I think we yearn for our blank slate states, for our most pristine, untouched selves. It’s why we romanticise childhood even though it’s most likely had its share of hardships & knocks. Tattoos are a curious borderline point between our most fearful, vulnerable selves that want to look back & our bravest, grittiest side that faces the truth of life’s markings & embraces it. They do, after all exist in the thin layer just under our skins reminding us that we all bear scars, that we are all living art.
I had an allergy test done when I was 8 or 9. I watched fascinated, as my small right arm was dotted with needles some of whose ends turned up red bumps. What a pretty pattern, I thought to myself even as I knew then that I didn’t like polka dots. I liked the non-uniformity of the red dots, the very rebelliousness of a design refusing to be a pattern. It told a story. I remember this.
When I rolled up my sleeve at the end of 2020 for another test, the doctor clicked his teeth. I’m used to the tattoo getting diverse reactions, each one telling me something about the person. It’s a story that invites other stories. How, I asked, do tattoos impact health? He shook his head & said they don’t, it just makes it harder for me to decipher the readings. Ah.
This photo was taken just before I had a paper plane inked onto my arm. It represents the stories I wrote over the ones I wanted to forget. Yet, it is also a flag planted in a key moment, realising I could rewrite my life. It also confuses things I may still need to read. But that’s the nature of stories – to guide & inspire as much as to confuse & obscure.
My arm isn’t pristine any more than my mind is free of baggage. But maybe that’s what makes me art.