February 4, 2004
Body marking ” tattooing and scarring ” is a ritual employed by humankind for at least 2,500 years. The practice is as wide-spread
as it is enduring: mummified bodies from Siberia to Egypt to the Tyrolean Alps have also been found to have been marked with tattoos, scars or both.
Chris Rainier has observed the extent of body-marking across the world. A photographer who has traveled the world, covering wars from Somalia to Bosnia, and indigenous cultures such as the tribes
of Papua New Guinea, Rainier has seen tattoos and scars used for a variety of purposes.
Not until he was working on his 1996 book “Where Masks Still Dance: New Guinea,” a photographic examination of the primitive tribes of the
island off of Australia’s northeast coast, did Rainier realize what a global phenomenon body-marking was. “Where Masks Still Dance” was 10 years in the making, and when Rainier would end his months-long visits to return to the United States, he noticed that body-marking was thriving as much in the modern world as in the primitive one.
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“I’d come back and see the absolute explosion of tattooing in the country,” said Rainier, who lived in Aspen from 1987 until a year ago, when he moved to the Washington, D.C., area to take a full-time
job with National Geographic.
“I saw an interesting trend there, and came to an idea to explore it.”
Rainier has explored body-marking with the same kind of expansive focus he brought to “Where Masks Still Dance,” which required eight two- to three-month-long trips to Papua New Guinea, and his
first book, 1993’s “Keepers of the Spirit,” which documented sacred places around the planet. Rainier has been at work on
the body-marking project for some seven years. In that time, he has traveled to 30 countries on six continents, from Africa to California to the South Pacific. Rainier’s “Ancient Marks: Tattoos and
Body Markings Around the Globe,” a book of over 100 black and white images is to be published by California’s Media 27.
Aspenites, however, will get an advance look at the imagery. “Ancient
Marks,” an exhibit of some 18 pieces, opens today, Friday, Nov. 28, at the David Floria Gallery, with a reception for Rainier from 6-8 p.m.