Tattoo Macro Portfolio

Maureen Eckert
1117 Douglas Ave. Apt. 208
N. Providence, RI 02904


Art Training
1980 – 1987  Art Students League of New York

1992  Hunter College, BA Honors Curriculum (Philosophy and Classical Studies) Summa Cum Laude
2002  CUNY Graduate Center, MA, Philosophy
2004  CUNY Graduate Center, Ph.D., Philosophy with Distinction

Associate Professor and Department Co-Chair, Philosophy Department UMASS Dartmouth

Solo Exhibitions
June 2016:  Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, 684 Purchase St, New Bedford, MA 02740
February 2016 – Present:  Clover, 233 Westminster St, Providence, RI 02903
August 2015-Present:  Providence Power Yoga Annex, 16 Bassett St., Providence RI, 02903

Previous Solo
March 2016:  Julian’s, 318 Broadway, Providence, RI 02909
July 2015 – June 2016:  Providence Power Yoga, 51 Bassett St. Providence, RI
1998:  The Present Company Theater

1988:  RICERCAR Gallery, East 1st Street, New York, NY (no longer in business)

Upcoming Solo
September 2016:  Pizza J, 967 Westminster St, Providence, RI 02903
February 2018:  AS220, Main Gallery, 115 Empire St, Providence, RI 02903

Group Shows
November 2015-January 2016:  Representative Image for Exhibition “I am closer to you than your very self,” NEST Gallery,The Hague, Netherlands
2003:  “Four Chicks,” Access Theater, New York, NY

1985:  Group Show (So freakin’ long ago I can’t remember exactly where — an abandoned building on 2nd Ave and Houston that became a Community Center)

100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words #30 “Star Coins” 
New York Times, 2010 “Paradoxical Truth,” Portrait Photograph

Other Photography Projects
Lesser Gods: Medusa (2015) and Narcissus (2016)
Findings, 2015-2016

What is Tattoo Macro Photography?

Tattoo Macro Photography provides a different perspective from which to appreciate the Tattoo Arts. It is a collaborative project, in which tattoo-wearers’ experiences are presented on my website,, along with their photographs. Tattoo artists’ skills are represented at the level of the skin itself, framed by my macro photography. Attributions to each person in the collaboration, as well as profit sharing, are integral to the project. Tattoos are often the most significant work of art people own in their lifetimes. The diversity of styles, traditions, and personal meanings of tattoos is celebrated in my photography.

Tattoo Macro Photographs 2015-16

Project Statement: Tattoo Macro Photography

My project has several goals. Tattoos are very much, in many cases “signs of the unseen,” representations of people’s inner lives, purposefully brought to the surface. The macro photographs I take present this surface, and the tattoo wearers get space to tell their story. The tattoo, seen anew, is a vehicle of a unique narrative risen to the body’s surface.

On a large scale, my project aims at interrogating the division between the tattoo arts and fine art. One way of understanding this division is economic. Tattooing is an art form that does not have a resale market. Horror film jokes aside, tattoos, whatever their quality, cannot be resold. Art in this format remains highly personal and individualized. As popular as tattoos have become, it is a practice that resists full monetization. As there is no possible investment in an art market, what remains after tattoos are completed are the questions of the personal value they possess and that of the artistry they manifest.

A consequence of this economic situation is that tattoo artists’ reputations are tied to continuing clientele. Photographic portfolios can represent a tattoo artist’s skills. Yet the artist’s work doesn’t accrue an independent financial value apart from doing tattoos. The tattoo, itself, has a limited lifespan–that of the human “canvas” wearing it. Traditional arts institutions, such as museums and galleries, are not designed to accommodate this. Tattoo arts have been connected with sub-cultures outside of mainstream institutions for good reason.

Especially interesting to me is the way the tattoo arts bring to light questions about artistic value and evaluation. Historically, fine artists have challenged the institutional conventions and modes of production of art. Such challenges have been among the drivers that continually transform the fine arts. My photography, likewise, presents a challenge to institutional features of the fine arts, for if fine art is, supposedly, representative expressions of cultures, exactly how are tattoo arts truly distinct from fine arts? If it turns out that re-selling art works in a market is what this distinction hinges upon in any significant way, I am uncertain what is so “fine” about fine arts. If artistic value is cashed out at the end of the day in the longevity of a work of art, why is the fundamentally ephemeral work of Andy Goldsworthy critically celebrated, but not achievement in the (also) ephemeral tattoo arts? If it is popularity and appeal to the masses operating as a distinction, what distinguishes Jeff Koons from a tattoo artist in high demand? If Matthew Barney can incorporate the mode of production that produces his artistic products into fine art, how is the alternative mode of artistic production in the tattoo arts not of similar critical interest? It hasn’t added up for me.

Central to these questions is another puzzle, which I take aim at. While the photographic arts traditionally aim at a product, the photographic print produced by a photographer, my project only appears consistent with this model on the surface. The photographs I take are an additional element in a longer process involving two other people, the wearer of the tattoo and the tattoo artist. Tattoos are not objects, but subjects, and dual subjects that each have distinct characteristics. By harmonizing the tattoo design and surface of the skin, my photographs invite the viewer to focus their attention on the artistry and commitment involved in tattoos. All of my photographs are attributed to each person involved in exhibition contexts. They are my photographs, but not my sole creations. My photographs directly point to the most basic exchange in the tattoo arts between the client and artist, the skin and design. I am the least important subjectivity in comparison, and more like a gateway framing this basic collaboration.

My website is an integral part of my project, not mere accompaniment for the photographs. The process of photographing a person’s tattoos is highly personal and most successful when we are able to communicate about the meaning of the tattoo. People photographed are given space on my website to explain in their own words and by their own means the value their tattoo has. I aim to provide a non-judgmental, non-medicalized, sometimes sacred space for people to express their understandings of body modification and to participate in creating a work of art with me. The work of the tattoo artists is promoted on my website as they have everything to gain from increasing exposure to new audiences. The stories I share about myself and my environment and process are of a piece with the personal experiences that are shared with me in every photo shoot and on my website. I am as much an insider and participant as everyone else involved. While my photographs are theoretically detachable, in practice they are not created from the outside. I would fail the tattoo community to understand my project in any other way.

Last Modified on June 27, 2016
This entry was posted in
Bookmark this article Tattoo Macro Portfolio