Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Body (as) Art

I used to want to be a body builder. I love watching sporting competitions, especially those where people are utilizing their bodies in amazing ways, such as dancing and women's fitness competitions. I think it's amazing the things we can do with our bodies. I haven't given up my ideals of a stronger, healthier body, but I have decided that professional competition is not for me. Other forms of adornment and body art are for me, though.

In addition to make up, jewelry and interesting clothing, which I love though am sometimes lazy about, I love tattoos. When I grew up, the only tattoos I saw were seeped and faded women's names on the hairy arms of my dad's biker friends. Not so the tattoos of today. I've seen such amazing art work done on people's bodies and have heard such amazing stories about tattoos. I love asking people about their tattoos - there is always some story, some meaning, some myth behind the art. People are story-telling even before they open their mouths.

I got my first tattoo almost on a dare. I'd been talking about getting a tattoo ever since I got my eyebrow pierced. I LOVED getting my face pierced. Yes, it hurt, but it also felt good. And it looked good. I got my eyebrow pierced because a friend of mine was reviled by her family for her tongue piercing. In solidarity, I pierced my face - something I couldn't hide and that wasn't remotely sexual. I had no idea that it would be so addictive or so free-ing. Thinking of it now makes me want it back. It grew out and I probably won't do it again because of my profession, but I really loved it. Anyway, after that, I talked on and on about getting a tattoo until my friend got me a gift certificate for my birthday. I know she didn't believe I would go through with the piercing and I'm pretty sure she wondered if I would get the tattoo.

I thought and drew for months before a friend handed me the design for my tattoo. I'm embarrassed to admit that the design came from a clip-art file, but it's true. I was looking for a turtle, a stylized turtle. I'd long collected turtley things and had just cleared my collection of turtles from over 30 countries in favor of a less cluttered lifestyle, but my affection for this totemic spirit lingered and I tattooed him on my left shoulder to ride with me and whisper guidance in my ear. There is a lot of symbolism associated with turtles - as the beginning of the earth, as mother energy, as slow and steady, as safety, as fierce warriors - and this all appealed to me. My turtle is currently all black, though people say he looks a little greenish now with age, and he seems to be trying to walk as he is raised from the skin. I've considered recently adding some color and more dots (aboriginal art style) to address our mutual evolution, but am carefully considering theme as I want the entire composition to fit as I continue this lifelong art show. I have long been planning on having the rainbow serpent added either on my leg, back or belly, so I would like the turtle and serpent not to be duplicates, either.

The next tattoo I got after my father passed away. It's kanji, a Chinese/Japanese character, which reads: Dao. Dao means the way or the path. My father died suddenly in a work related accident and his loss devastated my family. I needed a reminder of my place in this world. I needed an anchor. I've considered expanding this one character into two lines, a couplet, a traditional style of Chinese poetry, on both forearms, but haven't stopped getting meaning and inspiration from the single character yet.

The next tattoos: still in planning stages, but am hoping to put a tiger lily and a monarch butterfly on my hip and side. My mother's favorite flower is the tiger lily and the butterfly has come to be a representative of my father. We released butterflies at his burial and my mom often has butterfly visitors when she's feeling down. My friends say I should have a little bee buzzing around too. Guess we'll see what tomorrow brings.

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