Friday, December 01, 2006

Ars Longa

My tattos are reminders – personal symbols and inscriptions made permanent so I would never forget. They were also reassurances, promises and dares to myself.
I got my first in 1995. It's a blue band on the index toe of my left foot. It was done by a friend of a friend using a home-made tattoo gun. The skin there is so thin that I could feel it vibrating against my bone. It was the equivalent of a tying a string around my finger.
My second was a year or so later. It's a butterfly design, a reworking of the eliptical shapes making up an atom symbol. It's in the centre of my lower back, where I feel my creative, and sexual, energy. I wanted to somehow mark it, to bring it to the surface, to make it visible on my skin.
I have a blossom on the inner wrist of my right hand. The outline is pink, the shading very soft pink and white. I wanted it to look like it was surfacing from beneath my skin, but sometimes it looks like a burn scar. I positioned it over my veins: a flower in perpetual bloom, growing from the blood that flows to my drawing hand.
My last is on the upper inside of my left arm. It reads:
A fronte praecimitium

A tergo lupi

Alis volat propriis
(In front is a precipice

behind are wolves.

She flies on her own wings).
It was my promise to myself about art, about pressing on, about stepping into the unknown – or off the cliff. I had it done when I decided to pursue art as my life and everyone was saying it would never work.
If I could have them removed flawlessly today, I probably would. I have enough belief in myself that I don't need marks on my skin as mantras. It's strange to look at them, and as time goes by they become more unfamiliar to me. They're like scars inflicted on my body by someone I used to be.
As the curator and art consultant, John Buckley, who's about 65, once said to me, "I never understood why people get tattoos. They are permanent, and one's personality is not. I think I've been about seven quite different people so far".


Bella said...

Hey Hazel. Discovered your blog today and read it entirely with interest - love your work and hope to oneday afford it! Your honesty has compelled me to comment. McDealer, well, nasty - and a waste of a bullet, however doesn't he have a henchman, one so-called navy diver? Not to be underestimated. You go girl xxx

crybaby said...

i have mine because it marks a rite of passage. i will always love it because now it is part of me.

sue beyer said...

I love my tattoo and am thinking about getting another one. The first one was when I got into art school the first time and now that I am back doing fine art I want another one to mark the occasion :-)

Bella said...

A tattoo is an expression of where you where at then, skin deep maybe!! What dictates who we are now isn't a mark on our skin. How do you tattoo the soul? Embrace it and let it go!! xx

Anonymous said...

Hi Hazel,
When my daughter was born I had her tiny handprint tattooed over my heart. Now, when we are at the beach or whatever, she will run up to me and put her hand over my heart to see how much she has grown. I love it.

Niki said...

I have mine as a reminder as well, either of myself or of the things that have happened to me. People without tattoos would never understand fully the reasons of why we do this. In a way, it's a catharsis as well as an embrace on who we've become, no matter how much we've changed throughout the years.

The Vamp Aesthetic said...


ani said...

and on the day i got my third tattoo i read this post! it is symbolic! thank you!!!!

Anonymous said...

I want a tattoo, me and my boy friend. I want it to be special so if ever we don't end up together, we can look on one memory that will be there lifetime.

I enjoyed your blog. It kind of scares me but I really want it. Thanks for the deep thoughts

Angel Tattoos

Memory Echoes said...

Right now I'm thinking about what was happening in my life when you created this excellence.

So I'll tell you

I was homeless, living out of my shitty little red Tracker in the streets in the Valley of the Sun with my dog (who was later murdered by elk ranchers in CO for political reasons because he was trusting & I was a naive journalist) & my partner

My mom's birthday was one day away

We lit out for las montanas de San Juan on my (now dead) mother's birthday with his manic sun in bipolalandia in tow

through a blizzard we crossed from high desert to jaunty, erect peaks

wrecked, rolled, returned upright in a ditch (black ice spun us off the path)

4-wheel drive got us out

we waited out the blizzard in a Denny's in Cortez

ascended the mountains as the Sun rose

I cried.


Thank you for your Art, Hazel.