“It developed from my own learned prejudice about tattooed women,” he explains. “Growing up in the 1970s in South Philadelphia, there weren’t too many women who had tattoos, and if they did, they were thought of as biker chicks.”
“There is still a stigma and prejudice attached to being a tattooed woman,” says Russo. “This project is an attempt to alleviate that stigma by showing tattooed moms with their children in an artistic fashion that portrays the love and bonding of mother and child.”
Russo’s attitude changed when he had children of his own and watched his girls play sports with teammates whose moms had tattoos.
“I started to question my own prejudice,” he recalls. “I started speaking with them and realized that many of them were accomplished professionals and, more importantly, good mothers who cared for their children.”
There are currently 80 photographs in the Tattooed Moms collection, and 30 will be in the exhibition at Neumann. All are black and white digital prints.
According to Russo, “I chose to photograph them in black and white so that you first see the mother-child bond before you notice the tattoos, some of which are colorful pieces of artwork themselves.”
He created four original Tattooed Moms images in 2007-08 but shelved expanding the project because of “an overwhelming response.” With the help of Stacie Dale, a freelance artist, he resurrected the project in 2022. The exhibition at Neumann is just the third showing of these works.
The artist reception for Tattooed Moms is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 16, from 2-4 PM in McNichol Gallery.
To see the full arts schedule at Neumann University, visit www.neumann.edu/arts.