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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Body Art

In all the arts there can be found what we might call "high" art and "low" art.  In sculpture there is bronze casting on the high end and airplanes made of beer cans on the low end. In Architecture, there is Fallingwater and there is Levittown.  In music there is Beethoven and Tiny Tim. On the comic pages there is Doonesbury and Garfield. And in painting, there is the Sistine Chapel Ceiling and Elvis on black velvet.  Actually, there may be something often considered "lower" than that--body art--tattooing. The sleazy storefront "parlors" are as far removed from SOHO galleries as Motel-8's from the Hilton.

But if the Reverend Daniel Ostrowski has his way, perhaps body art might move up a few notches on the spectrum. He runs a Christian tattoo parlor.  He "paints" portraits of Jesus in place of flaming skulls. Tattoos of St. Michael doing battle with the devil and copies of Leonardo's "Last Supper" are also popular. In Rome, Italy, Jason Gennaro specializes in portraits of Christian figures. There is even a Christian Tattoo Association with over 100 working members across the nation. Some born-again Christians have their entire backs decorated with such art, sharing their believes in places where it's never been seen before. Randy Mastro, another Christian tattoo artist also does a brisk business removing demonic artwork from the newly converted.

Jesus Tattoo,
 Jason Gennaro

Mary Tattoo,
 Jason Gennaro

Whatever the art crowd might think of such work, some members of the clergy tend not to look very favorably upon it. They contend there are better ways to spread the word. Some go so far as to cite a Biblical passage from Leviticus which warns: "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you." Of course most born-again Christians disregard the teachings of the "Old Covenant" in proclaiming their faith. Short phrases such as "Praise the Lord" cost as little as $40. Larger "masterpieces" can run in the thousands.  It may not be high art, but it gives a whole new meaning to "putting on the faith."

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