In considering my next tattoo, I have been giving a lot of thought to the idea of tattoos in general. When looking at artist portfolios, I can usually tell after viewing only a few pictures if I am interested in the artist's work or not. I never gave this process much thought until I read Needled.com's recent post about tattoo studio-art gallery hybrids. Seeing tattoos as a form of fine art, displayed in a gallery where everyone from punks to executives can view them, made me realize that what I have been seeking in my search for a new tattoo is a piece of ART. Looking at certain artistic pieces makes me all warm and fuzzy inside, and to have one of those pieces permanently affixed on my skin would be a constant source of joy and wonder for me.
The article also made me think about the gallery in relation to its possible effects on how tattoos are viewed in Western society. Many Westerners still associate tattoos with crime and social deviance, so it's natural to wonder whether such mainstream recognition of tattoo art would help to bring it a greater level of respect. Personally, I think that those involved in the body modification community shouldn't have to work toward legitimizing modification in the mainstream. If the majority of people can't see the beauty of modification, why should we try to convince them? As a student at a very small college with a lot of conservative-looking kids, I can say that I truly don't care if I'm seen as different or weird, because I understand it. This is for ME. And I think that celebrating tattoos as fine art is a wonderful step, but not toward acceptance. It is my hope that this will be a step toward making body modification the best it can be.
I understand that my own view of the future of body modification is just that, MY view. With that said, I need to address those random images of butterflies or roses littered about some "tattooed" bodies. These do not represent art. Don't get me wrong, such tattoos may have value in their personal significances, but they are not acquired for their aesthetic beauty. Most are just a fad, and the concept of having a tattoo is probably more important to the wearer than the tattoo itself. I mean, think of the bold tribal desgins you often see flashed from under the back of a woman's low-cut tee shirt. Does she have any clue what that symbol may have meant to some ancient peoples? And would she even have noticed if the artist didn't apply the exact design she had picked out?
A great example of this disregard for the art of tattooing is a conversation I had this past weekend at a professional wrestling show. There I met woman and her boyfriend who unfortunately both had some of the most terrible tattoos I have ever seen. The man proudly showed off a cat/woman pinup on his calf which had incredibly shaky and far too-thick lines. In addition to the form of the tattoo, the content was also quite unpleasant. The pinup's breats were saggier than those of a retired stripper, and her nipples were the size of teacup saucers. As for the woman, she only had one small, obviously home-made, black heart on her upper arm. Upon asking her about the tat, I received a lengthy response in which she explained to me the tattoos that she was planning on getting. These included a spider web on her upper arm (which I explained to her is often associated with a certain white supremacy group...oops good thing we talked), a "Jesus-style crown of thorns, because barbed wire is sooo overdone," a rose, and a Blood for Blood (a Boston Hardcore Band) skull design. All status symbols. Not the kind that will get you into a country club, but rather the kind that will (maybe) earn you a greater level of respect. Imagine one of her future tats in a gallery as a painting. Would anyone "ooh" or "ahh?" I think not.