Alternative Mark making


Buck and Julia Gnuse Most Tattooed Woman

I was reading an article about 55-year-old Californian Julia Gnuse, a woman who has 95 per cent of her body covered in art.  She has acquired more than 400 tattoos on her body including the Beatles and the Cast of Bewitched.  Julia who suffered from a skin disease  began  visiting a tattooist weekly and is now in the Guinness book of records. 

 The urge to decorate our bodies is strong within us.  As warriors, tattoos were a badge of belonging –  to a tribe though ironically they are now seen as a badge of individuality.  The actual act of being tattooed can  be undergone as a rite of passage or for spiritual purposes, rank, fertility, talismans – lots of reasons. 


 In the past tattoos were used to mark an outcast, a criminal, ‘ownership’ of fellow-men –  slaves and to mark victims of  the Holocaust.

Some tattoos can be very colourful and are art forms in their own right.  When I decided to write about tattoos, my first thought was about the artist who actually uses tattoos in his work – Wim Delvoye.

Wim Delvoye pigs

This Belgian artist’s work is highly controversial and has caused much debate in the past because he tattoos animals.  In 1992 he started to tattoo dead pigs.  By 1997 he began to progress this idea by using the pigs as ‘Piggy banks’ literally.  He tattooed live pigs much to the outrage of the media.  The pigs were sedated and tattooed, the tattoos growing and changing with the pigs.  Art buyers then bought the pigs…… and their skins.

There is something strange about this form of art to say the least and I can’t perceive what the artist is trying to get across in their work – apart from the obvious shock value.   Delvoye has done other projects which involves the stuffing of the pigs.  Not for me I’m afraid or for the faint hearted……

Wim Delvoye’s website

Brief history of Tattoos here

Article here

Info about Julia Gnuse and lots of tattoos here

Tribal Tattoo image from here

4 Responses to “Alternative Mark making”

  1. artistatexit0 Says:

    I have a problem when animals are used in this way to “create art”. I suppose the artist might be pointing out that we already tattoo animals with serial numbers and other signs of ownership? But in general, I don’t care to be provoked in this way. As for people getting tattoos…I often wonder what their designs are going to look like as their bodies age and everything starts responding to gravity. Why make things that permanent? Use more temporary materials and you can change your look with the times and your current physical conditioning.

  2. I have to agree Al, the ‘art’ is not for me. Banksy only painted his pigs and there was outrage. This is permanant. I have nothing against tattoos on other people, but they’re not for me. What I like today, would not necessaruly be what I would like tomorrow – I don’t like the idea of the permanancy.

  3. artistatexit0 Says:

    How do you feel about societies that co-opt on the cultural practices of other groups? Many of the tribal motifs originally had genuine meaning. Isn’t one of the ills of the West…it’s inability to generate its own authentic vision?

  4. I did an essay about subcultures once, For example how the drape jacket of the Edwardian was tranformed into the ‘uniform’ of the ‘Teddy boy’ of the 50’s and the Zoot suit of the jazz scene of the late 30s and featured in riots. There are two excellent books ‘Subculture’ and Hiding in the Light’ that examine hegemony and its implications.
    Take the swastika for example – originally a good luck symbol, a sun, a Greek cross…now associated with the Holocaust.
    original meaning becomes what society makes it I guess. I take your point though, I suppose it depends on the intent or purpose of the wearer. hopefully they will interested in the history and the associations of the design – though I think the actual chosen image will overrule this:)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s