Campus Only Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
As an artist, I am fascinated by tattoo practices and culture. I have a particular interest in the Neo-Traditional style of tattooing, the contemporary sister of early Americana tattooing. For this project I wanted to combine my love of tattooing with my Scripps College education in Gender Studies by considering the absence of women or perception of absence in American tattoo history.
Gender roles of the 19th and 20th century barred women from giving or receiving tattoos as the practice was considered to be dirty, hyper-masculine and associated with crime. Tattooing’s associations with a rough counterculture made it an unacceptable practice for women who were supposed to uphold feminized standards of purity. Because of the exclusion of women from Americana tattooing, tattoo culture in the United States developed as a man’s world. It wasn’t until second wave feminism that women started getting tattooed in the mainstream. Despite the misconception that women have only started getting tattooed in recent years, there were several highly tattooed women and female tattooists in the early days of American tattoo culture that I want to highlight.
For this project I have created a series of portraits depicting these women in the Neo-Traditional style (a modern interpretation of the style from these women’s era). Each portrait will not only represent a specific woman but also a larger group of women linked by an era of women’s participation in tattoo culture. For instance, the portrait of Irene Woodward also represents over 100 tattooed ladies in circuses around the country. These portraits will span roughly 100 years and will start with the first tattooed ladies in circuses, move on to the first female tattoo artists, suffragist tattoos of first wave feminism and tattoos becoming mainstream with second wave feminism.
These portraits will be created digitally in the Neo-Traditional style, which for the purposes of this project will be defined as follows. A limited color pallet consisting of black, brown, blue, green, red and yellow, and varying line weights. Each piece will be constructed in three layers. A linework layer, a layer of black shading, and a final color layer; this is to mimic the process of tattooing as closely as possible. These prescriptive stylistic rules should lead to a stylistically cohesive group of pieces.
The intention of this piece is to surprise and educate people with the largely forgotten history of women in the early days of Americana tattooing.
Cleator, Sophie, "Tattooed Ladies: An Exploration of Women in Americana Tattooing" (2022). Scripps Senior Theses. 1968.
This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.