Sunday, December 14, 2008
My Body, Living Canvas
It's no secret that I am a tattooed woman. I have twelve on my body, which really does sound like a lot -- but most are configured in such a way as to actually comprise one design that spirals around my lower left leg. I jokingly call it my "tropical gam", because I got the initial piece in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and continued adding designs of hibiscus and other exotic flowers, butterflies, and a bird. I've tried many times to take a decent photo of the art on this leg, but due to the spiral, it's impossible to capture it well, as you can tell by this pathetic attempt.
I have two on my lower right leg -- my "southwest art." One is a mountain lion surrounded by prickly-pear cactus. (I refuse to call the cat a cougar, as we all know the implication of that word as applied to a woman of my age going after younger men. I assure you, that is not the intent of the design!)
The other is an interpretation of an Anasazi pottery sherd. I have been fascinated by the Anasazi culture (an ancient Puebloan people who lived in the southwest region of the U.S.) for as long as I can remember. Just as the other designs hold personal meaning for me, this tattoo is highly symbolic of many blissful days hiking in the areas where the Anasazi once lived, exploring countless ruin sites, both well-known and very much off the beaten path. I'm thinking of incorporating a couple of petroglyph (ancient rock art) symbols into this design, but haven't quite decided how to do it.
And then there is the piece on my left shoulderblade, a rose intertwined with a beaded feather.
Because my tats are easily hidden beneath my clothing, people are often surprised (shocked might be more apt!) when they learn that I have them. People tend to have strong feelings about body modifications -- particularly ink -- whether they have their own or not. There's very little neutrality -- either you think they're cool, or you detest them. I'm usually asked two things by the inkless: "Why?" and "Doesn't it hurt?" To be honest, I'm not quite certain why I got the first one. I'm sure it had something to do with outwardly expressing a newfound liberation in my life, coupled with the fact that I've long wanted one and just decided to take the plunge! And yes, it's true -- once you have one, you may find yourself addicted to the process and becoming a collector. As for the question of pain -- oh yes, my friends, it hurts! It's difficult to describe the severe sting of the needle, but in a sense, it's a positive pain. It's a pain that takes you to another place inside yourself, where you find your mettle is tested, both fleshly and spiritually. It's an incredibly intense process. I know, I know ... sounds crazy, doesn't it? ::sigh:: Perhaps it is. But I like it.
The history of tattooing is extremely interesting to me. It's an artform that has existed since the dawn of mankind, and has played a vital role in defining and demonstrating who human beings felt that they were, and what they represented in this world. Tattooing has taken quite a journey in our own society, metamorphising from a freakish act committed by unacceptable outcasts to a more or less mainstream means of self-expression.
As one who appreciates art in so many different forms, I love being able to carry around my own special pieces everywhere I go. I cannot say with certainty when I will be done adding to my inky collection ... the menacing yet beautiful hum of the tattoo gun is such a seductive siren, and I'm drawn back to it, again and again.