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Member Spotlight – Inksanity

July 23, 2011

Kim Taylor, artist at work


In 1891, mummified remains of a Priestess of the Goddess Hathor were discovered at Thebes in Egypt. Strange geometrically inked markings covered the priestess’ mummified body and her remains were dated to around 2160 BC. Further investigation revealed the geometric dots on the mummified body were part of a ritualistic practice reserved specifically for women in ancient Egypt. In 1991, a 5000-year-old man covered in 57 artful markings was found in the mountainous region between Austria and Italy. The placement of the markings suggest they were strategically applied for therapeutic reasons such as treatment of arthritic aches and injuries. In 2000, a young woman in Northern Virginia is jokingly asked to mark her first skin canvas. To the surprise of the jokester, the young woman’s natural artistic ability, attention to detail, and intensity for the art leave no room for laughter. From that point forward Kim Taylor is apprenticed and on her way to mastering one of the oldest and most culturally diverse forms of art on Earth – the art of tattoo.

“There are a few main reasons why people get tattoos,” says Kim as she stares reflectively into the distance. “The first is that they just like it. It’s just that simple. The second is that there’s something bound up inside the person and they just want to find a way to get it out. It can be death of a loved one, a divorce, reaching a goal, having a baby or something emotional that changed them and they just want to get that out there.” The rationale behind tattoos is something Kim has thought about for a long time. She is a woman in the business of marking people for life and she takes her art form deadly serious. Kim’s canvas is human skin and as such she takes precautions for both herself and her clients. “I refuse to tattoo anyone if I think they have any alcohol or drugs in their system,” she says. “This is something that will mark them for life and they need to have enough respect for me and themselves to know what’s going on.”

Kim’s arms and legs are clothed in meaningful ink, each image carries a story and an underlying message. There is no marking on Kim that is gratuitous – everything there has a purpose. My eyes roll over her arms and legs trying to figure out the meaning of each mark and I ask her how she would describe herself in one word. She tells me that one word is “Free.”

I ask Kim how she stays inspired in her work and she tells me about her network of fellow artists. Her art has evolved tremendously in the past ten years and she branches out beyond tattooing to other forms so she can stay fresh. “You can’t be stagnant as an artists,” she says. “You have to keep moving.” She invites me to watch her in action with a willing client. She gloves her hands, preps the client and settles in. Her gaze is intense and demeanor focused as she clicks on the tattooing machine. Her arms cuffed with colorful art are an interesting contrast with her pink t-shirt and hard stare. A tiny pink bow sits nestled in her hair as she leans over to apply the first outline of a spider on her client. She is absorbed in her work – an admitted perfectionist. “I love tattoos and tattooing,” she told me. “I’ll do it for the rest of my life.” When asked about the type of tattoo she most loves to create she says, “the type no one else wants to do – the ones that are really challenging and detailed.”

Flipping through Kim’s book of diverse work in the reception area is mind-boggling. Her ability spans from script and tribal tats to extraordinarily detailed and complex mandala and scenery. The range in her work speaks to several elements – the ability to listen attentively to the client and provide a lasting meaningful piece, and a skill that comes from practice, natural talent, growth, and a sense of self. Tattooing is not a discipline where mistakes are tolerated and Kim’s technical skill and confidence must come through in her work in order to be a success. This is an art form with literal blood, high emotion, complexity and a history that dates back before humans began recording history. In many ways, as evidenced by archaeological finds in the past several hundred years, tattooing was one of the first methods by which woman and man left their mark on the world. The evolution of this form is astounding and even more complex are the psychological associations and the ability of dedicated artists like Kim Taylor to carry this practice forward.

I realize Kim needs to focus while she works so I take a few photos on the iPhone, thank her, and turn to leave. The studio is extremely clean, open. and there’s an aura of community. The owner of the studio, Sherry, is in the next room working on a client, Kim is absorbed in her mark, and the receptionist, Darleen, smiles and sincerely wishes me a great weekend. This is a studio of talented artists who take their profession seriously.

Kim Taylor creates art at Inksanity Tattoo Studio in Leesburg, VA : 703-777-5377. Her work can also be viewed on her website at http://www.kimzilla.com/ and blog at http://kimzillarawrr.blogspot.com/ .

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