to the present.
He illuminates their role in expressing personal and cultural identity; their longstanding associations with ritual, theatricality, criminality and beauty; and their recent resurgence via the Modern Primitive movement and the work of contemporary artists such as Marc Quinn and Rebecca Belmore.
More than 180 illustrations chronicle the extraordinary diversity of body arts, from Australian and African traditions of painting and scarification to Chinese footbinding, Russian prison tattoos, Harlem drag balls and the inked designs worn by celebrities such as Tupac Shakur and David Beckham. For anyone with a personal or professional interest in the subject, Body Art offers a timely and intelligent celebration of this quintessentially human art form.