On Exhibit: William DeMichele's illustrated women | Calendar | Chicago Reader

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On Exhibit: William DeMichele's illustrated women

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Angel squats with her fair-skinned back to the camera. Her shaved head is turned away, but two graceful wings extending down the length of her back, one on either side of her bare spine, tell who she is. In the picture by New York photographer William DeMichele she looks poised for flight.

In his series "The Illustrated Woman," showing through December 5 at the World Tattoo gallery, DeMichele depicts women who he says "literally wear their hearts on their sleeves." They're all women who have decided to make dramatic visual statements with body tattoos.

The photographs, shown with drawings and paintings by tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy, are a sampling of the portraits DeMichele took over five years throughout Europe and the United States and compiled in a just-released book also titled The Illustrated Woman.

His subjects are "housewives, doctors, nurses, construction workers, and many of them are mothers," DeMichele says. "Most of them you would never know have tattoos."

One photo entitled The Dragon Lady shows a woman whose torso is heavily tattooed, her nipples pierced. An advertising executive in Los Angeles, the model asked that her face be cropped out of the photo and her name not be used. "Her tattoos are between her and her husband," DeMichele says. "During the day she wears a suit. None of her friends or family even know."

Another woman flaunts an underwater seascape with a mammoth tortoise swimming across her back, her pale forearms simply an incongruous and uninteresting extension of the picture.

Since many of his subjects keep their tattoos to themselves, DeMichele says, "at first I was nervous about putting [them] in a book. But now I am realizing that for these people who choose tattoos as a way to make them immortal, the photographs make them even more so.

"It's a way of life--or maybe a way for a double life," he says. "And that's what interests me."

World Tattoo, at 1255 S. Wabash, is open noon to 5 Monday through Saturday. Call 939-2222 for more info.

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