Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Details of the mysterious tattoo I will never get

Tonight I was rummaging in very old emails looking for something else, when I came upon these images kindly sent to me by a very nice friend of a friend. I requested them to share with my buddy Chris Dingwell, a decorated tattooist of Portland, Maine, back when I still harbored the fantasy that I would one day get a tattoo.

This is what I wanted to have tattooed, probably on my upper left arm. Probably not all of the figure; probably only the imagery around the torso - the spectacular vision of what I take to be a frog, upside down on a woman's belly with (I take it) its tongue lapping at her sex.

I'm not into bestiality, in case you wondered, nor particularly kinky in any respect. But I do have utmost respect for the power and mystery of sex, and in particular female sexuality, and this image speaks to me of those mysteries in ways I can't comprehend and could never express.

That's one reason I would like to have it tattooed onto my body. I can confidently project a lifetime of looking at this image without ever figuring out everything it has to teach me.

I also have a thing for frogs. Oddly, for a blogging exhibitionist who has been carrying on about sexuality, I consider it private why I am into frogs. I will say that I follow American Indian spiritual beliefs and that Frog has been identified as my totem animal and this connection has been ratified in my life over and over again.

Also, the appraiser told the kindly friend of a friend that this figure is standing on a whale head. I didn't get that at a glance, but it connects with me as well. Whale also was identified as a totem animal for me, though I am awed and overwhelmed by that connection and probably hide and flee from it. Frog seems more my size, more my style.

The origin of the piece was identified as "Northwest coast female figure, possibly Salish." I happen to be headed out to old Salish country tomorrow, for a journalism conference in Seattle. Having stumbled upon these cherished images tonight, I will remain open to learning more about them, maybe even more about the Salish people, while I am visiting their old stomping grounds.

It's not the highest form of scholarship, but I started tonight with good old Wikipedia, and I really like the succinct summary of Salish beliefs:

Belief in guardian spirits and transmutation between human and animal were widely shared in myriad forms. The relations of soul or souls, the lands of the living and the dead, were complex and mutable.
That definitely describes my religion.

It's a different story, and a long one, how I came upon this sculpture and why it stuck with me all of these years - and yet another story why I will probably never get a tattoo. Though that story is short: because somebody who looks at my body more than I do begged me not to get one.

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