Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jan 17, 2006

Body Art

I have never really seen any esthetic value in tattoos, body piercings, and the various other strange things people will do to themselves for decoration. It's not because of the discomfort involved, but because such adornments are almost universally ugly. In my mind, decoration exists for the purpose of making something pleasing to the eye, not disturbing. Two completely different sets of esthetic rules apply depending on which of these ideas you adopt.

A pleasant, attractive decoration should appear as a part of the person it decorates, such as an elegant pair of earrings that just finish your ensemble, or a tattoo that accentuates the natural play of shadow and light across your back.

Piercings that make you look like the victim of an unfortunate industrial accident are not attractive. They are so distracting that I don't even recognize the people I know that have piercings when they happen not to be wearing them. A friend of mine once mentioned that he has an almost uncontrollable urge to grab hold of them and pull them off. I can certainly sympathize. If you must pierce, stick with one pair of holes in your ears or something simple like that. Personally, I haven't even bothered with that much after stories of vicious infections and having earrings catch on things.

Tattoos are another story. Many I've seen are works of art in their own right . . . on a completely inappropriate canvas. Works of art are meant for display; you put them somewhere and they stay there so that the entire piece can be contemplated as a whole. With tattoos, you can't do this, because your body is in constant motion; the tattoo shifts angles, deforms, is covered up or otherwise only partially visible a lot of the time. It's decoration. A good test of a tattoo is, do you have to refocus your eyes to take it in? If so, I consider it an unattractive tattoo.

Words and meaningful symbols are right out; if you want to show off your ideas, wear it on a t-shirt. At least then you can take it off when you don't feel like telling everyone that they can go *#@& themselves anymore.

My personal advice would be to pick a warm brown ink (if there is such a thing) and do a nice abstract pattern; you'll look more like a human being and less like an alien or a member of the Blue Man Group. You might even manage to look like a tasteful human being, which is actually no mean feat.


david said...

Amen...I am amazed at how many tattoos are just plain ugly and almost painful to look at.

EdMcGon said...

Your "industrial accident" comment had me rolling! So very true.