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Tattoo Baby Doll: Sailor Feebee

by Sherri Wood
Tattoo art by Kate Hellenbrand
1999
Embroidery, found doll
26" x 16" x 13"

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Tattoo Baby Doll photo

Begun in the context of the Dainty Show, the Tattoo Baby Dolls have become a distinct project that has taken on a life of its own. It is a collaboration with female tattoo artists from across the country. It combines embroidery and tattoo in an effort to record and examine some of the images and roles defining and empowering women today.

Statement by Kate Hellenbrand, tattoo artist:

In 1972 I went for my first professional piece by Cliff Raven. After looking at all the flash images available, I chose a small clipper ship for my upper thigh as a symbol of my love of adventure, travel, freedom and independence. I was told by all of the men in the room that such a tattoo was not appropriate for a girl. "You should get a bunny or a squirrel or a skunk," I was told. Sailor Feebee goes out into the world, carrying with her all of the images that brought me to this business and I wish her God Speed and Full Throttle.... The blue birds represent long trips from home; the nautical starts signify a direction back. The dolphin protects sailors who fall overboard from shark attacks; the rooster and pig heads on the feet also protect a sailor from drowning. Mom, the anchor, and the heart speak for themselves. The twin screws on the buttocks are a famous joke image by Sailor Jerry Collins, propelling the wearer forward. The Japan tattoo symbolizes the souvenir mentality that so many travelers adopt. The flying dollar bill signifies the military payday "easy-come, easy-go" mentality of "live today, die tomorrow" and port and star help keep all directions clear.

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