Features

Tattoos and other art

... art is what you make other people see

by Betty Rossi

When I was a kid, my Uncle Richard came home from the Navy with a tattoo
on his arm. I can remember my Grandpa being so angry, telling him that
God had given him a perfectly good body and that he had chosen to color
and mark it. Today, it is so amazing to see the artwork on people's
bodies. Arms, ankles, chests, legs, hands, fingers, necks. You name it.
Wherever there is skin, you can see tattoos. Butterflies, spiderwebs,
Shamrocks, gang colors, "Mom", battleships, old girlfriend's names. It's
amazing!

Remember when we were kids and the Cracker Jack boxes and bubble gum
wrappers sometimes had paper tattoos in them? You would put them on
by wetting your arm with water and pressing the tattoo to your skin to
reveal the pictures. I can remember holding my arm out of the water when
I took my bath so that the "tattoo" wouldn't vanish. Today, Henna is used
to create beautiful temporary art.

During the summer when we were in our early teens, my cousins and I used
to write our boyfriend's names on our arms, go to the beach and try to
get a tan everywhere but where we had written the names. We were hoping
that the name wouldn't get tanned, something like reverse tattooing.
Today, go to the beach and look at the older people who were tattooed
years ago, but now have aged and droopy skin. Butterflies look like cans
of vegetables. Remember the Tattooed Lady at the Circus and what a sight
she was? Wonder what she would look like today.

My family and I used to go out West to Salt Lake City to see my
grandparents when I was young. While we were there, toward the end of the
summer, we'd go to the brandings and rodeos. At that time, the Indians,
Cheyenne and Shoshone, would ride in on their ponies dressed in full
regalia. Their painted faces and bodies were always impressive.
Cleopatra, King Tut, war paint, tribal paintings are nothing compared to
the tattoos of today. We are the tattoo generation.

When I was in college and was studying Cultural Anthropology, I can
remember studying about tribes and their markings. I can remember reading
about Charles Manson and his followers and how they carved tattoos onto
their foreheads and bodies to show allegiance to each other. We know how
the Nazis in Germany tattooed numbers onto their prisoners to identify
them. As I've gotten older, I know of people that have needed operations
and their doctors have tattooed the spot where the "cut" or chemotherapy
or radiation will take place.

Today I am a "Baseball Freak". I love baseball, but between the beards
and the tattoos, you forget what you like about the players and look at
them in a different light. They have so many "tats" on their arms and
necks, that they look messy. Their tattoos are so blended together, you
can't tell one tattoo from the other. This summer, I went to a Block
Party during the Bruin's playoffs. Shirts, faces and bodies were painted.
Face paintings at carnivals, fairs and parties are fun and temporary.

Signs are popping up everywhere, addressing Tattoo Removal. Hmm, I wonder
why. They say that art is not what you see, but what you make others see.
As for me, maybe in my next life, I'll get a little tattoo on my ankle of
a....butterfly.


September 6, 2013


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