The Human Canvas

Lady Godiva: one of the few historical women, not fully captured in statue but remembered in chocolate. Her story is one I would like to share. It is one of not only courage and impertinence, but also vulgarity. Yet the painting by John Collier, which my own image is mimicking, only expresses her naked ride, none of the context provided, nor the reasoning given for her being naked. Yet, the painting shows intrigue as you begin to question each of these things. Is she a pre-modern whore? An insane woman? Or perhaps, more likely, a woman who has deep feelings of disdain towards life’s constraints and conformities? In many ways, this is precisely who she was, someone who was attempting to break the direct limits of society. Hence, the tattoos, which I added. No, Lady Godiva was not herself tattooed, nor were tattoos even invented or popular in her time, but the tattoos used in my painting are to illustrate her story that has became symbolic of her naked silhouette. If you stop to take a look at the tattoos, you will notice money, coins, and “tax” imprinted throughout. She rode naked to lift the taxes. Her husband was the tax imposer and the only way he could be convinced to uplift the taxation was for her to ride naked. She embraced his challenge, her hair flowing around her, and became, in some ways, the emblem of a powerful and confident woman.

I am fascinated with tattoos. I like that they, like clothes, use the human figure as a canvas for artistic expression. Even though I am not sure I would get a tattoo, I am inspired by tattoos in the same way the likes of Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier were. Today fashion is being impacted by tattoos. The most popular and famed supermodel of our time is Cara Delevingne. She is tattooed. Now in Burberry and Chanel ads, she poses and walks tattooed. The larger Houses, which in the past shied away from using tattooed models, are now looking to them to bring a younger catch and feel to their name. Jean Paul Gaultier was one of the first designers to use tattooed models, and he even tattooed many of his garments to give people like me, who wouldn’t otherwise get a tattoo, the feeling a tattoo entails. Cara Delevingne has her own line of bags at Mulberry. Her bags are done to mimic and pull from her tattoos. On the bottom of the bag is, “Made in Britain,” and the same is written on the bottom of Cara’s foot. The golden lion detail work on the bag is inspired by the lion tattooed on her finger.

Fashion to me is best viewed as a way to create art on the human body. It is a way to reexamine the figure we are so accustomed to seeing normally, in the wildest of extremes. I love the connotations tattoos create in contrast with fashion. Both are a means of woman empowerment, as is portrayed in my painting. Women who dress well are often admired and instantly paid attention to. Women who dress to feel and give off an aura of confidence and power are ones I look up to. Tattoos give a woman a tougher look. For a woman to look tough and powerful, resilient even, and confident, is the most eye catching, appealing, attractive, and inspirational. So as fashion inspires me every day, it excites me that the fashion community is becoming inspired by tattoos.

Cecilia Roses

Painting: Painted by me. Inspired by the painting by John Collier.