Tattoo Stories: Masked Animals, Mixed Mythologies

Aug 07, 2015Brooklyn Boulders

From travels abroad, James Cobb found inspiration in his travels and crafted peace amongst the clash of cultures with this magnificent tattoo sleeve he designed himself.

james cobb
james cobb

“This was a project I started when I got out of the Air Force. I designed the entire tattoo myself – it took about a year and a half. It took another 6 months to collaborate with the tattoo artist to get to where it is; the whole process took about 2 years. I wanted it to be – the concept is creating a past, present and future – there are the three fates, combining Greek, Roman, Korean, and Asian mythologies to create spiritual gods. All three of them have masks on – there’s the theme of animals, masks that are all rooted in a medium of art.
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The giraffe – it’s got the death mask from the 18th century (plague); all the spots are countries and states that I’ve lived in my entire life, coming out of a boiling pot that is a symbol for food, because I like cooking, it creates culture, and I am a by-product o f the cultures I’ve lived in.
The squid in the shape of the Korean peninsula: the mask is the demarcation line between North and South Korea. Symbolically, the squid is representative of being pulled in two different directions. I always feel that in the present moment; looking forward to the future to make your life better but also focusing on the past. The writing is in Korean calligraphy which translates to ‘reality is shaped to the eye of the beholder’. As for the gas mask, I was on the Korean peninsula working as a Korean interpreter and translator and had to wear the gas mask during that time, symbolizing the entanglement of single humans in warfare.
Tattoo Cat
Cats – cats are very spiritual in general – more so because of their ability to understand what humans are thinking. They embody chaos a little bit . It’s wearing a Venetian mask from the masquerade ball because it’s actions are unknowable and cannot be seen; you aren’t sure what’s going to happen.
There’s a whirlwind of text: “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish port” is from Their Eyes Are Watching God. It’s a book that makes me think about how the future is unpredictable and really chaotic – it’s my personal story of how I shaped those three animals – they just embody past present and future for how a religion or spiritual group.”

Tattoos are intimately personal, and stereotypical of Brooklynites. Walking through Brooklyn Boulders, it’s more often than not you’ll see some adorned bodies climbing our walls. Each inked piece tells a story, whether it’s silly, inspirational, nostalgic, funny or just a fond memory.
BKB Tattoo Stories showcase various tattoos around our space, and the stories behind them. Get to know your community of climbers a little more than skin-deep.
If you have a particular story you’d like to share – get in touch with us:

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Tattoo Stories: Anthony Martirano