Archived Posts from this Category

Image vs. Image or, Repitition: American Vernacular

Posted by ben on 17 Jan 2008 | Tagged as: in yo face, tattoo, vs.

Contact Sheet of Child with a Toy Hand Grenad in Central Park by Diane Arbus (Detail)

Contact Sheet of Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park by Diane Arbus, 1962 (Detail — full image here)

Tattoo flash sheet by Gus Wagner, ca. 1900

Tattoo flash sheet by Gus Wagner, ca. 1900 (via )


Posted by ben on 24 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: design, tattoo

True Love Map

I just discovered another incredible niche blog, strange maps. Here you’ll find everything from a map tattoo, to a map of New Jersey constructed using only Bruce Springsteen lyrics, to a speculative historical map of Australia. I’m also grateful to strange maps for turning me onto Cartographismes, a French blog dedicated to reproducing the lovely and intriguing imaginary cartographies of its author.

Ink Dragons

Posted by ben on 23 Jan 2007 | Tagged as: tattoo

I’ve long considered tattoo flash sheets to be fascinating art objects. With their repetition of similar or related images, they often riff on visual themes in a quite poetic way. These dragons by E. C. Kidd (dated 1912), for instance, chart a conceptually nebulous course between the serpent and the bird. For the artist, the various permutations of the dragon flesh out the significance of the image as a psychic construct. As each drawing (potentially) expands the concept, the mind is able to approach the problems posed by the image from new angles. It becomes, ultimately, a cycle of creative expansion, traditionally symbolized by the ouroboros. For the tattoo patron, the hundreds of sheets lining the walls of the shop convey the frenetic atmosphere of a bazaar, and discourage contemplation of the individual pieces. Yet the customer will presumably choose one image to be imprisoned in his skin. In a way it’s like going to the pound and trying to pick a puppy to nurture while hundreds of dogs stare at you through steel bars. But in another, probably more significant way, combing through tattoo flash could be compared to sifting through dreams to find that rare image that is a passageway to deeper meaning. I don’t think it coincidental that traditional tattoo imagery is often as violent and raw as the most disturbing manifestations of the id; but it should not be forgotten that these images also often embody a deep spiritual awareness (demonstrated, I think, by Kidd’s dragons). These artists paint and repaint archetypal creatures and sirens onto the skin of people who are willing to absorb quite a bit of pain and expense in order to transform themselves in some way through an image. And no one, neither the artist nor the one being marked, really knows what this transformation entails. The ink is pushed into the skin, the image is pushed into the spirit — and the process of digesting this image is one of mystery and faith. So the composition of these sheets of tattoo flash, and their installation in the shops, plays an important role in encouraging an unconscious selection of images. As the psychic projection then becomes manifest, the boundary between spirit and flesh is transgressed.