For this ghoulish installment of Why That Tat, we crashed an early Day of the Dead party at the Morbid Anatomy Museum.
This is a pair conjoined skeleton siamese twins, each holding snakes. They are battling each other. It’s my Day of the Dead 2009 souvenir! I have always been interested in medical history and anatomy. When I was attending university in Paris, I use to take my lunch breaks in this old anatomy museum that had medical specimens like two headed babies and fetuses. The specimens had this bizarre connection to the history of health and, I don’t know, there’s something really special about them. Some people collect them, and I can’t afford them. And since I have been traveling a lot, I can’t take a lot with me, but tattoos I can take with me everywhere I go.
[My first tattoo] was from Seth Stefari in Baltimore, Maryland. I was about 18. He was actually friends with my boyfriend who died. This tattoo was in memory of him. They were really good friends and they got me into tattoos. Seth did it so I will always remember them. One night we did acid together and we were looking at the stars and the moon. It was pretty trippy, I was hallucinating a lot. We were just staring at the moon and the stars and clouds and it was a really magical event, but also kinda scary, if that makes any sense?
I got my gnome about three years ago. It’s based off an old nickname my cousin use to call me and it kinda stuck. His name is Grimble Grumble, from the Pink Floyd song. At the time [of the tattoo] I was working at a wine shop and the gnome nickname had become my nickname there. There was that affiliation. I also started collecting garden gnomes, so there was that affiliation as well. I started to embrace it. I like the aesthetic of gnomes, the concept behind them — hard working individuals.
I was inspired by the Tower of London, with the image of the tower in the back. The biggest image is the raven — there are always ravens living at the Tower of London. There has to be a flock them there at all times and if there isn’t the correct number at any given time, legend says that the kingdom will fall. There is a raven master who works at the tower and makes sure the ravens are safe and healthy. The skull represents beheading. I didn’t try to be morbid or anything. I visited the Tower of London with my cousins whom I haven’t seen in 15 or 16 years. Through genealogical research, my cousin Julie found out that the family is related to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard who were both imprisoned and executed at the Tower of London.
The artist’s name is Shane Enholm. He’s an old Hollywood punk rocker, he played with bands that played with the Circle Jerks and was really hooked into that crowd. He actually left that crowd in the 80’s because he was also a bank robber, nicknamed the Ponytail Bandit. While serving time in prison he consorted with members of the Manson family, playing in a band with and tattooed Bobby Beausoleil. I think it was a dragon. And he also tattooed me, which is cool.
I got this in January at Beaver Tattoo out in Woodhaven. I was having a manic crisis living from sublet to sublet and having been single for almost a year and almost losing my mind. I like bones and skulls and there’s a horse on the other side of my arm that everyone thinks is a unicorn anyway. It’s a clean white skull with a rainbow-candy-colored horn. To me it looks just like those rainbow candy sticks. I got one for Christmas when I was a kid and I hid it under my bed and ate one knot every month or so. I was insane about saving candy. That’s what it reminds me of, but also people like to call it my dead gay unicorn, and that works too!
I was 20. I was in Montana and had been thinking about [getting a tattoo] for a year. Growing up we used horses for hunting and we had mules for packing so I think that’s where I found my love for them. [The tattoo] is for the first horse that I ever had and when I first got her there were a lot of moments when I was angry and fearful. [“A horseman should know neither fear, nor anger”] reminds me to overcome those emotions every time I’m working with a new horse.
Interviews were condensed and edited for continuity.