Tattooing and art were once estranged, distant cousins. The ICA’s exhibit of Mexican artist and tattooist Dr. Lakra’s work, however, unites them as one and the same, which is pretty much how Lakra sees it.
“What I principally do is draw,” says Dr. Lakra, speaking through an interpreter. “I have created other things like objects or collages, but much of what I do is related to drawing; drawing over different surfaces, sometimes on skin, sometimes on paper, other times on objects I have found. … Tattooing is drawing, but it encompasses a complex variety of aspects that change, depending on the context or the person.”
Just as his drawing covers found objects — vintage pin-up posters or plastic cups, say — beyond the usual mediums such as paper, it was natural that the canvas Lakra carries around 24/7 would become a medium for expression.
“I began to tattoo myself at the same time that I began to draw,” he says. “Tattoos can represent many different things depending on the context; they are a language, a form of expressing yourself. It’s a human necessity to transform the body and to take ownership over one’s self. The body is one of those few places where one has freedom.”