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Illuminated Bodies: Kat Von D, LA Ink, and the Borderlands of Tattoo Culture

Thursday, February 19, 2015 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Colorful upper arm tattoos in Japanese print style with Mt. Fuji and crashing waves
Theresa Roja, SHASS Predoctoral Fellow in Comparative Media Studies/Writing
Theresa Rojas, SHASS Predoctoral Fellow in Comparative Media Studies/Writing

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The first episode of the series LA Ink in 2007 was the all-time highest rated season premiere for the TLC network’s 18-34 demographic. The second tattoo vehicle in a franchise that began with Miami Ink, the show continued its predecessor’s main format, with select artists facilitating the therapeutic tattoo narratives of clients. One significant difference is LA Ink’s central “character,” Kat Von D: shop owner, tattoo artist, and heavily tattooed Latina. Although women’s accumulation of tattoos has become more commonplace in the twenty-first century, heavily tattooed female bodies are far from the mainstream. Latina bodies in particular are often exoticized and subject to cultural gatekeeping. Theresa Rojas examines the prolific and heavily tattooed Katherine Von Drachenberg, popularly known as Kat Von D, who offers a fascinating aesthetic that challenges both tattoo culture and notions of the “monstrous body” in new and intriguing ways. A polemical and sometimes polarizing celebrity, Von D navigates the worlds of tattooing and popular culture in ways that are at once ground-breaking and problematic. Her formative role as the first heavily tattooed woman to have her own television show situates her as someone who has chosen to lead an exceptionally public life—telling her story in multi-mediated ways.

Rojas is a SHASS Predoctoral Fellow in Comparative Media Studies/Writing and a Ph.D. candidate at The Ohio State University. She received her MLA from Eastern Michigan University in Women’s and Gender Studies and her BA in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Originally from San Francisco, Theresa is also a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and an artist who works primarily in acrylics, wood, and ink. Her specialties include life narrative, comics, and visual culture.


Thursday, February 19, 2015
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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MIT Building 4, Room 231
Cambridge, MA 02139 United States + Google Map
Andrew Whitacre Written by Andrew Whitacre