Minnesotans’ tattoo art to be collected at museum
LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (AP) — Grace Duxbury keeps an art collection on her at all times.
It’s a series of tattoos that chronicle her interests, including a portrait of her favorite poet Oscar Wilde and a historic stamp of St. George slaying a dragon.
Now Duxbury, a museum assistant, is tasked with collecting other people’s tattoos for the Morrison County Historical Society, the St. Cloud Times reported.
Duxbury inspired the upcoming exhibit “The Story Behind the Tat: Tattoo Art in Central Minnesota,” said Mary Warner, executive director of the historical society, which owns and runs the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum in Little Falls.
“Everyone we know who has a tattoo has some kind of story to go along with it,” Warner said.
The museum will take photos and explanations of people’s tattoos and compile everything into an exhibit to preserve the art and the stories of local people. Staff also plans to reach out to tattoo shops throughout Central Minnesota.
There’s a makeshift photo studio set up in the library of the historical society, with lights next to a Beckwith Cottage Organ.
The historical society builds the “vast majority” of its exhibits, Warner said. Staff draws from the museum’s archives and community contributions.
One of its popular exhibits, called “The Apron: Body Armour or Bling” in 2011, drew from the collection and from community members, she said. “If you can insert the community more directly in it, they feel more a part of the history.”
Tattoos have a long history, dating back thousands of years. In the early 1990s, tourists discovered Otzi, an “Iceman” frozen 5,300 years in the Italian Alps with dozens of tattoos.
“It’s really a very old art form,” Warner said. It’s also fleeting, because the tattoos go away when people die.
Jack Peck, long-time Little Falls resident and former KLTF station manager, has some tattoo history he’ll share with the Morrison County Historical Society.
In the early 1900s, Peck’s grandfather, Ed Poferl AKA Professor Eddie Poferl, was one of the best tattoo artists in the U.S., he said.
Peck sold Poferl’s tattoo equipment to collectors several years ago, and wrote the forward to a book about the tattoo artist, Peck said. He still has some photos of his grandfather and will share stories with the historical society for the new exhibit.
Peck never got a tattoo himself, he said. “I’m scared of needles.”
Tattoos also play a special role in Warner’s family. Her husband, Erik, got a tattoo of their son’s artwork.
Their son became an artist, and Erik has other tattoos designed by family members, including a floral armband by Warner.
Duxbury has 10 or 11 tattoos that capture key passions in her life, she said. If she still wants a tattoo after a year’s wait, Duxbury gets it, knowing her interests will change.
“It shows where I was at that time in my life,” she said. “My body is an archive.”
She got her tattoo of St. George last year at a legacy tattoo parlor in Jerusalem. The same family has run the shop since the 1300s, she said.
Some of her other tattoos were done in Little Falls.
Warner and Duxbury don’t have a set idea of who they’ll hear from or how many tattoos they’ll catalog. Warner would like a range of regular people.
One person asked Warner if a tattoo memorializing a family member would be historic enough.
“History is all of us,” she said.
The Morrison County Historical Society has its roots in telling the stories of ordinary people during the Great Depression, Warner said.
“History is anything that happened in the past. It doesn’t have to be a huge event,” Warner said. “It can just be something that was an important part of an individual’s life, and just a regular individual.”
The tattoo exhibit opening is planned for April.