Twin’s tat­toos in­spire sis­ter’s art ex­hi­bi­tion


‘‘It's to­tally changed my pre­con­ceived ideas about tat­toos for the bet­ter.’’

There’s one sure-fire way you can tell Tracy Sex­ton and her iden­ti­cal twin sis­ter apart.

While Sex­ton is a self­de­scribed con­ser­va­tive, her sis­ter Tara King has cov­ered her body in ink, us­ing tat­toos to set her apart from her dop­pel­ganger.

It has prompted the Porirua woman to take a closer look at the tat­too art form - why peo­ple wear them and what hap­pens when they no longer want them.

‘‘Not hav­ing any of my own put me in a po­si­tion to look at it in a dif­fer­ent way,’’ Tracy Sex­ton said.

The sis­ters grew up be­liev­ing very dif­fer­ent things about their ‘‘twin-ness,’’ she said.

‘‘I had al­ways just as­sumed we were iden­ti­cal but she thought we weren’t.’’

A DNA test last year set­tled it once and for all. Once it was known what the women shared, ge­net­i­cally, Sex­ton wanted to look at what set them apart.

An art stu­dent at Whi­tireia Polytech, Sex­ton is halfway through a year’s pro­ject fea­tur­ing pho­tos of both tat­toos and the peo­ple who wear them.

She is ex­hibit­ing her work in one of the city cen­tre’s empty shops for four days, be­gin­ning on Thurs­day, as part of a coun­cil ini­tia­tive to let artists and com­mu­nity groups use the spaces.

She in­ter­viewed and pho­tographed 16 col­lec­tors, aged be­tween 21 and 63 years, with tat­toos that ranged from re­cently ac­quired to decades old.

Tat­too re­moval is fea­tured as well. The pho­tograph­ing of peo­ple get­ting rid of un­wanted ink is al­most more per­sonal than pho­tos of peo­ple happy with their body art, Sex­ton said. A por­trait of her sis­ter is in­cluded in the ex­hi­bi­tion, which sees the images printed on large fab­ric hang­ings with quotes from the sub­jects in­cluded. On the open­ing night, a tat­too artist will demon­strate the art, ink­ing her hus­band be­fore on­look­ers.

It has been a learn­ing curve for Sex­ton who, de­spite lov­ing her twin’s tat­toos, ad­mit­ted she be­gan the pro­ject with a rather nega­tive opin­ion of peo­ple who wear ink.

‘‘It’s to­tally changed my pre­con­ceived ideas about tat­toos for the bet­ter. I feel like my guard’s been let down.’’

One sur­pris­ing dis­cov­ery she made was the heal­ing power of tat­toos.

‘‘They can help peo­ple through vi­o­lence or abuse or some other trauma,’’ she said, cit­ing a com­ment from one of her sub­jects as an ex­am­ple.

‘‘How can I hate my body when I love what’s on it?’’

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