Contemporary Expression

Body Art
July 5, 2006, 6:28 pm
Filed under: Living An Artful Life, The Art Files

Living An Artful Life

I recently got my third tattoo. Yes there is a story behind it. There is always a story behind a tattoo. Before you get one you have to ask yourself; what will it be, where will it be and how big will it be.

Body art can be just the thing for particular situations and I’ve noticed more and more women getting them. Here is a plug for my choice on tat artists: Laura Saadati –of Music City Tattoo on 16th Avenue in Nashville. Tell her I sent you.

A friend of mine who will be named “Princess Pineapple Ala Mode”, for reasons I can’t go into, recently had a conversation about tattoos. For a lot of people it’s like collecting something, some people keep a scrapbook, but other people put a tattoo on their body to mark the passing of time and where they have been.

Body art is delivered by artists that understand the event has importance and meaning to a client and bring their discipline and creativity to the situation in a very personally way. Anytime someone is actually touching you and creating art, it is very important to respect that processes.
My partner Joan got a tattoo as a milestone on her fortieth birthday (I won’t tell you how long ago that was) right after a stay in the hospital for a life saving procedure. She found a symbol meaning ‘life’ and had it put on a Celtic cuff. Symbolizing her Irish and Scottish heritage and tying into her future and celebration that each day is a gift.

The Learning Channel has a program called Miami Ink and the Arts and Entertainment Channel has a program called Inked that are both about the process and worth checking out.

Okay – back to my new tattoo – I got a blue star on the top of my left wrist.

From 1918-1920 there was a group of women suffragists that called themselves the Blue Star Cadets. This alone is a good reason to identify with the blue star! What a wonderful way to connect to women like Alice Paul, Lucy Burns and Susan B. Anthony.

Historically back in the 1940’s and 50’s when women were looking for a symbol to show the ‘love that dare not speak its name’ they would sport a hidden blue star. Often they would get the star tattoo done on the inside or on top of their wrist where it could easily be hidden by a watch during the day but shown off in the evening when out on the town. Today, many lesbians wear the star tattoo to show their connection with their early pioneering sisters.

While searching on the internet I found a little evidence to support my points.
“Here’s the passage (with some pieces dropped) from “Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community” by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeilne D. Davis copyright 1993 p. 189.
(talking about the 1940’s and 1950’s):
“…During this same time period, the cultural push to be identified as lesbians- or at least different- all the time was so powerful that it generated a new form of identification among the tough bar lesbians: a star tattoo on the top of the wrist, which was usually covered by a watch. This was the first symbol of community identity that did not rely on butch-fem imagery. We can trace this phenomenon back to an evening of revelry in the late 1950’s, when a few butches trooped over to “Dirty Dick’s” tattoo parlor on Chippewa Street and had the tiny blue five-pointed star put on their wrists. Later, some of the fems of this group also go the idea one night and did it…The community views the tattoo as a definite mark of identification…”the Buffalo police knew [that] the people that had the stars on their wrist were lesbians and they had their names and so forth. That it was an identity thing with the gay community, with the lesbian community”. The fact that the star tattoo was created by those who were firmly into roles, in fact by the group that was considered the butchy butches and their fems, suggest that the force to assert lesbian identity was strong enough to break through the existing traditions of boldness based in butch-fem roles. The stars presage the methods of identity created by gay liberation. In fact, the mark has become something of a tradition in local circles and has seen a revival since the 1970s.”

Although I didn’t see a lot of blue star flags waiving at Pride parades , further research showed that when the pink triangle made its way over to the United States as a symbol there were many women that chose the blue star instead to avoid using a Nazi Germany symbol of hatred.

As you make your way through your artful life, stop and look at the tattoos around you, get the story, there is always a good one waiting to be told.


1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

I can’t wait to get my tat! I’ve set a new goal of getting it in October for my b-day.

Comment by Jennifer Coomer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: