By Danielle Marie Hurren
If inked women are punk rock or radical, then they only are in the sense that art on skin brandishes a self-narrative and story which is non-discretionary, and so at odds with traditional femininity, that it really does deserve its own individual event, separate and apart from May’s main Tattoo Convention of Rome. The All-Female Tattoo Artist Exhibition of Rome, now in its second year running and taking place last weekend at Fiera di Roma, offered a prime example of the way that it is the stronghold of being open with stories and self-narrative which gives the inked body the appearance of strength. And which in the alternative culture of body ink, has been too often misconstrued as machoism.
The fact is that it is not a macho talent at all, the strength that is necessary to tell your own story. It is the strength that it takes to own everything about yourself, and a little talent for opportunistic exhibitionism, the very same as that which is capitalised on by the art of the streets. And yet, of course, tattooing the skin is not the same as the act of writing on an urban wall, for it is the skin itself here which is playing a key role in the use of a blank space to capture your voice. And inking the skin is like graffitiing on the exterior of your house. And then knowing that you will live inside its exterior forever. Quite contradictory to the way that decorum and modesty have long been the highest goal in the art of being feminine.
And this is what has always kept the art of the tattoo as a counter to traditional female culture which has demanded both prettiness and discretion. For while body art can certainly be beautiful, it is not discreet. Instead, what it is, is a glorious and contradictorily immodest covering up of skin and body. And whether this takes place in the design of geometrics or film characters, or even flower designs, the body artwork which was tattooed during the two-day exhibition was the work and design of exclusively women.
And so, they certainly showed quite brilliantly how the feminine can be curve balled in the design of a rose flower tattooed on a woman’s upper arm during the two-day exhibition. The design, by artist, Jessica Verza, herself a Roman based artist, was an image of a rose in ink, black and white and in monochrome on a woman’s skin and made the rose itself seem like counterculture. A counter rose, typically one of the most iconic images of femininity is made radical by appearing on the skin. The counterculture way in which to be feminine and to be a woman.
And this is where a whole culture of ink was made feminine, not because someone has chosen the image of a sweet rose from the female section of the tattoo book, but because it was the female body itself being inked. And a female artist herself who was doing the inking. And yet of course, the design themselves to be seen throughout the exhibition were the work of female artists, and as such, concerned with female themes.
The artwork showed the way that self-expression can be inhibited in a uniquely feminine way, such as in the artwork of the phases of the moon as they run down a woman’s back. Starting off with the new moon growing as it waxes to full and then wanes; the depiction of a planetary body which has a great effect on the body of a woman.
Therefore, what ‘The Other Side’ All Female Tattoo Convention of Rome offered was a unique chance to see the other side of an alternative culture which has previously been somewhat monopolised through a misunderstanding that the bravery of tattooing the body was bravado and something of a world belonging to the man; to masculine strength and power. Rather, the event truly was there to demonstrate how, ultimately, to be a person involved in the art of tattoo and inking the body, is to consider the covering of the body as less of a skin, and more of a scape. Just as a street artist would consider the city surfaces a scape, so does body art understand that the bodies covering can be a skinscape; not just a place of functionality, but an environment, a place where boldness with self-narration and a really strong ability to show what it is you love and that you are.
And so, while women may represent another side to this, they are ultimately not on the other side of the ability to use and love this blank space of the body to represent themselves and to have the bravado to be opportunistic with vocalisations, to use the skin as one of the blank spaces which can easily be spoken on.