By Erin Boyle
I think there’s something to be said about searching for an artist you can trust with personal symbols and parts of the self. I stumbled upon Melissa Fusco’s portfolio by pure chance after searching 4 years for artists in a different style; I was instantly swayed. I found her work captivating and unique: her craftsmanship was soft, colorful and organic, and I saw hints of depth and spirituality in her portfolios – these things really clicked for me. I had consulted with many artists over the years, and the request to tattoo over my scars was nothing new to me – I even met some who refused to work on scars. Finding a good fit was important; the artist would, after all, be spending several hours confronted with these scars and whatever it brought up for them. I was looking not just for the quality of an artist’s work but also the personhood of the one applying it, Melissa’s warmth and professionalism really showed through during our consultation process. Though she had no idea of my story at the time, I told her, “but really, who gets out of life unscarred in one way or another”…everybody has their thing…it’s all in what you do with it.
Now, I’m not much for telling soggy and dramatic tales about my life, much the reason why I chose this particular flower for my tattoo – but I’ll get to that later. The Buddha once said, “every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind; the goal is to find it”. I, like many, was blessed with a difficult childhood; abuse and neglect were my reality for much of my childhood and adolescence. Though high achieving, at 17 there came a point where my goals took a backseat and I thought there was only one way out. This thought became not just a memory, but left behind the scars to prove it.
Every good story has a twist; mine came a few years later after coming out of an abusive relationship. At that point I looked long and hard at my life, I spent a lot of time healing old wounds and rebuilding the Self. Mindfulness, courage and sacrifice were essential building blocks in my process of change and moving towards doing what I love and loving what I do. I threw away my masks of success and achievement, gave up my fancy title and hefty paycheck, got a second bachelors degree in pre-clinical psych, and began working at a Residential Treatment Center for youth with mental illness. In other words, for mere pennies I worked with teenage boys who liked to break shit, especially your face, and taught them how to give and receive love. This is what makes sense for me; this is what life is about, using our humanity to help others grow.
The paradox of my story is that no matter how much I healed and evolved, I still had my past written on my arms along with the judgment from others about what that means. No amount of success, forgiveness or compassion would ever make that go away. However, life with this tattoo is different. Not just myself, but others see beauty and strength where shame and secrecy once lived. In a way it removes the stigma I once felt. I don’t perceive myself as a victim or a survivor, I see myself as a person with the drive and motivation to create and sustain social justice through guiding others to lead the best possible life they can. As an Art Therapy graduate student en route towards doctoral research, I’ve found that having the permanence of this image in my skin helped ignite this fearless internal integration of my personal and professional lives. It’s closure, it’s dignity, it’s confidence, and in a huge way it is taking ownership of my body while standing grounded in authenticity and unapologetically residing in my own identity and truth.
Embedded in the image also lies the memory of the process. To match my initial impressions, Melissa was grounded, focused, caring, calm, gentle, warm, empathic, funny, respectful, edgy, and an incredibly skilled independent female artist in a male dominated field. She made the process personal and relational, and that’s not something I got from any other tattoo artists I reached out to. I don’t know if I would have found another talented artist that I felt as comfortable with during this process, not to mention one who honored the experience. I’m grateful to have found her, and look forward to collaborating on future work.
As a symbol of the self, this phoenix of a flower holds no mythology – only truth. Coming from one of the oldest families of flowers on earth, whenever a wildfire ravages the area the King Protea is the first sign of new life. In fact, wildfires are central to their evolution – just as challenges, failures and setbacks are to ours. As I see it there is no fantasy in real life – our results come from our own hard work…or as Melissa would say, there is “no progress without sacrifice.” I couldn’t say it better myself.
To see more work by Melissa, or to get in touch with her, go to:
Tattoos by Ryan Willard
Marrion Street Tattoo, Denver Colorado
Tattoos by Ben Merrell
Fort Collins, CO
Tattoos by Curtis Burgess
Fort Collins, CO
15th Street Studio in Boulder, Colorado is hosting an art show by Joel D Long on Friday, July 26th 6-9pm. The art is Asian inspired scrolls. If you’re in the area, stop by and check out the show!
By Melissa Fusco
At one time or another in every artist’s life, including myself, we have all experienced some type of artist block. There are many levels of creative block, from just the annoyance of interrupted flow that is short-lived or even deeper resulting in depression, lack of self-worth, loss of self-esteem and unfortunately self-destruction. An artist block or otherwise known as “creative block” is the inability to access one’s flowing stream of inspiration and creativity. What was once an overflowing well of ideas may now feel like an endless drought. It can last for days, weeks, months or even years. A feeling of loss in self may arise, and with every forward gaze stands fear, fear of not creating a worthy piece because of all the emotional strain that has occurred… (more…)
By Melissa Fusco
For those of us who may have the chance of painting away from our home studio’s, you may find this box to be handy for carrying wet panels. The summer of 2011, I attended a week-long landscape painting workshop in the wet lands of New Jersey and built a more simple wet panel box for my everyday travel. I kept the box in my truck and was able to transport wet panels from the days location to my accommodations, where I continued working on each piece. Instead of the Jenga-like game of panel stacking while on the road, and the stress of limiting the fix-ups that may need tending to due to all the movement, or worse… ruining a piece all together; here’s an inexpensive, custom and rewarding project that can be used for multiple trips… (more…)
By Melissa Fusco
The single best tool that artists have to work with is their own hands. Often I hear clients tell me that my hands must hurt from tattooing hours-on-end. In my experience my hands are the last to feel fatigue and if so, the first to recuperate. The hands are an amazing and complex tool that can withstand hours of repetitive work, their strength, stamina, flexibility and movement is incomparable and cannot be replicated… (more…)
Video by Luke Holley
By Melissa Fusco
Welcome artists, collectors and spectators! I would like to first say ‘thank you’ to Tattoo Artist Magazine for inviting me to do a monthly contribution to their new TAM Blog. I am honored to be apart of this project and hope to help shed some new light on this dynamic industry from my perspective. I am writing to you in-flight from Denver, Colorado where I was visiting one of my resident studios, Godspeed Ink Tattoo located in Breckenridge, Colorado… (more…)