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Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
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With its traditional and potentially spiritual nature, tattooing easily qualifies as a folk art. However, given the skill and artistry of certain tattooists like Coco, tattooing also is among the fine arts.
“I think [skin is] the same as canvas. I always say, my canvases walk away from me.” Coco’s natural talent, when combined with the skill learned from the craft, allows his tattooing to traverse the boundary between fine art and folk art. His work exists in both realms simultaneously.
Whereas tattooing was once a hobby associated primarily with sailors, carnival workers, and prison inmates, tattooing today is featured in major museum exhibitions.