FULL BACK PIECE BY JEFF GOGUE
In 2012 I began working with Jeff Gogue at Off the Map Tattoo as a shop manager. At the time I had minimal exposure to the world of tattooing and over the months and years I had many experiences and came into contact with countless artists of whom had helped to shape my understanding of what tattoos and tattoo culture could be. One aspect that stood out and appealed to me in a profound way was large scale work covering vast areas of the body. The kind of imagery that could be seen from a distance with subject matter so large that there was no mistake as to what the viewer was seeing.
Shortly after I began working with Jeff he had started focusing primarily on large scale work and after seeing a few full back, full torso and even some full body projects begin, I knew that I wanted something of that scale and caliber covering my body. We discussed my idea of The Green Woman, a mythological protector of the woods who uses trickery and seduction to lure destroyers of the forest away from their havoc only to maim, murder, or devour them for their atrocious behavior. The Green Woman is of the forest and often cloaked in forest creatures, woodland trinkets, and the bounty of nature's beauty. The raven and fox skull which adorn her symbolize her trickster nature, her goat horn representing the dark and felonious side of her otherwise sweet and gorgeous outward appearance. I've always enjoyed this myth and felt a kinship with the qualities that represent these stories. We set the first appointment, which was no short wait, and I patiently abided my time in anticipation while familiarizing myself even more so with the whole process as I was fortunate enough to watch Jeff work on such pieces on a daily basis.
The day had finally arrived, simultaneously nervous yet confident, anxious but with a still and stoic calmness washing over me, I let go. I immediately gave in to the process and allowed it to take me where it needed me to go. I had no interest in controlling or influencing this experience, I simply wanted to experience it for it's own sake. I wanted to learn from it, to feel it, to know it and to give myself into it completely. This wasn't to be a journey that belonged to me, it was a journey that countless others had taken before me and of which many will take after, a journey I was simply a part of, something larger than just me and my tattoo. It's a concept I struggle to articulate, but of those who have partaken in this journey, many seem to have this sense of knowing and belonging to this larger experience that transcends us as individuals.
Over the course of almost 3 years working on this project I experienced many peaks, plains, and plateaus. At times I trudged through the burden of a treacherous mental and emotional landscape, hanging on by just a thread as the pain in some areas became excruciatingly difficult to manage. I tapped into previously untouched and unknown aspects to my own inner being as I felt the needles jab into my skin over and over, ad infinitum. I often left having what I would describe as a deeply spiritual experience, not always in a positive manner, but moving nonetheless. Many times I battled with my own self will, conquered inner demons, and learned a bit about mind over matter. I've left sessions feeling a sense of doom for no good reason, and I've left feeling more accomplished and renewed than I had previously known, as well as everything in between and outside of that spectrum. I have learned a great deal about patience, dedication, and prowess. I am both honored and humbled to have gone through this experience.
While I look forward to taking a little break from getting tattooed after having completed such a grand project, with great anticipation I am also eager to begin filling in the empty spaces of my body, to work towards a personal sense of wholeness in becoming tattooed. I owe the debt of my gratitude to Jeff for his dedication and determination, his talent and ambition in pursuing this project with me. It has been of the highest privilege to not only have gotten a tattoo of such scale and caliber from Jeff but to have also been a student, co-worker, and comrade over the years. With great honor and appreciation, thank you Jeff, thank you so very much.