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Markings (2011)
Wentworth Coolidge Mansion Portsmouth, NH

My recent work has been concerned with the ambivalent relationships between New England and Hawai’i. Exploration, trade, whaling, and missionary work followed closely upon one another in the 18th and 19th centuries. This project is a response to the site of the Wentworth Coolidge Mansion in relation to seafaring and tattoo. Rather than drawing into skin, I will “draw” historical Hawaiian tattoo designs into children’s white christening dresses.

The ship comes from a scrimshawed image of one of the ship that brought missionaries to Hawai’i. The coconut tree, musket and woven pattern come from illustrations of tattoo observed by 19th century artists accompanying voyagers to Hawai’i. To allude to the ambivalence, the backside of the embroidery is presented.

Photo credits: Lucretia Knapp and Lynne Yamamoto