For something as innocuous as a little ink below the skin, tattoos are pretty much a public-relations nightmare.
The uphill battle tattoos face to widespread acceptance is thanks to cultural associations with all kinds of unsavory elements.
Yes, there's a bad-boy chic element that wears tattoos -- pirates and musicians such as the late Amy Winehouse, for instance. Unfortunately, so did Holocaust victims and prisoners in Russian gulags, which doesn't exactly present an image of wholesome savoriness.
Nevertheless, tattoos are in little danger of disappearing, if the six-year run of TLC's "Miami Ink," "London Ink," "LA Ink" and "NY Ink" is any indication.
That lingering sense of counterculture-ness may be at the core of why many people get tattoos and why they remain taboo in some circles, but plenty of people see them as an emotionally significant, viable means of artistic expression.
The tricky part is convincing the public to accept them as such. Triple 7 Studio, a group of local tattooers, has been campaigning since last November to sway public perception through a series of themed art shows.
The Patten Parkway-based studio's second, and most recent, event "Til Death" was held in February when it was still located on M.L. King Boulevard next door to JJ's Bohemia.
The show featured works by more than a dozen artists -- including several tattooers -- interpreting the theme of love "Til Death (Do Us Part)."
I attended the event, and while it felt odd to tell my friends I needed to make a quick stop at a tattoo studio to see an art show, it ultimately felt no different than most galleries.
Many tattooers would say that feeling of similarity only makes sense, since they see the barrier between their work and traditional art forms as either porous or entirely nonexistent.
Triple 7 Studio artist Jennifer Edge said there is a similar lack of distinction between tattoos and music, which was the impetus behind choosing music as the theme of the third show.
"Everybody here is so influenced, artistically, by music," Edge said. "We all have bands we like to listen to. Art and music go together. It's like bread and water."
"Hit Me With Music" is free and will run 6-10 tonight. The show will feature about 50 pieces by 20 to 25 artists who have interpreted music and its significance to them. Prices will range from $35 to $1,700.
Even if someone leaves without purchasing a piece, however, just getting them in the door will be a victory, Edge said.
"We just want Chattanooga to see a tattoo shop be more," she said. "We're all well-rounded artists, and we want everyone else to get that, too."
For more information about the show, call Triple 7 Studio at 702-5401 or visit the artists at 29 Patten Parkway.