A Living Canvas

A Living Canvas

Exploring the artistry, history, aesthetics, and personal stories behind the tattoos

By Ray Owen     Photographs by Tim Sayer

Tattoos have been a part of American culture since the mid-1800s and in other parts of the world for centuries. Body art has been a symbol of rebellion and taboo, making it a misunderstood medium. More and more, tattoos are becoming mainstream, from fashion accessories — for both men and women — to poignant personal statements. Beyond the skin, tattoos are personal marks for remembrance, unique mementos on a human canvas. No matter the motivation, the talent required to render a quality tattoo is undeniable. From September 1st to the 29th, the Arts Council of Moore County is presenting a special exhibition showcasing the artistry, history, and stories of tattoos.

Emily Boles

Emily does not have a sentimental story about why her back is covered in ink. Truth is, she simply loves the style. Inspiration for the designs came from visiting Alaska several years ago, and she started picking up new “tats” without any master plan. Emily chooses only to tattoo her back, because she can easily cover it for work. It’s like a second identity, from the young, professional woman she is in her everyday life.


Franklin Oldham, Sgt. U.S. Army (Ret.)

From 2000-2007, Franklin served in the Army as a crewman on an M1A1 battle tank. He loaded tanks and drove, shot and commanded them. Deployed to Iraq in 2004-2005, it was a tank that protected him and his platoon from numerous small arms fire, several land mines, a few RPG attacks, snipers, and a car bomb. He would not be alive today without that tank.


Marcus & Sara Boswell, and Leo

Marcus and Sara Boswell have matching tattoos, a combination of their family crests — Boswell and Humphrey. The phrase underneath the tattoo is French. Loosely translated, it means “If you don’t risk, you don’t gain.” It’s the idea they took into marriage, that love is a risk taken for a lifetime of adventure.


Jenny Moree

Jenny has many tattoo stories, like her mother’s handwriting or a guitar, microphone, and Fender amplifier because she loves music. Her favorite tattoo is of an angel wing, a tribute to someone whose life she saved when she came upon an automobile accident. Jenny ran to the car and comforted a woman who survived the wreck, helping the rescue crew pull the car off of her. She’s now Jenny’s best friend, and the tattoo commemorates the miracle of their meeting.


Hannah Gibson

Scars come in many sizes. Hannah’s tattoo is a memorial to her son, Gideon. The most jarring part for her is knowing that he’s gone. No one sees him on her hip at the farmers’ market and asks how old he is, or what his name is, or tickles his toes and comments on how tall he is. The tree Gideon was buried under was struck by lightning the week after he was laid to rest. The tattoo tells the story, a family tree — alive. It allows Hannah to continue sharing Gideon in this life with so many strangers who are now friends.


Rick  & Adele Buytenhuys

In 2005, Rick Buytenhuys made a decision to go to Iraq as a private contractor, after serving six years in the Marine Corps. His mother, Adele, knew that his life would be in danger, but she always believed he’d be protected. Before he left for Iraq, Rick and Adele decided to get matching tattoos of a guardian angel. According to Rick, “many a night, I slept with my hand on my shoulder, that angel on my mother’s back and on mine, too.”

The “Art of the Tattoo: A Living Canvas” featuring intimate portraits of tattooed individuals by local photographer Tim Sayer of Sayer Photography, curated by Valhalla Tattoo & Gallery, is being presented by the Arts Council of Moore County. Opening Reception: Sept. 1, 2017, 6-8 p.m. Food Trucks on-site. Exhibition dates are September 1-29. The show is free and open to the public at Campbell House Galleries, 482 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines, NC 28387. For additional information visit www.MooreArt.org.

Ray Owen is a local historian, who works for the Arts Council of Moore County

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