Tattooed moms come to campus

Tattoos have long been associated with sailors and criminals, but in an art exhibit at Neumann University, they are for moms.

The Tattooed Moms Project by photographer Kevin Russo, on display in the McNichol Gallery, challenges stigmas associated with tattoos.

The idea for this project was sparked by Russo’s own prejudices.

“Years ago, I took my daughters to a gymnastics class, and when I saw the moms with tattoos, I took my daughters out," said Russo.

However, later he noticed that the moms with tattoos were the first to help and take care of the children in the class.

After experiencing this, he decided to get together with Stacie Dale and form the Tattooed Mom Project.

The project features portraits of mothers who have been tattooed with their children. He hopes to show society that tattoos can be a symbol of strength and resilience and should be celebrated rather than stigmatized. 

Russo's original project featured only a few moms, but after receiving so much attention, he decided to include more mothers and their children.

When photographing, Russo likes to capture moments in which the subjects are just being themselves.

"I do not believe in posing people," he said. "I believe in capturing that moment that is authentic, that is real.”

Dale added, “It’s easier to get authentic photos from people who aren’t uncomfortable around the camera.”

Dale is the one responsible for finding exhibit locations.

“I looked out for places to showcase the work. We did a retail exhibition gallery, even a tattoo studio tattoo wall,” said Dale.

Then Dale established contact with Glenn Holmstrom, a Neumann professor of art and director of the McNichol Gallery, and in came the tattooed moms.

Jasmine Evans, an attendee at the exhibit, was impressed with Russo's work. Evans commented, "I like how the mothers are embracing their tattoos and showing that it does not diminish their role as mothers."

Holmstrom was pleased to have Russo's work on display in the McNichol Gallery.

“Art history is filled with pictures of the Madonna and Child. Kevin’s work is a contemporary nod to these that strongly aligns with our RISES values, and an attempt to reconcile his own prejudice,” said Holmstrom

“It was an honor to have these people place their trust in us!” Russo said regarding the mothers and children involved in the project.

Russo indicated that this is just the beginning, and he plans to take on more socially conscious projects in the future.

“Thank you to the moms and thank you Neumann!” added Dale.