Day 4 of the tattoo was pure discomfort. The Aquaphor felt heavy and made my clothes stick to my back. Everything about the way I carried myself changed in my attempts to keep from aggravating my skin. Not only was the tattoo itself an open wound, but the area around it continued to become inflamed. I had done my best to follow the aftercare instructions faithfully, only to feel as if my best was short of good enough. The tattoo felt less like ink laid into skin, and more like razors placed lovingly in a pattern and left protruding. The pain itself was negligible, but the question of how to support my healing tormented me. I had stayed the course because I had not known what to expect, even though C had been researching on my behalf and had concluded that I ought to switch to lotion at least part-time. Once again, I was choosing to follow solid yet general advice rather than shift to meet the demands of my corporeal reality. I defaulted to that old reliance on purposeful ignorance of my inconvenient needs.
I think that our bodies carry moral/ethical regulating systems, as well as the physical ones that keep us alive. In fact, I believe that the system that tells us of physical danger (e.g., Thats’s too hot! or Don’t approach that wary-looking dog!) is the same system that tells us of moral danger in the form of feelings of unease. In this way, the body and the soul are one and the same, despite our best efforts to separate them. Obviously this belief is nothing new, especially in so-named “Eastern” cultures, as well as a smattering of indigenous cultures we of the “West” continue to attempt to eradicate through physical/cultural evisceration. Even so, my individual acceptance–my slow unlearning of this false bifurcation–is new. I falter, and each time I do, it feels sysiphean. But it’s not. It’s progress, in all its messy, demanding glory, and I am honored to be so wrapped up in it.
(Impressions on skin.)
~End of (P)art 4~
Day 3 of this experience was my last day of rest before the next work week began. To keep from covering up my healing back, I’d spent most of the weekend with a light chill. The warmth of the hot water collecting in the tub was as delicious as it was fleeting.
The skin around the tattoo was intensely itchy and sensitive. However, I’ve been getting mild stress-induced rashes for the past decade and a half, so it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. Once again, I was in awe of what my body could withstand. Moreover, a visceral connection was beginning to form between knowing that my body would be repairing itself and understanding what that work feels like. It was confirmation that all these years, I had been underselling my strength, my resiliency, my worth.
Of course, propaganda has always had its place in art and society. Conditions most conducive to the creation of art require a donor, and by their nature, donors require a level of control. The art in a society reflects the values of the wealthy by its mere existence–that it was plucked from the studio or streets and placed in a position of prominence–is the most base level of control. In more pervasive ways, art that is given high visibility is also assigned importance by the viewers and recreated until one can’t even go into Target to buy a new toilet brush without seeing a printed canvas emblazoned with Audrey Hepburn’s face and done up in bright Pop Art colors. To one extent, this is just life. Art is good for the spirit. Beauty is an important aspect of life. To another extent, this homogenization of art and culture is dangerous. Homogenization dulls the senses and makes an enemy of the unusual. Without the unusual, tipping points aren’t reached. Challenges to movements and thought patterns become interpersonal squabbles over who can get the most at any given time. But even if it seems like it, art doesn’t die. It just goes underground so it can begin to repair.
(Artist & Muse)
~End of (P)art 3~
(all plasma & ink & in need of a gentle yet thorough wash)
The first full day of my first tattoo had me thinking about intimacy and the boundaries between public and private. Walking out of the parlor the night before, I felt as if I had cartoon dots drifting above my head and bursting–as if the excitement and wooziness I was feeling was visible.
After a night’s rest, my strength had returned and I felt ready to confront the realities of aftercare. However, sitting in the bathtub, my own vulnerability began to overwhelm me.
The act of labeling cannot be separated from the tattoo. In this instance, the piece reflects something of a strategic un/covering. Sure, I wanted to make a statement, but here was a hidden dimension. Sitting in the tub and feeling the rush of water envelop me, I recalled Mary Cassatt. It was only by way of further extension, by acknowledging that my discomfort was unnecessary and controlling, that I was able to accept the care being offered. At that moment, the idea for this series crystalized.
~End (P)art 2~