Friday, June 27, 2008

An Elaborate Sugar Skull Reminds Chris That Death is Part of the Fabric of Life

Last Friday, I did my civic duty and served jury duty for Kings County Supreme Court. We were assembled and shown a video. They collected our cards and the first group of 30 citizens were called. I was among them. A court officer walked us several blocks to a different building. We passed through the lobby and broke into small groups to enter the elevators up to the 19th floor. In the elevator, I noticed I was standing next to a guy with with sleeves rolled up to mid-forearm. His right arm had an amazing sugar skull tattooed on it.

As luck would have it, the tattooed individual sat next to me on a bench outside a courtroom while we waited. And waited. And waited. Fortunately, we had something to talk about: tattoos (with a little surfing thrown in).

Chris and I talked for over an hour. Then, we were dismissed. No longer needed. Three hours of jury duty rather than three days. Since my camera had to be checked by security at the main courthouse, Chris walked back with me and let me take a couple of shots of his sugar skull.

This tattoo was inked by Adam Hays at Red Rocket Tattoo. There have been many sugar skulls posted here, but this one is among the most intricately done. The detail is phenomenal.

Chris, who is heavily inked, values this tattoo because the sugar skull's symbolism reflects the fact that he doesn't like to mourn death. It is a part of the natural cycle of life, and this piece helps him deal with life's problems.

He followed up with an e-mail expanding on his philosophy:

"...In my childhood/teenage years, a lot of close friends and family passed away in a short period of time - and yes - I was devastated, but couldn't just tie myself up in the mourning process, because that's what people do - they live and they die. And when I was first introduced to the concept of the sugar skull and it's meaning, [I came to understand] it's really all about embracing the power of death into the fabric of life. The symbolism of the sugar skull to me is kind of a way of transforming the painful 'miseries' of death into a source of nurturing and internal strength. It's a way for me to cherish my fallen dead and a way for their memory to live on in me (or, on me, for that matter). In any case, I feel that it's kind of ingrained in our culture that we need to feel grief and despair when someone dies, but you don't always have to follow the trend. The sugar skull is a way to remember, honor, and feel closer to the dead. And that's what it reminds me of each time I see it."

For prior posts with sugar skulls, click here.

For prior posts with work from Red Rocket Tattoo, click here.

Thanks to Chris for sharing his Sugar Skull tattoo here on Tattoosday!

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