Won’t be Erased:
The Permanence and Significance of Body Art and Modification in the Queer Community
May 6 – June 30, 2019
The Great Room Gallery | Gallery Hours: Tue. – Thr., 3:00 – 6:00p
New Haven Pride Center, 84 Orange Street, New Haven
For many people in our community, tattoos have been a helpful tool in our process of affirming our identities. Sometimes our tattoos refer to the LGBTQ+ identity in a straightforward way. More often than not, they are a way to tell our own personal stories. They are not only empowering affirmations of one’s identity, they are also a way to visibly declare/communicate that we do belong to the LGBTQ+ community.
We also get tattoos that don’t have any direct reference to our LGBTQ+ identity. Regardless of absence of direct reference, these tattoos do still empower us. Because of their permanent nature, tattoos are an act of making a commitment to change one’s body permanently, which is an empowering act by itself. It enables us to reclaim autonomy over our bodies. This sense of autonomy gets emphasized even more due to the fact that tattooing is a conscious decision to subject oneself to pain and trauma in a public place. While pain and trauma cannot always be controlled in other aspects of life, tattooing gives us the space to take ownership of it in a different way, and to make something beautiful from it.
A sociologist Patricia Hill Collins states that self-definition and self-valuation are two ways of resisting oppression. In the heteronormative ciscentric society where we’re permanently otherized/marginalized and our queer bodies are under constant criticism and devaluation, tattoos aid us in forming/strengthening our identity, in our resistance to oppression, and in our survival.
Our work is strongly rooted in our experience as queer people. We want to present art that reflects joys and struggles of queer lives. We’d like people in our community and beyond to see our work and imagine how tattoos empower queer individuals and ultimately enrich queer community and culture.
About the Artists
We’re two queer identified tattoo artists with diverse backgrounds who work together in New Haven. Positioned at an intersection of the LGBTQ+ community and tattoo industry, which traditionally centers white cis heterosexual males, we can’t help but notice how popular tattoos are among the LGBTQ+ population. We do believe tattoos have a special value, position, and significance in the lives of LGBTQ+ people.
Beck (they/their) is a queer & non-binary tattoo artist, illustrator and crafter residing in New Haven, CT. Through their work, Beck aims to illustrate the profundity of simplicity, to highlight the importance of identity while more deeply understanding their own in the process, and to share tender moments of personal and collective joy, sorrow, and everything in between. Beck’s work can be found on Instagram @thestrangestplaces or The Strangest Places by Beck on Facebook.
Sam (she/her) is a tattoo artists who enjoys creating art through many different mediums to spark even more creativity into her tattoos. She is proud and honored to have people wear her art on their bodies for the rest of their lives through tattoos. She currently lives in New Haven and has been working at Body Art & Soul since August 2017. The shop has become instrumental in her finding fulfillment in sharing her art with others. She can be found on instagram at @samjtattoos and Facebook at Sam J Tattoos.