Did you know that anyone can legally collect original art?

Rich or poor, we all appreciate beauty. Art in all its forms is an expression of the artist’s imagination, as he or she sees the world and its denizens. And yet, individual perception of any art is subjective. Each person’s idea of beauty varies according to experience, taste, and emotional response to any work of art.

For example, if a three-year-old draws a stick figure self-portrait with an enormous head, tiny arms and legs, and a huge smile, the parents or teachers have the power to encourage the young artist or make fun of the effort. By focusing on the things they like, they will also begin the process of teaching art appreciation to the budding artist.

When we speak of art, most folks think of museums with countless paintings hanging on their walls. The setting may be a boring experience for some, a mystical experience for others, and even disappointment for some who march to a different drummer in art appreciation.

The best personal example of this is the Mona Lisa. Do people rave about her beauty and that enigmatic smile because art critics told them it was a masterpiece? Be honest, masterpiece or not, what did you feel the first time you were fortunate enough to see the much-touted portrait in person?

Were you disappointed? The painting is tiny (30 inches x 21 inches). Forget who painted it. View her through today’s concept of beauty. She is a chubby-faced and sturdy looking woman. Her smile could imply her contentment because she is pregnant or simply the tight-lipped restraint of discomfort due to gas. After all, even ladies suffer from the vapors.

The popularity of tattoos wane and ebb over time, but not everyone considers tattoos an art form, even though they have been around for over 5,200 years — the carbon-dating of the Iceman discovered in 1991. Before that, discoveries of tattooed Egyptian female mummies dated to around 2000 B.C.

Two possible explanations for tattoos found on the stomach, breasts and upper thighs of female mummies exist. They were marks of prostitutes to protect them from sexually transmitted diseases or therapeutic protection (a permanent amulet) for pregnancy and birth.

Did you know New York City is the birthplace of modern tattoos and that Mildred Hull was the first woman to open a tattoo shop in the Bowery? New York Historical Society curator Cristian Petru Panaite believed that women who made a living displaying their tattoos were “business-savvy,” taking advantage of the public’s fascination with tattoos. “Tattoos were an early way that women took control of their bodies.”

The travels of James Cook in the South Pacific taught sailors about Polynesian pictographic tattoos. Before long, sailors tattooed their birth dates, names of ships on which they sailed and other images on their bodies.

It did not take long for supposedly strait-laced (mid-19th century) Victorian society to embrace tattoos as a fashion statement, including British royalty (Prince Albert and Prince George —the princes with dragon tattoos). Even Winston Churchill’s mother sported a tattoo on her wrist. Of course, if British royalty did it, American society was quick to follow.

The works of some talented tattoo artists are as sublime and magnificent as any museum painting. Photographs of tattooed people do not offer the full impact as the real thing, but you cannot hang actual people on the wall. It is painful, and they may object.

For those electing to collect body art, the saying “Your body is your temple” could be revised as “Your body is a living art collection.”

Tattoos, whether elaborate or small, are a permanent art form people choose to own. Sometimes the results can be jaw-dropping and deceptive. That was the case when a woman walked into a club, and someone tapped her on the shoulder to say “Your blouse is exquisite.” The woman laughed and replied, “I’m not wearing a blouse that is my tattoo.”

Hubby had an interesting comment after learning about a relative’s new tattoo. “I’m getting Top tattooed on my bald spot; Bottom on the soles of my feet; Back on my rump; and Front on my belly. That way invading aliens will know how to display my body.”