Considering the meaning | CONCEPTUAL TATTOOS (video)
I've been on a journey exploring methods of gaining better health, and maintaining a good sense of well being. It started almost 10 years ago, when someone very close and dear to me got breast cancer. She preservered and recovered, and her strength has fueled a flame of dedication, and an on-going curiosity in alternative methods of health ever since.
Throughout the years, other women in my life have gotten the same type of tumors and have also recovered. This has reminded me over and over again, that life is very delicate and should be handled with care. My near obsession with eating better (reading tiny ingredient labels and fearing gmos), turned into other methods of taking care of my body (because your physical health is only part of it, right?). So I looked to the metaphysical and the mental aspects of health. I explored magical things while pursuing my Bachelors degree; simplistic theories in color, numbers, astrology, and even minerals. After getting pretty much no where from studying countless books on crystals and the meanings of dreams, I then turned to religion.
Religion provided a narrative to all the symbolism I had been studying: the sacred geometry, mysteries of organic life and ancient traditions, which in the end, all pointed back to health for me. It gave the muddle of old ideas a meaning. I thought if I could somehow incorporate all of these things into my life, I could become a better person, a happier, less anxious and less fearful person—a healthier person, and a healthier person doesn't suffer from cancer. A healthier person lives in a mountain valley with wrinkled eyes, and all the wisdom of the world, for 100 years. But is this really what I want? Well, not necessarily. I couldn't convince anybody this was the life to live.
It wasn't until recently, that I've had this seemingly random thought process of how to forget; how to not hold on to everything, and take every moment very seriously. I have to admit, it's inspired by religions I've studied in books, like Christianity, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism (thanks art school, and my Buddhist history professor, for the class in Buddhist art—probably the only class in college I hated myself for falling asleep in). Thanks to those readings, I've started taking everything in my life with a holistic approach: everything I've ever studied for a significant amount of time, I try to incorporate into my daily life. And lately, my day to day life has centered around DORK and our tattoo shop in Louisville.
On my down time, I start thinking philosophically—I start thinking about where I am now and how to move forward. Looking at where I am now, I see myself in a tattoo shop, putting ink into people, and (mostly) watching others put ink into people. I watch strangers wanting tattoos, come and go. I watch the strangers in our shop tattoo others, and then go. And in the repetition, I've finally found myself and how to fit in.
To me, health is everything. It's a very broad and general word, that means so much more than what kind of food I choose to eat. Over the years, (mostly while trying to figure out what my BFA was going to be about), it's expanded, and now I've found the path health can take in the tattoo world—the tattoo world I've been floating around in for 5 years. My discovery isn't new, other much more accomplished tattoo artists have similar paths, but I will say that mine has been discovered very organically by following my own way of life.
I've created a series of spontaneously crafted tattoo designs. They were created from the blank slate of my mind, essentially out of nowhere. To me, this represents letting go; not meaninglessly categorizing; getting beyond the literal representation of something; and exploring what's actually important. Tattoos are permanent, they're portrayals of an important memory in life, or maybe they're just pretty works of art. But most importantly, they're reminders of life. There are very few instances in normal day to day where you're reminded of your own mortality (thank goodness). But, sitting and taking the pain from multiple needles stabbing you repeatedly, does just that.
Getting a tattoo is a form of meditation. Think about it: all you have to entertain your mind, is the active pain that's forcing you to live in the moment. The most simple type of meditation is being extremely aware of one element of your environment—focusing on how your pencil hits the paper, for example. Or in the case of a tattoo, forcibly focusing on the active pain. I can very clearly remember staring at the wall or ceiling of the shop I was getting tattooed in, and literally zoning out for a couple of hours. I can't even begin to tell you what I was thinking about, I think I was thinking about nothing. And that's meditation! One of the best practices in maintaining health, is to meditate, because it brings you back to you—it brings focus, patience, and a clear mind.
Getting a tattoo is a very sacred practice, and has been for far longer than the creation of any Sailor Jerry tattoo. I can't tell you why tribes and societies got tattoos back before Christ—I honestly have no idea—but according to history books, in many cultures, it was a shaman or spiritual leader that gave the tattoo. To me, this means that tattoos were held with high importance and symbolized something more than just a pretty work of art.
So I've delved into my own conscious and found a way to create a tattoo design without any literally representation of anything. I've realized this doesn't take away from the tattoo, because getting tattooed is a physically and mental journey. What this tattoo means to you, isn't going to mean what it means to me. I find that fascinating. This tattoo could mean nothing, but a reminder to take life seriously, and live for today. Or maybe, it means the world.
I'm tattooing these designs at DORK Tattoo Parlor at 423 West Chestnut Street, Louisville KY. This series is one of a few, and will change as I experiment with creating more abstract tattoo designs. They are conceptual, and they have a meaning that only you as the receiver can provide.
Doree x DORK