Maze of existence

I want to tell you the story of some of the art I carry with me. I want to tell you about Santa Perpetua.

I first got started getting tattoo’d back in maybe 2014, despite my parents’ best intentions. The first thing I ever got tattoo’d was “Death is the road to awe”1 in ASCII hexadecimal down my spine because 1/ I couldn’t get the phase out of my head2, 2/ “death” is change in the tarot, and what is wrong with that, anyway, and 2/ encoding it in ASCII hex would mean that even if my feelings on the quote changed over time, no one could really call me on it.

It was, it ends up, the beginning of a long journey.

The first couple tattoos of hex code were from a total weirdo in my college town I’ll always remember fondly. The ensuing few were from a generally lovely gent in Seattle who was exceptional and exact about lettering and numbers. But I wanted something more – our few forays into creativity left something lacking. At some point I realized I had been following Santa Perpetua online via tattoo blogs for a handful of years, and that I could just, you know, go get a tattoo from her if I was willing to travel for it. 

The backs of some very pale legs with blue shoes, and a watercolor tattoo with a tree, a maze, and skeletons on it on the back of the left leg from ankle to disappearing under a dress.

Thus began a timid relationship by email. I told her about my existential angst, she told me she’d freehand something just before I came across the ocean and I could provide feedback before we actually tattoo’d it on. Terrifying, but if that was the process, then that was the process. And as she scolded me during our first session, “you are not a canvas, this is a collaboration.”

Our first work together she called the “maze of existence.” While I led the conversation with “continually fixated on cityscapes, on various mapping styles, on tree outlines, on galaxies. I tend to stick to blacks, greys, blues, with bits of purple and red,” I also waxed poetic about multi generational planning. How to give homage to the shoulder of the giants we stand on while also not thinking about ourselves as the pinnacle of human existence. About how we can be kinder to each other and less extractive while also getting to space. And this is what she came up with.

The artist's sketch of what the tattoo would look like. Already described when describing the tattoo before, but this one also shows the astronaut that is hidden by the dress in the other image.

The three lines of ASCII hex are all Zapatista quotes

  • “preguntando caminamos” – “asking questions we walk”. About how in order to progress, you must both move forward and course correct while doing so. You cannot just move, or just ask. You must do both.
  • “!Ya Basta!” – “Enough!”. The unifying cry across many different groups to fight back for a better future.
  • “mandar obedeciendo” – “lead by obeying”. About needing to follow the rules you expect others to follow as well.

We spent most of the 10ish hour single sitting in silence, but I remember thinking that if she loved the music she was listening to, and that if she could come up with this art, maybe we would get along pretty well as humans. 

I love it so much that when covid hit, I reached out to SP3 to see if I could commission a piece about it for my wall. Better yet, as it’s on the back of my leg and my only sadness about this tattoo is that I can’t easily look at it.
Two pieces of art hang on a grey wall. The one on the left has a black and white tree with paint blotch leaves. Instead of roots, under the ground line is a large skeleton. A city is reflected across the ground line.
On the right, an astronaut hangs in blackness in the lower right corner, with a large white circle taking up the upper right corner.

And thus began a long journey that we’re still on. More later.

This is part of a series on my Santa Perpetua tattoos. You can read the rest in the tattoo category on this blog.


  1. The Fountain is a beautiful comic, beautiful Movies with Mikey, and a difficult movie.
  2. This could later be attributed to OCD, but who’s counting?
  3. Now friends

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