Tattoos are a visual diary, an outward representation of an inner life in which nostalgia, popular culture, gender and youth are intertwined. Tattoos signify an ideal – an escape from the mundane drudgery of a life controlled by circumstance. In the military, tattoos reinforce masculine stereotypes through their iconography, but they also reveal a dream world – the hope of a sweetheart at the end of service. These tattoos are bittersweet love letters from the young men who leave for the army with memories of the young women they leave behind, whose lives inevitably carry on without them. In these traditional and new designs informed by Soviet era art and modern army fashion, the tattoo-inspired artwork explores the emotional life and social identity of young men balancing strength and aggression with longing and heartache.
During the Great War, American soldiers serving in the Far East often sent lingerie back home to their sweethearts as a gift. The lingerie was embroidered with rhymes and ironic phrases warning others to stay away, preserving their girlfriend or wife for them for when they return. Much like the tattoos worn by these men, the lingerie for their sweethearts was a symbol of love and fidelity. Reimagined in the Azerbaijani language, the embroidered lingerie reveals layers of romance, humor and possessiveness, guarding imaginary girlfriends who are waiting patiently for their soldiers to come home.

Personal exhibition at Tardino6 | Baku, Azerbaijan | 2019
Curator: Lesley Gray
Lingerie Production: Aysel Ibraghimova, Too Mushroom
Embroidery Production: Turan Kerimbeyli

Photos (looks) by Matthew Soulnechni