We are thankful to Robert Alleyne, the lead tattoo artist for this artwork, for suggesting that we design a unique font as a way to make each tattoo recognizable as part of the Lexington Tattoo Project. Because we chose to use an existing font for the sake of legibility (Dante, a book typeface designed in the 1950s by Giovanni Mardersteig) and because we really liked Robert’s suggestion, we searched for other ways to connect tattoos to each other and to a larger whole. This is how the idea to build a secret image was born. We would create one image as a background for the entire poem. Each part of the poem, then, would have a slice of this image as its own background. Seen individually, these bits of the background image appear as a simple pattern of circles and dots. Reassembled, the circles and dots become pixels, building blocks that create the background image for the entire poem.
While sorting through different options for the background image, we tried to avoid the predictable (horses, basketball, and bourbon) and to find something still recognizable to everyone who calls Lexington home. Because we wanted to work with a part of the Lexington landscape and because both of us have long loved maps, our decision didn’t take long: we would use the symbol for New Circle Road, a Lexington ring–road that is often used as a landmark.
Significantly, “Circle Four,” another name for the Lexington loop-road, is marked by signage that also suggests a well-known team of superheroes who are often portrayed as a querulous, yet loving, family, held together by the embrace of Mr. Fantastic himself. In an early article about the Lexington Tattoo Project, STORY Magazine unwittingly gestured at the secret image when it described this artwork as “a permanent hug.” This is, in fact, the emotion we hope our secret design will evoke. This is why we chose to make a big circle and the number 4 with a whole lot of smaller circles … and some dots.
We did not intend to give away the secret image as a tattoo. Then one day, while concocting a complicated drink at Third Street Coffee, Hendrick Floyd told us that he wanted a Lexington Tattoo Project tattoo. We regretfully explained to him that the every word and punctuation sign of the poem had been claimed. But Hendrick wasn’t interested in the text. Instead, he asked if he could have the entire secret image as a tattoo. We said yes and swore him to six months of secrecy. We knew that our secret would find a great home with Hendrick, that he was the right person for a circle filled with love.