When my husband Yehuda and I left Israel and came to Los Angeles – it was right at the beginning of the 60s – he wanted to make a documentary about tattooing. Hegot interested in it and he brought home a lot of books about it and we both were fascinated by the whole thing.
So that was how I started a whole series of paintings of people who were tattooed. I did lots of them – Tattoo Courtship, Tattoo Marriage – just on masonite. And I did Betty Broadbent.
Betty was very famous in the 20s and 30s – in this country there was no tradition of tattooing and only criminals and some sailors had tattoos.
But in other cultures – China and Africa and the Middle East – tattoos have been traditional for centuries. They are religious, tribal – it’s that archaic aspect that appeals to me.
First I painted two Japanese men I saw in a book and then I painted Betty Broadbent. I loved working on that painting.
What inspired me is the quality of the color on skin. It is an absolutely unique medium which only happens when blood mixes with the dye – they use mostly vegetable dyes and the choice of colors is very limited. But what they do with it really is an art.