Love. Love. Love. Love.
This is an amazing piece.
I see a blank, grayish, tannish background, darkening, turning blue at the bottom. It glows, halo-like, around the subjects head. There is a yellow nimbus that grows brighter the more you stare at it. Is this an optical effect? Doesn’t matter. It is wonderful.
The black hair. Slicked in the front. The defiant but relaxed eyes. The whitish glow on the brow, around the eyelids, the cheeks. The shot seems timeless, overexposed not because of a problem with aperture but because of the flight of shadow.
Blank. Blank. Bright.
Then at the bottom of the frame, the joke of the orange-yellow-green candy-cane striped trousers. Fun. Funny. Follow the subject’s black hairy “treasure trail” — ha! — up from the crotch, under the folded arms, to the chest. It spreads like a branching tree. The nectarine nipples, dancing, afloat, on the pale skin, like fruit.
And the tattoos. Love. Love. Love. Love.
Is this Karen Allen? Margaret Kidder? I am tempted to look further — at the artist’s website — to find out. But I think it is more enjoyable, more productive, to resist. Is it a girlfriend? A movie star? Are these tattoos actually on some black-haired man, or purely an imaginative leap by the artist?
Most of all, this repetition of a woman’s face (women’s faces? I think it’s the same one but I’m not totally sure…) is profound. It makes me think of the Kafka story In the Penal Colony of course. Love in its variety, at various times of day, the quantifiable DNA of this woman, this face, this force, this fathomless mystery of another person, pierced in blood and ink into the man’s skin. Jammed into pink spaces. Nectarine, apricot. The face in the center of the tree — mystical, a burning bush. The wide-mouthed face (yelling? yawning?) on his left shoulder. Holding a bat, threatening, on his his right forearm. Flirting, a twisted strand of hair, on his right shoulder. Poking up, with a bun, from his privates. It makes you desperately want to see his back. What is there? The same girl? What representations of her (our) humanity lurk on his shoulder blades? At the small of his back?
Love as obsession. Love as devotion. Love as fandom. As blood sacrifice. As madness. Why is it ever anything less than this? Why do we not all walk around every day with tattoos of our lovers’ faces on our chests, our arms, our wrists? Creeping out from our hidden places?
These tattoos make tattoos speak to me for the first time. I usually write them off as pseudo-statements. Tramp stamps of roses. Little messages. Even Kaepernick’s exhortations and God-fearing splendor — it doesn’t feel genuine. But this! This is tattooing not for others but for the tattooed! This isn’t even for Karen Allen/Margaret Kidder/mystery woman, just as pouring wine in the sea isn’t really for Poseidon, lighting a candle isn’t really for Mother Mary — this is an act IN THE WORLD by one man, the man of dark slicked hair and a defiant gaze, arms crossed, striped pants, sexy despite his odd slippery physique because he knows what he wants. Do I? Do you?
Post script: Okay. I looked. It’s Shelley Duvall.
The work, the artist? Hello, I’m Shelley Duvall. (2011) by Matt Momchilov.