Chicken or Egg?

After the recent blitz at all the surf and skate stores, mexican markets, japanese art shows and street art, the question poses itself: "where does all this skull and death imagery stem from? what drives it? where is the imagery from?". I originally thought that the inspiration was from the Day of the Dead imagery but the more exposure I got to this style, the more I came to understand that this imagery came from tattoos. Tattoos have spun these images and these images have taken the tattoos beyond the skin. Tattoo artists have been inspired by the images requested by their clients and the communities they come from--spanish, mexican, kar kulture, bikers, christian hard core, military. Originally people who got tattoos were either military or hard core (in the case of the general populace). Native cultures have great tattoos--but our American imagery comes from a very low brow, personal expression of community. Then when you think of the daily aesthetic that surround southern Californians, all sorts of exotica from the mix of cultures and influences which is alien to anyone other than S. Californians. And stir in a strong dose of all the military bases with people who have travelled all around the world and have commemorated events and people in their lives through marking their bodies permanently.

Tattoos drive the teeshirts where one can wear a tattoo on your clothes on top of the tattoos one has on one's body. Tattoos somehow make more sense in Southern California where it never gets too cold to surf, to skate or to wear sleeves--and the permanent tattoos somehow seem the most integrated with style, lifestyle and the focus on being outside, on the beach, on the street,in the sunlight. Tattoos are a form of clothing for some--a way of either expressing themselves and as a way of being distinct even in the surf. Tattoo artists are often lead the transition beyond the skin. 

Ed Hardy (Don Ed Hardy) has partnered with a french entrepeneur, Christian Audiger (who it turns out was the driving force behind the Von Dutch line of clothes, hat etc). This Audiger has created the standard--tees, caps and now cosmetics, an energy drink and custom motorcycles and choppers. From hearing about the creation of the Aqua VI line, much of the imagery is inspired by tattoos--with the line being created for post surfing and skating--essentially, what does one wear to the taco stand? on a date? It all seems to make sense--so in the world of the chicken and the egg, the tattoo came first. Then the gear, then the tees, and it keeps going. End of the chain is the nutty china (seen above), or rhinestone shoe ornament on a pretty dumb shoe. Now that there is tattoo decorated china--where does it go?

I was intrigued that Murakami began bringing skulls into his work with the happy flower image dropped into it's eyes. It seemed out of context with the rest of his work. The other skulls etc. except those in the mexican markets do not point to a statement about mortality or ancestor or any of the heavy mojo I am trying to bring to my stuff. Maybe I can give myself a little space to lighten up a bit. Maybe?

Read more about Ed Hardy, his team of artists and his studio, Tattoo City>>

Need to dive deep into this. This has tooth albeit it is really not my world. Great resource and inspiration.

Clifton Carter