"Skin is the border between the self and the world*..A place where touches, traces and markings are negotiated in a productive struggle for meaning."
-quoted from "Written on the Body: The Suicide Girls' Difference and Transgression"
Toronto, Canada. Hummingbird Theatre for the Performing Arts, about ten years ago. Sandy and I are attending the National Ballet's performance of Don Quixote, an evening which falls just short of a black tie affair.
A woman comes into view. She's attractive, tall, slender and dressed in an evening gown which seems to fall perfectly in all the right places. Her blonde hair is up in a bun, very tasteful and classy. A budding socialite, she's a vision of style and elegance. The woman turns her back towards us, revealing a ten inch tattoo which spans her shoulders. For me the vision is shattered.
I expect this post will cause some strong reaction; in fact I hope many of you will take a minute to voice your opinions for or against the subject. There's virtually a 100% chance that some of you reading are wearing ink somewhere, in visible or *ahem* some wonderfully hidden places. I don't begrudge anyone making that choice, I just want to better understand the attraction.
I've always viewed the human body as a natural art form, and as such I've never seen the need to cover any part of it. It seems increasingly common in my daily life to see a woman sporting a tattoo across the small of her back or shoulder, not to mention the ever-popular butterfly or some-such on the ankle. And while I know people do this mainly for themselves, it leaves me uninspired.
After stating this point of view my reasoning begins to unravel, because (as with most things in my life) there are exceptions to the rule. I find the puckered "lipstick kiss on the butt cheek" extremely sexy. Same with the faded Playboy bunny-head tan mark. But here's the real kicker, which I still haven't been able to fully explain.
On a trip to my local bookstore recently I chanced upon a hardcover book about 'SuicideGirls'. For anyone not familiar with the term, I'll explain. SuicideGirls challenge society's notion of what defines female beauty. These are women who don't confine themselves within any boundaries. Usually adorned with tattoos or piercings they live life very much on their own terms, and are extremely comfortable outwardly expressing themselves. Some examples which caught my eye...
As applies to everyday life I would argue that the human body itself is a form of art which shouldn't be defaced with tattoos or piercings. However upon looking at these photos I'm struck by the notion that the body when adorned in ink is in this sense a living canvas, and I see the whole subject as an artwork. But why does this hold such allure? What in my mind makes the difference?
"The creasing and folding of the skin that tattoos represent, contaminate the gender discourse otherwise established and serve as a disruption and challenge of the conventional image of the female body. It articulates a territory which lies folded inside the sexual pleasure of the image, and allows the production of a subjectivity where female sexuality is not dependent on the male gaze, but rather invites a broader conceptualization of desire."
I find this statement very interesting.
So where do I go from here? Can my views of what I see in real life vs what I see on paper co-exist? I feel like a tremendous walking contradiction right now.
I'd like to hear you views on this. Are tattoos art or abomination? If you have a tattoo, what was your reason for getting it and where do you wear it? And I'll give out the 'Zombie Chicken Award' to anyone who can constructively shed some light on why my views may differ so greatly between what I see in real life vs on the page.