After ten years of plotting and planning, I finally got my Guernica tattoo. It’s placed on my left forearm, surrounding my ancient (and very first) Keith Haring tattoo. I’ve declared this arm my “art” arm, as I plan on adding to it with the likes of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, more Picasso, Alphonse Mucha, etc. (The particular Bruegel piece I have in mind is “The Triumph of Death.” If you’re unfamiliar with it, have fun looking it up. It’s gruesome and wild and apocalyptic – I love it. It was one of the featured pieces in my recent Medieval Art History class and there was something about it that I just couldn’t shake. Turns out I love Medieval Art, what can I say? Art History is a passion of mine. I was *this close* to minoring in Art History at UW, but I only had so many credits to take and the choice was between more art history or more languages. Of course, I chose languages.
But I digress.
Guernica. I have a long history with this piece of work. I had never been a huge fan of Picasso, but about 20 years ago, I took an art history class in which this piece was featured in a group of “political” artworks. There were a few other Picasso pieces that we studied and studying his work in-depth, I came to understand and appreciate much of it. Guernica, in particular, really stuck with me. I loved that art history class, and of all the college courses I’ve taken over the past couple of decades, that first art history class is one of three that I still think of and appreciate. Back then, we still used books for such things and I still have the 5 pound (no exaggeration) required text from that class, lovingly graffitied with all of my marginalia. That class was a gentle nudge into the direction my life would eventually take.
My boyfriend at the time heard about this painting quite a bit. I was mildly obsessed. (Hi, Ezra and Kaja! Geez you guys just can’t quit me.) When we moved to Prague, he got me a canvas reproduction. I finally got up the strength to walk away from that dumpster fire of a relationship of nearly seven years… and when I left the rebound boyfriend, he stole my Guernica reproduction from me, out of spite. Good riddance to the ex boyfriends, both of them. But I was sad about my Guernica.
Then I met Husband and in 2010, we went to San Sebastián for a belated luna de miel. San Sebastian is in the País Vasco region of Spain (Basque Country), which also happens to be where the actual town of Guernica is located. When I realized this, we immediately planned to make a side trip. The town itself is very small and, astoundingly, hasn’t been destroyed by tourism – though I suspect they’d like a little more. We visited the Biscayan Assembly, the Tree of Guernica… saw a mural reproduction of Picasso’s work, and some interesting graffiti versions. I have to say, it was a really cool experience to be able to go and visit the real city.
In 2016, my husband got me a vintage lithograph print of Guernica from MOMA for my birthday. When we had it framed, they asked about trimming away all of the battered and torn edges. I nearly screamed at them. Why would you do such a thing?
And THEN, we returned to the Basque Region during Christmas last year, this time staying in Bilbao. We had no idea there was a traveling exhibition of Guernica in Bilbao right when we would be there. But there it was!
Then for Christmas this year, Husband surprised me with a tattoo consulting appointment with the artist I’d been eyeing up for the past couple of years. Et voila! I now have pieces of Picasso’s Guernica on my arm.