From the beginning of time, tattoos have been the ultimate form of self-expression.

Ink is inserted underneath the skin to create a permanent image and have been used to mark status or rank, memorialize a lost loved one, as a symbol of spiritual or religious devotion, or as a means of artistic expression. Other people have been forcibly tattooed including slaves or prisoners. Perhaps the most well-known example is the Nazis who tattooed numbers onto inmates’ arms and wrists at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

As part of its fall exhibits, the Hammond Museum is presenting Of Pirates, Mermaids and True Love, 100 Years of Tattoo Art at the Guild Hall Gallery through November 19.

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The exhibit, in association with Lift Trucks Project, is a compilation of so-called antique “flash.” Flash is artwork created by the tattoo artist and displayed on sheets of paper for the customer to choose a design from.

Many of the pieces in the exhibit were created by popular tattoo artists including Sailor Jerry and British tattoo artists Tom Berg and George Burchett. Husband and wife teams are also well-represented including Joe and Mabel Darpel, Dainty Dotty and Owen Jensen.

Tattooing became popularized during World War II. Recurring themes were love, travel and sailors getting tattoos to remember their loved ones at home or to provide them with a safe journey.

Pieces in this exhibit feature well-worn and often-used antique tattoo flash. Many feature numbers on them or with numbers crossed out indicating how the cost of tattooing increased over time.

Tattoos were especially popular at carnivals and at ports where sailors landed. Pieces such as the larger and life-size cut out tattooed figures of girls in the exhibit would be used in a carnival to draw people in.

The 100 Years of Tattoo Art exhibit at the Hammond Museum runs until November 18. An opening art reception will be held Saturday, Sept. 24 from 1-3. Live music will be provided by Martin Aronchick and Margaret McDuffie. Admission is free on opening day. Complementary refreshments will be provided.

The Hammond Museum is located at 28 Deveau Road in North Salem. For more information visit www.hammondmuseum.org.