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Line Work: Lyndsey Baccam

For music, film, and art lovers, tattoos serve as a way for enthusiasts to express their passions to the world. It’s common to see meaningful songs, movies, and artworks translated into tattoo artistry. The 1970s marked a prominent era for the intersection of music and tattoos, notably propelled by punk and rock musicians who embraced themes of rebellion and individual expression. Inspired by their favorite musicians, fans adopted tattoos as a token symbol within the punk and rock subculture. Tattoos also hold significant roles in the realm of cinema. In Christopher Nolan’s “Memento” (2000), tattoos are featured as a literal tool, aiding a character with amnesia to piece together his identity. Similarly in Disney’s “Moana” (2016), Dwayne Johnson’s character Maui showcases traditional Polynesian tattoos to show his accomplishments, ensuring cultural authenticity to the story through a collaboration with Samoan tattoo artist, Su’a Peter Sulu’ape. The convergence of tattoos and fine arts is equally pronounced, with many tattoo artists originating from art school backgrounds or harboring a deep appreciation in fine arts. Art enthusiasts display iconic masterpieces on their body, with Michaelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” (c. 1508-1512) and Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (1889) ranking amongst the most popular artworks showcased in tattoo form. As tattoos garner societal acceptance and popularity, it is rare to encounter musicians devoid of tattoos. Despite this transition of tattoos from subculture to pop culture, enthusiasts still continue to express their subculture affiliations through tattoos. With music having inspired punk and rock fans to get tattoos in general, and movie enthusiasts copying tattoos that their favorite characters may have had, it is now more popular than ever to showcase song lyrics, movie characters, classical symphonies, and movie scenes.

Lyndsey Baccam is a second-year Biochemistry student from Fishers, Indiana. Originally from a privileged, majority-white hometown, Lyndsey was apprehensive of attending Indiana University, fearing a recurrence of the social alienation she faced growing up. Constantly singled out for her unconventional fashion sense, she found refuge in her favorite bands, films, and artistic pursuits. Recalling a distressing experience in her high school math class, where her teacher publicly measured her 6-inch Demonias to embarrass her, Lyndsey expressed that she now suppresses her fashion due to the internalized shame, and instead elevates her style by expressing her thoughts and feelings through her tattoos. While pressured by her mother, an IU alumna, to attend the same school, Lyndsey eventually found acceptance within the school’s diverse and inclusive community.

Raised by what she calls “stereotypical Asian parents,” Lyndsey faced familial resistance to tattoos and piercings, which were seen as a form of rebellion. She remembers drawing on her desk in 1st grade as her earliest memories of expressing herself through art. Her art teacher was supportive and encouraging of this creative outlet, but her other teachers were unaccepting of what they saw as rebellious behavior. This story reminds Lyndsey of how her parents felt about her starting to get tattoos, as she sees it simply as a form of expression, but they felt differently. The decision to get her first tattoo, a scene from Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away (2001), one month after turning 18 encapsulated her deep emotional connection to the film and its associated memories. Her tattoo of Tyler Durden from David Fincher’s “Fight Club” (1999) serves as a reminder of what was seen to be her rebellious phase. Truthfully, she was struggling to find identity in a society where she did not feel accepted or seen. She associates this movie with memories of her father teaching her to accept herself and live life without regret. This tattoo represents a time in her life where she was in and out of mental hospitals and feeling socially isolated, but she’s now able to look at her tattoo and be reminded of how strong she is for overcoming such hardships.

Her deeply religious mother took her to church every Sunday growing up, where Lyndsey recalls judgemental stares she received from older church members. To avoid the discomfort of the scrutiny she receives, she now covers her arms with sleeves when attending church. Despite the lack of acceptance from certain groups towards her body art, she finds herself offering a nod of acknowledgement by rolling up her sleeves when encountering others with tattoos in public, similar to camaraderie observed among car owners with gestures like the “Bronco wave” or “Jeep ducking”. Having been repeatedly told by her mother to preserve her body and refrain from“mutilating” herself, she’s come to accept that some individuals will never comprehend her choice of self expression.

“People always say my body is a temple that must remain untouched, but I disagree,” Lyndsey said. “My body is a canvas.”

Although her mother remains apprehensive about her tattoos, she finds support from her father, whose own tattoos inspire many of hers. Her father’s upbringing involved an unusual experience of raising a spider and scorpion in the same cage. This experience ended with the scorpion devouring the spider, and became a cherished family joke. Lyndsey got a spider tattoo to match her father’s scorpion tattoo, commemorating this unique bond. She compares herself and her father to two animals in a cage, acknowledging their disagreements and rough patches, yet recognizing the enduring strength for the love she holds for her father who taught her to express herself freely. Whenever she looks down at her thigh, she is reminded of her father’s influence in her life, motivating her to push forward.

One of Lyndsey’s favorite tattoos is a pair of lyrics adorning her inner elbows reading “such a pretty house,” and “such a pretty garden,” from her favorite song, “No Surprises” by Radiohead. Listening to alternative rock is an immersive experience for Lyndsey, who describes the feeling as a blend of music, emotion, and art. She fondly recalls Radiohead as her primary muse during her formative years, noting how their music was always able to exactly convey her feelings even when she struggled to express them into words. The song is featured on the album “OK Computer,” which delves into breaking social norms and breaking the cycle of everyday life. Lyndsey heavily relates to the lyrics “no alarms and no surprises”, as she hates living the same routine and embraces spontaneity, often opting for alternative routes or changes to break free from life’s predictable patterns.

Offering advice to aspiring tattoo enthusiasts, Lyndsey emphasizes the importance of living in the moment. She observes that many individuals hesitate to commit to permanent art, but underscores the uncertainty of tomorrow and the unforeseen events that may unfold. This philosophy ties back into her father’s teachings on living life without regrets, a principle she advocates everyone to embrace. Reflecting on her own tattoo journey, Lyndsey notices that her newer tattoos lack the profound significance of her older ones. She now views tattoos as filling infinite blank spaces on a canvas with art, innovation, and creativity. She now finds solace in viewing her tattoos as snapshots of pivotal moments in her life, minimizing space for regret and allowing her to appreciate each tattoo as a unique expression of her journey.

“In the grand scheme of things, we as humans are so small and will all cease to exist, so put whatever you want on your body,” Lyndsey mused, embracing the freedom of self expression and the transient nature of existence.

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