Dave Legnosky’s tattoos-in-progress

We met Dave in Black Rock City last August. Dave came to a party at Kentucky Fried Camp, a party that began with the public launch of Love Letter To the World, moved on to hoop skirts and top hats, and ended some place in the Nevada desert.

Two months later, he wrote to us asking if he could get an entire stanza of “Love Letta to de Worl’” as a single design. Six months later, he sent us this story:

“I’m addicted to ink, love the process, the art, the pain. The pain is temporary, like life; there are worse addictions, and this is mine. It all started with a tattoo of a dancing frog dressed like a leprechaun. Why? I don’t know … partly because I am half-Irish and partly because it was just that I wanted a tattoo. I didn’t really know what I wanted, I walked into a shop like a kid in a candy store, and I wanted them all. I now know that I settled for that frog; it didn’t really have any special meaning—it was just a tattoo.

Fast-forward a few years—ok, a lot of years—and I am standing in another tattoo shop, like so many times before, this time in Hawaii, looking, dreaming of that next tattoo, something meaningful this time. I didn’t know what I wanted as I wandered those Technicolor walls, dreamily staring at the art. There it was, a sun and moon. The design caught my eye and reminded me of desire, the moon gently kissing the sun, of love and being loved.  A few hours later it was mine and this time it meant something to me.

Wind the clock ahead again, life has drastically changed for me, feeling lost, I found myself sitting in a tattoo parlor, once again staring at those walls, waiting for my appointment. I knew what I wanted this time: stars, nautical stars (my son calls them Nor Cal stars). I wanted them on my shoulders to remind me to follow the stars where they take me, to be happy. Situated to the left and right of the sun and moon are stars, always my reminder.

A few more years and I am lying face down on a table, getting that next piece of ink. A full-back piece, a huge Raven that goes from my waist to a point just below the sun, moon, and stars. Why a raven? The Vikings believed ravens were Odin’s eyes and ears. In Tlingit culture there is a creator raven, responsible for bringing light into the world, and a childish raven, always selfish, sly, conniving, and hungry. And I just love ravens—watching them, listening to them, they amuse me to no end.

And more ink, this time it’s bittersweet, I am having the dancing frog covered up with a grandfather clock overlaid with the melting hands of another clock. Beautiful in form, the clock hands pointing at the time I was born, the colors shining like ornaments on a tree. On the face of the clock, a sun, moon, and, of course, stars.

The latest ink is three new pieces that mean a lot to me. More than the others do? No, different, it’s more personal this time, deep-down-in-the-soul personal.

It’s actually six parts from the ‘Love Letta to de Worl’’ poem by Frank X Walker, combined. The poem left me awestruck; I must of read those words a hundred times, those sincere, loving, and apologetic words. Wishing things would have been different, an apology for the way we have behaved, and a hope that it’s not too late. That Gaia will only tolerate so much.

I asked if I could get the whole poem as one piece and was gently reminded that it would take up a lot of space, more space than I had available. So I had to choose smaller pieces, it was not easy, I spent hours looking it over, and kept coming back to just 6 phrases: ‘When we invent,’ ‘poisons and no antidotes,’ ‘and build,’ ‘monuments to ourselves,’ ‘we can’t pass the course,’ and  ‘on humanity’—all parts of two different stanzas.

Most people choose one phrase, one part of a stanza, a snippet. I chose these six parts for so many reasons—for my aunt and my grandmother who died of cancer in the same house I was raised in. For the medicines I shrugged off in search of a better way, a healthier, natural way. As a reminder to take care of myself, to love and be loved, to be happy, and, most importantly, to remember how everything is connected.

I asked to have those six pieces blended together and formed into three separate pieces, pieces that mean so much more to me together than they do separately. Blended, ‘When we invent-and build,’  ‘poisons and no antidotes—monuments to ourselves,’ ‘we can’t pass the course—on humanity.’ Blended, but still part of the whole. I am still working on completing them and will do that as soon as I get back to California to see my favorite tattoo guys at Premier Tattoo in Oakland. Will there be more ink? Of course, there will be, I’m addicted. Something as meaningful? Maybe, but I doubt it.”

Dave Legnosky

Dave Legnosky’s first two LLTW phrases “When we invent” and “poisons and no antidotes” (image courtesy of Dave Legnosky)

Dave Legnosky

Dave Legnosky’s “poisons and no antidotes” (image courtesy of Dave Legnosky)