As much as I submit to using them, I hate stereotypes. I daily combat my mental ability to slip into faulty judgments about people based on their clothing choices, ethnicity, background, etc. I am instantly afraid when a big white van drives up behind me. I fight the tendency to speak loudly when I give directions to an elderly person. I hold my bag more closely when I am passed by a ‘rough’ looking man.
I battle for the vision to see people with pure eyes… to ignore the tainted view society has placed on certain types of people.
In Sunday School a few weeks ago we talked about the tendency we have to look at one another through stereotypes, and let our fears allow us to judge others without justification. A few questions were raised. ‘What if you invited a woman to church and she asked what to wear? You told her to wear a nicer outfit. She showed up in a halter top and mini skirt. What would you think? What would those around you think? Would you care if she sat beside you?’
A following question was asked… ‘How would you feel if a guy covered in tattoos showed up in church?’ Would you give him a few second glances? Cast a judgmental glare his way?
I was sort of confused at this question because I have no precautions about people with tattoos. I don’t personally know lots of people with tattoos and I wouldn’t say they are something that my childhood community greatly accepts, but I’ve always found them interesting. In the same way that people are compelled to pierce their ears, dye their hair, wear individualistic clothing, tattoos are a form of self representation, self description and self identification. The threat of the permanence they have is a heavy caution. However, there is a weight in significance that comes with the permanence as well.
The image above is one I created by overlapping two fiddlehead fern outlines and adjusting their image size. I printed it out and brought it to Macon, where we met up with some good friends for a day and spent a few hours in a pretty eccentric place- a tattoo and piercing shop.
First, my tattoo artist drew my image onto a transparent piece of paper. After approving the drawing with me he put a layer of ink on the other side of the piece. This ink he transfered to my skin to use as the outline for my design.
Then he got to work. He outlined the entire design first. Harder for the artist, this part really solidifies the quality of the design. Easier for me, the outlining isn’t too painful, however being so close to my ankle and foot bones it was strange to feel the vibrations of the motor throughout my leg.
Then set to filling in the design. Easier for the artist, this part resembles coloring book fun. Harder for me, this part is prreetttyyy painful. Best way to describe it? Like someone pulling a needle through your skin… not really kidding…
45 minutes later…all done! Obviously this needed some cleaning up and it takes a week or so for the damaged skin to peel and the permanent layer to show.
Fiddleheads are young ferns. Unfurled and unopened, they take on a unique shape before revealing themselves as a mature plant. Fiddleheads can be harvested for food. Sustainable growing and harvesting methods make them an environmentally friendly crop. Fiddleheads are also often recognized for their resemblance to musical ornamentation, specifically the fiddle.
Meaning; I’m growing, changing, maturing. I’m in love with the natural world and use my camera to reflect on the beauty of Creation. I am passionate about sustainable food and environmental stewardship. Folksy fiddle music soothes my soul.
This act of self expression seeks to break down social stereotypes.
I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t consider me someone likely to get a tattoo. Now that I have one, what kind of person does that make me?
A bad one? A good one?
One seeking to define herself? Or one seeking to build bridges to connect people who appear to be different from myself?
My personal acts of inspiration and the meaning behind this permanent work of art on my body might not be something you completely understand. But I am a part of this world, and this world is a canvas. We were created to view and paint and create and live in acts of expression.
Expressions of love, pain, beauty, frustration, wonder, awe, understanding, delight, praise, peace, contentment and restoration.
The only things in my life that compatibly exists with this grand universe are the creative works of the human spirit.