Victoria Harrison

Art History

Victoria Harrison is an artist and art history student residing in Denver, Colorado. She will graduate in May 2024 with a Bachelor’s in Art History and minors in Business and Illustration. The beginning of her academic journey focused on studio art as she honed her skills in various mediums and explored themes relating to culture, individual identity, human relationships, and the natural world. However, as she delved deeper into the art world, she found herself continuously intrigued by the rich history and cultural significance behind various artistic movements.

This growing interest led Harrison to switch her major to Art History so she could approach art from a more analytical and research-based perspective. Her academic and personal endeavors come together in her thesis project, which will examine contemporary South Korean tattoo art and artistry. After graduation, Harrison aspires to work as a tattoo artist and contribute to the evolving landscape of tattooing as a recognized art form and a means of individual expression.

Thesis Title
Tradition and Ink: Exploring Contemporary South Korean Tattoo Art and Artistry

The development of contemporary tattoo art in South Korea rests at the fascinating intersection of traditional culture and social stigmatization. Due to historically entrenched negative perspectives on tattooing, little scholarship has been published on tattoo art, in particular on the subject of contemporary South Korean tattoo art. Because tattooing remains illegal in South Korea, the practice survives underground, thus further impeding research on the subject. My thesis project explores the world of tattooing in relation to South Korea and delves into the dynamic between tradition and the recent globalized phenomenon of permanent body art. Specifically, this paper will investigate the transformation of traditional cultural objects/art forms, such as the norigae knot or blue-and-white ceramics, from a physical object into a tattoo. I will analyze the symbolic significance of tattooing practices within the context of modern Korean society in order to see how the translation of cultural motifs alters or renews their original meanings. Moreover, by examining South Korean artists currently working in the United States, I will address the implications of placing such imagery on individuals outside the South Korean ethnic sphere, particularly Americans or those of non-Korean descent, and how this may further reshape its interpretation and cultural connotations. I argue that many contemporary South Korean tattoo artists have developed a style that reflects a fusion of traditional imagery and the needs of the modern-day, globalized tattoo industry, thereby beginning to reshape views of a historically stigmatized art practice while also benefitting the preservation of Korean culture amid rapid progression and modernization. Despite the current legal limitations on tattooing in South Korea, this paper endeavors to contribute to the understanding of the complex interplay between traditional motifs, social stigma, and artistic expression in contemporary South Korean tattoo culture. By navigating these contours, this research aims to shed light on an underexplored aspect of modern Korean society and its evolving relationship with tattoo art.