By Carly Willsie
Tattoos hurt like a bitch. Don’t let anyone tell you “Oh, oh, it just feels like a cat scratch.” Or, “It’s like a paper clip rubbing on your arm really fast! You could totally drink a milkshake during it.” No. Maybe if the cat had rabies or the paper clip was actually a nail. And the cat kept scratching you for minutes and hours and days and days and the nail was on a little mini jackhammer. I can tell you this after getting my first lil ink job this week.
The decision to get a tattoo is a deeply personal one, I’ve found – and one filled with various meanings. Superficially, a tattoo can undoubtedly make you look pretty badass. A little ink peepin’ out from underneath your t-shirt sleeve will draw some peer respect, usually. Nothing wrong with originally wanting to get one for that reason. However, a person’s desire to put a tattoo on his or her body is much more complicated, though the levels of meaning behind this desire are generally subverted or unconscious.
The power of self-demarcation is important. We are born with various markings that we did not choose – our sex, our race, our shape and proportions – so in a way, getting a tattoo by choice is a reclamation of that space. We get to choose what is on our bodies, we get to choose what people see when they look at us, we get to control that gaze. Carefully chosen tattoos can show a lot of respect for your body and your understanding of it.
By choosing visual art, we are also helping to re-define what art is, whether we mean to or not. Like street art, tattoo art brings art into the pedestrian realm. Not only do we allow those who view our tattoos to experience art, we also acknowledge the fact that art can be something consumed by everyone in everyday life. Though we may not traditionally think of tattoos as art (and – true – some [read: tinkerbell tattoos on ankles] are probably of questionable artistic value), it is important to acknowledge them as such.
Now appreciate my crow girl, suckasss!