Body Art

A major museum exhibition and a lavish new book celebrate the human form as the ultimate canvas

The creatively pierced, multiply tattooed teenagers who hang out at every mall in America probably don't realize it--and neither, undoubtedly, do their unsettled parents--but they belong to a tradition as old as recorded history--probably much older. Ever since our Neolithic ancestors invented art tens of thousands of years ago, humans have been painting, sculpting and otherwise decorating everything in sight. The human body is just the nearest and most intimate canvas. Says anthropologist Enid Schildkrout of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City: "There is no known culture in which people do not paint, pierce, tattoo, reshape or...

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