You won't find mom hearts, zodiac signs or pinup babes at this photo exhibition of tattoos. Instead, you'll see New Zealand shutterbug Mark Adams uncovering Samoan tribal body art in his hometown of Auckland. Here in his North American debut, 27 colour and 18 black and white prints, dating back to 1978, show macho Samoans squirming while geometric patterns are punctured into their skin.
This extensive "pe'a" tattooing ("tatau" in Samoan) that he documents takes weeks to complete and is passed down like a family heirloom from father to son as a rite of passage into manhood. The polished product starts at the ribcage and sprawls down to the knees, like a long pair of shorts.
The exhibition was chosen to reveal the cultural contrast of tattoos across continents. "Traditionally, the Samoan tattoo represents a status symbol, while here, they are cool, and are what criminals and degenerates have," says Charles Reeve, the curator.
It also appears to be a style the students at the Ontario College of Art and Design seem to be sporting. "I dare you to find one art student at this school who doesn't have a tattoo," says Mr. Reeve from the university's Professional Gallery, where twentysomethings in piercings and pink hair float about. When asked to flash his own tattoo, he has nothing to show. He says, "It's just not my style."
Until May 18. Wednesday to Friday, 1 to 7 p.m., weekends 12 to 6 p.m. Professional Gallery, Ontario College of Art and Design, 100 McCaul Street. 416-977-6000, ext. 265. .