Born in Durango, Mexico, Goethe Silva Mier is better known in the tattoo industry by just his first name Goethe. His tattoos are rich in culture and history, and full of passion. His passion for the prehispanic culture, especially the Maya and the Aztec civilizations, is evident in his work. Goethe's tattoos are not just flesh art masterpieces that adorn the bodies of thousands of people, they are a way for him to teach the world about culture and history with every piece he creates. Some of his pieces portray the beauty of Xochipilli, the Aztec god of flowers, and some disturbing scenarios like of the unknown world of Mictlantecuhtli, the lord of the underworld.
Goethe's story starts when he was 15 years old and he used to draw while traveling all of Mexico with his punk band with whom he was a guitarist and a singer. Goethe's love for tattoos started when he was 19. His purpose to start tattooing was due to a badly made tattoo that left him scarred. His dad asked him why he was down and Goethe told him of the situation. His dad helped him build a rotary tattoo gun done with a guitar string. To Goethe's surprise, his dad let him tattoo his arm. This was a shock since tattooing was not really accepted back in those years.
Goethe explains that when he picked up the tattoo machine it was like magic-the ink, machine and needle working together and creating his first masterpiece in flesh. His love for prehispanic art started after he read a book called Quetzalcoatl by Lopez Portillo. Goethe related with what he was reading so much that he felt like it was a part of him. After reading the book, he started tostudy and research the prehispanic culture.
Goethe still gets chills when he shares his stories with people on how advanced and knowledgeable the prehispanic people were and how they communicated with the underworld before the takeover. Goethe now travels the world teaching his technique and his passion to those who are willing to lend an ear. So we hit up Goethe with a few questions about who he really is, what he does and what his culture means to him.
Q: What inspired you to do prehispanic images? Is that all you do?A: My inspiration for the prehispanic culture is a part of my life. I feel like that culture lives in me. I discovered its concept and the fundamentals of life: the "duality" of life and death. The concept of death to be reborn once again has always inspired me as a world where the gods had the future in there hands. All of my work revolves around the prehispanic images of rituals and gods.
Q: Tell us about your transition from Mexico to the world?A: I moved to the States five years ago and my style of tattooing has opened many doors to Europe. Now I'm doing special guest spots, conventions and seminars all over the world, including Mexico, Europe and South America.
Q: Do you see a difference in the understanding of prehispanic culture between the borders of the world? How do people accept your artwork and tattoos in different parts of the world?A: In the beginning in Italy and London people really did not undertand the meaning of the culture; not until I sat down with a few people and talked to them of the importance of the tattoo and explain to them the meaning of each piece that I was tattooing. Now people reflect their life or way of thinking through the tattoos that I do.
Q: Do you let your clients pick their tattoos?A: I only tattoo one person per day in four- or five-hour sessions. This way I'm able to talk to the client and get a feeling for that they want to get done and that way we can build a foundation before I start tattooing. When I'm asked to pick a tattoo, I sit down and explain to them the culture, myths and religious traditions. The difference between personalities of different gods, powers, ceremonies and sacrifices.
Huehueteotl: The old god of fire.
Itzamna: The name of an upper Mayan god and creator deity thought to be residing in the sk
Q: What do you do to stay on top of your game?A: I work hard and concentrate on all my projects. I come up with a new way of doing things and taking the time to study and read up on what I'm trying to teach through my work.
Q: We noticed that you don't mix different shades of ink like many tattoo artists. How hard was it to achieve your knowledge of solid black ink making it work into different shades?A: I've been tattooing for 15 years like this. In Mexico, it's really hard to start tattooing since there was not much reference back when I started. So my technique has always been straight black ink and water.
Q: Any new projects coming up?A: I'm working on a flashbook with a little bit of help from one of my friends. The book will be named "10 Years of Flash by Goethe." This book will drop in March of '08. The book concentrates on my tattoo flash work from the past 10 years and a few new pieces of flash. I'm also working on a jewelry line with my friend John Duarte for his company Evolve Body Jewelry and it will be on sale by midyear '08. At the same time, I'm working on a hardcover book that that will be out by '09. The book will concentrate on the prehispanic rituals. And it will go into depth of the world of duality that invades all the old prehispanic era, sacrifices and supernatural rituals. In this book, I will be working closely and collaborating with world-known artists such as Robert Hernandez, Bob Tyrrell, Liorcifer, Benjamin Moss, Pablo Ash, Espi and Pedro Alvarez.
Q: Where can our readers see some more of your work or make an appointment?A: You can check out more of my work and explanations of my tattoos on my website www.tattoosbygoethe.com or Myspace at www.myspace.com/tattoosbygoethe or at the Por Vida Tattoo Shop website, www.myspace.com/porvidatattoo.
Q: What's next for Goethe?A: Keep working hard on my projects and keep traveling the world teaching about the prehispanic culture.
Q: Any last words?A: Thanks for the support. Arte y cultura Goethe.
Xochipilli: The god of love, games, beauty, dance, flowers, maize and song in Aztec mythol
Cocijo: The Zapotec god of rain, thunder and lightning.
Mictlantecuhtli: represents the descent of the sun into the world of the death.