Author: Kara Mae Adamo.
Okay. I’m coming out of retirement.
Here we go…Dead Things No. 5: Framing Dead People.
I have tattoos.
I love them. Contrary to everything every bigotted “how things are supposed to be” naysayer has said, I have never once regretted a single solitary drop of ink on my skin.
Now, I’m not covered head-to-toe. I will actually be getting my third and fourth tattoos at the end of this month and, with the exception of the sizable daisy dripping its way down my rib cage, none of them are very big. They are, however, very personal. They are small bits of art that allow me to exist as a walking canvas and that notion alone is poetic enough to make me eager to continue gathering them here and there.
Right now I have two: one of them is a small [used to be yellow] rose on the right side of my neck just under my ear. That tattoo is symbolic of my love for my mother. I was always a daddy’s girl and I was unfair about it when I was younger. I claimed my Sicilian heritage and sort of disregarded the other half of my ethnicity. By 19, I realized that I had become hurtful. The yellow rose was my mother’s father’s favorite flower and, after his death, it became the family’s flower. It shows up at weddings and funerals and holidays…and so that tattoo is for her. It’s my tip-of-the-hat to a wonderful person that, for the first nearly 20 years of my life, I was unfair to.
The second is that giant daisy. My mother, my sister, and I all have the same daisy. They put theirs on their foot but, since I have a sort of psychological block about people touching my feet, I put mine on my ribs. They are, with the exception of stem placement, identical.
My third will be a semicolon turned into a butterfly and my fourth will be a scripted phase reading, “Dance in the Chaos.”
All things I will always cherish.
But, as with my initial Dead Things posts so many years ago, I still must beg you all: please, for the love of all that is holy or sacred or whatever, Don’t keep my tattoos.
Burn them with me.
A question for those interested in this…er…practice: Do you keep your scabs?
Are you that guy? The one that took Goldmember’s habits to heart and thought, “yanno…I bet that makes a wicked collection”?
Because, if you are, please tell me…so I can delete you from my Facebook…or my twitter…or my phone…wherever we are connected.
I find it creepy enough when people collect butterflies and pin them behind a frame. Like…that thing used to fly around. It saw stuff and probably had little fluttering opinions about things…and now it matches your wallpaper.
For realzies: stop it.
Obviously, I am bringing this up for one reason and one reason always: people are already doing this.
Let me put this in perspective for you.
When I first got my rose tattoo, I lived at home with my parents.
As it was healing, it would scab over and them the scab would fall off. As you could imagine, since my skin was permanently dyed in that particular area, the scabs were colorful.
One day, to my sadistic delight, an entire green leaf scabbed over and came off intact. It was even in the shape of the leaf and had the line work and everything!!
My dad jumped about three feet when I showed him.
I giggled with glee.
Flaying a dead person and fitting their tattoo behind glass is exactly the same thing. You are torturing them after death and then preserving them. It’s worse than a wax museum.
Although, the notion does beg some questions.
I am curious about the opacity.
Do you cut out a full layer so that the colors are vibrant, or do you only shave them off like the dermatologist does when he’s removing questionable moles? If that’s the case, does that mean that they are transparent and, as such, that light shines through? Could you turn them into little stained glass ornaments? I bet you could make a solid lampshade out of your loved ones after enough of them have passed.
Tiffany Lamps may have met their match.
The former PETA member in me is wondering if some crazy person is willing to make them into cool patches for a jacket or jeans. It’s sort of the same as wearing leather, right? It’s just pre-decorated.
But enough of that: let’s focus on the current trend: fitting them behind glass against a black background as if they are fine art.
In order to preserve my tattoos (which, in case I needed to specify, are on my living skin), I generally use unscented lotion. Technically, when I go out into the sun, I am supposed to use baby suntan lotion because it offers extra protection and prevents the ink from fading out compared to the rest of my skin. If you are keeping the dead person’s skin, do you continue to, (pardon me, but I can’t help the reference) put the lotion on the skin? Do you use Aveeno? If you’re about to move and you’re transporting the skin during daylight hours, do you apply Coppertone? What SPF is recommended for dead skin? What if it shrivels up like the old people at the beach?
Which brings me to the next topic:
Recently, my parents came to visit me. While we ate dinner, they tuned into The Antique’s Road Show. Some of the stuff on there looks like complete garbage, but it’s worth a lot of money. A lot of different things go into such an appraisal. For one thing, if the piece is in good shape, it is worth a lot more. If the Scab Art is shriveled up, does that mean it’s worth less money, or does that mean it’s older and thus worth more? I assume that, provided said Scab Art is from a famous person, it would be worth more…but what if the tattoo was in bad shape at the time of death? Does that prove authenticity and then, converse to any original train of thought, raise the price? Do they run DNA tests?
Many tattoos are garbage artistically speaking. If the image was not a part of your loved one’s skin, would you still frame it? If the answer is no, then I need you to rethink your reasoning. What you are really doing is keeping their skin.
Look up the episode of Dexter called Finding Freebo. It’s from the third season…I think it’s like the second episode or something. You, skin collector, are Freebo. And you’re Goldmember. All of that.
But, then again, despite being a professional artist, I seldom have any grasp on current market trends. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s a prerequisite for the job. Perhaps there will be Dead People Tattoo exhibits soon…in which case a whole other topic comes into play:
Do you offer a small index card off to the side detailing the artist, the skin’s former owner, and the date of death?
What if you don’t know the meaning behind the tattoo? Is it up to interpretation? Do you place a quote from the dead person?
There are so many genres. I could open a whole museum. Can you imagine curating the show?
Do tattoo screw-ups have their own category?
Will tramp stamps and arm bands of fake tribal crap and Koi fish on arms be less in-demand because they are so popular?
What about those terrible attempts at portraits? Will they be considered kitchy in that B-movie way and, thus, more sought-after? If you can provide the original photograph, will that up the price the way a signature does? Or is it like when I write a note in the books I sign…making the tattoo too personal and, thus, lowering the value?
Here I thought I would just have to live with my tattoos until I drop. Now I really am a walking canvas…fresh and ready for me to kick it so I can be hung on a wall.
Ooo! I know!! I’ll get realistic looking butterfly tattoos. Then, when my future children have them cut out of my arm or whatever, they can put them behind glass and can just tell people they collect butterflies. Now they won’t seem like such complete and utter creepers.
There. I fixed it.
As always, in case you guys think I’m full of it, here is the link: