Thanks Memoir Tattoo

Art drives my life and keeps me going. I think about art all the time, in the fashion of making art, being with artists, collecting art, being a work of art. Art is everything and my childhood and my adulthood combined. I grew up around painters wanting to be like them, wanting to get tattooed like them and I am now in the company of the most extraordinary artists in the world and I feel I grew up right, and I think my 14 year old self would have thought I was cool as fuck now and I am proud of that.

I fall in love with everyone who has paint and ink and glue splatters on their pants and tattoos all over their arms. When I see heavily tattooed arms, I know that I will be held, not necessarily literally, but in an abstract emotional way. Tattooed arms draw me in close and we don’t even have to be touching. The affection hangs in the air. I love heavily tattooed folks. We are together a country, a nation.

The men and women who worked for my dad, who essentially raised me, were getting full body suits from Ed Hardy (my first tattooer) and Bill Salmon in the 80s – the revolutionary tattoo artists who changed it all and elevated the bloody pastime of sailors and Hell’s Angels to the category of fine art.

My search for my own revolutionary tattoo artists has brought me into the most rarified circles – lately spending days in renown studios belonging to Mr Cartoon, Kim Saigh, Eddy Deutsche, James Spencer Briggs, Craig Jackman and Shawn Barber. I am lucky beyond anything I could have wished for, anything that ‘The Secret’ could manifest. And of course I thank god every day for what I get to do, see, be.

Usually i get tattooed in 3 year cycles, stopping for three years and then starting again and then stopping. This is my 3rd time around. For the tattoo growth spurt, I get a lot of tattoos, with multiple sessions, with my beloved artists. We see each other constantly and the process of getting tattooed by them feels like a fun night out with friends, except it’s a night in – a night in their fantastically imagined and then made real spaces. Every session is memorable, the pain of the bloodletting releasing endorphins that surpass any recreational drug. The breaking of my skin to permanently embed images is a transcendental experience. I am high like the sky for hours afterwards. I feel like i am getting taller, still growing, like recurrent dreams I would have during my formative years, of falling and falling. I am falling backwards into bliss like a Nestea plunge.

Memoir Tattoo is the site of many miracles happening. It is like Lourdes or Varanasi or Mecca. I come to Memoir Tattoo and I am transformed as if i had bathed in The Ganges. I always leave their spacious, airy studio feeling like I have realized more of myself, I am coming closer to who I am truly meant to be. These tattoos were always on my skin. These gifted artists are allowing me to bring these lush adornments to the surface, and I am ever so grateful.

Nathan Kostechko, the wunderkind who tattooed the immortal and much admired phoenix on my left arm years ago now works at Memoir, so this is yet another good sign that I have come to the right place. What Kim, Shawn, Nate and Spencer draw on my skin creates and recreates me. Brendan Rowe, yet another amazing artist at Memoir and i have dates booked to do outlines, and I am so elated, having stumbled upon what i consider to be the Justice League – seriously these guys are the superheroes of tattooing (lovely Kim is Wonder Woman obviously, Shawn is Superman, Brendan is the Green Hornet, Nate is Plasticman and Spencer is Aquaman because allegedly he puts aquaphor in his hair) and to be able to call them my friends – that is the greatest brag of all time.

I came to the studio yesterday with a colorful kimono birthday gift bag waiting for me. Kim had gotten me macaron (delicious and of course they were almost gone by the time i got home so I gave my husband one of them and an empty plastic sleeve, yum) and a beautiful red leather writing journal with a sacred heart emblazoned on the front! It’s so pretty I am scared to write in it, but I know that to write in this gorgeous thing is to remind myself constantly that my thoughts have real and honest value.

Shawn gave this painting to me for my 43rd birthday, and it took all my might not to burst into tears at the sight of it. The compassion I see in every stroke of his brush makes me cry. When i look at this painting, I can actually feel my soulmate hovering around me – my precious dead dog Ralph – the true owner of my heart – I can almost touch him again, pet him again – what i wish for the most is to pet him one last time, like i used to do when i was late for something. I would look at him watching me rush around and try to leave the house, holding me in the rich red brown stare of his root beer eyes, and no matter how late i was i would always have to take a moment to love him up, feeling the silky fur of his chest between my fingers. I feel the warmth of his great big dog body and I remember lying on the floor holding him as he died, our bodies like two ‘c’s together, one enveloping the other, uppercase and lowercase. The heat of him radiating into the heat of me.

Shawn’s painting recalls a good time in that dog’s awesome life. I look at it and I remember when he was healthy, when he was so robust and bursting with life that I had to make deals with other dog owners at the dog park to help me catch him because he was fast and strong and I couldn’t run as fast as his exuberant young shepherd mix body did. That dog taught me to treasure the feeling of being alive, and now that he is dead I feel I must live harder just for him. Feel it. Appreciate it. Love it. Like I love art. And Shawn’s painting brings Ralph back to life. I am humbled by his talent and generosity. He gave me my dog back. He raised Ralph from the dead like Lazarus resurrected from the tomb and this is the power of art. This is what art should do. Art is life. 

ralph-watercolor- Shawn Barber

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