Soldiers tell stories in ‘tattoo project’

Downtown art exhibits are nothing new in Columbus.

But a skin art show?

Local photographers are now shooting soldiers' tattoos, obtained while they were deployed to or after they returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. By the first of the year, Ronie Dalton hopes to have the "tattoo project" ready for display. She wants to show off her work at a downtown location yet to be determined.

Dalton, the mother of a former 3rd Brigade soldier who took his own life after returning from Iraq three years ago,had originally wanted to artistically tell the story of deployed soldiers through sculptures.

She said it was a way for her to deal with her son's deployment in 2005. "I started off doing sculptures that reflected what was going on over there," she said.

But then came Spc. Jamie Dalton's suicide.

After a memorial service, friends of Jamie took his mother to a nearby tattoo parlor.

"I didn't even like tattoos," she admits. "But being around these young men, hearing their stories and seeing their tattoos. . . . "

Long story short: She got one, one featuring a heart, stars and her son's name.

It was Soon after that experience that Ronie Dalton came up with the idea for what will be a unique exhibit.

One of the first to show off his body art was Sgt. Ryan Davison, a member of the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. He had served with Jamie Dalton in 2005.

"I think it is a great idea," Davison said of the project after photographer Kenny Gray shot the eagle, skull and rose tattoo he got after his deployment. "It allows soldiers to tell the significance behind their tattoos. It opens them up to tell the stories they might not normally tell about their deployment."

Dalton's project will include not only photos of tattoos, but also the stories behind them.

Dalton has a photo shoots coming up 4 p.m. Thursday at the Rankin Arts Center, at 1004 Broadway at 4 p.m. ThursdayOct. 2.

"I'm looking for tattoos with stories behind them," Dalton said. "Stories, maybe, about their days in combat. Or, anything soldier related."

For more information on her project, contact Dalton by telephone at 415-203-5585 or e-mail her at