Tattoos and piercings have artistic value


Photo by Kennedy Lum

Brandon Hernandez adds blue shading and highlights to a butterfly tattoo.

Kennedy Lum, Reporter

Originally an identification marker for slaves and criminals, tattoos have evolved from negative stigmatizations and become more popular in mainstream society. Tattoos and other body modifications, like piercings, have changed the way in which people communicate nonverbally. Tattoos and piercings are, instead, an art form where a person can exercise self-expression and a sense of individuality.

An article written by Lisa Boone in the Los Angeles Times tells the story of how a tattoo is used as a way to memorialize loved ones and cultivate a sense of identity.

In the article, tattoo artist June Jung from June Jung Art said, “Maria Athena is a nurse who works in critical care and saw a lot of loss during the pandemic. She decided to get flowers and plants tattooed on her leg, which symbolizes the patients she has lost.” 

Tattoos are unique to the person and can improve self-esteem levels.

“The whole point of getting tattoos: to wear permanent art that is unique to you and makes you feel beautiful and at home in your body,” Adeline Engeman, owner of Stabs & Scabs, said in the article. 

Many argue tattoos are not artistic representations of identity but are trashy and devalue the human body. 

However, this argument is outdated. Studies show that people with tattoos are more likely to have a positive body image than those without tattoos.

An article written by David Robson in The Guardian describes body image in relation to tattoos based on research by Viren Swami, a psychologist at Anglia Ruskin University.

“He found that anxieties about their appearance, and general feelings of bodily dissatisfaction, immediately dropped after the participants’ skin had been inked,” Robson said.

Swami found that tattoos allow people to have control over their flesh and ownership of what goes on their bodies.

 “Once you get your tattoo, you feel much closer to your body,” Swami said. 

In addition to body image, tattoos are an art form because of the practice and precision that goes into the craft.

Brandon Hernandez, a tattoo artist at Palace Art Tattoo, which was the first tattoo parlor introduced to the Thousand Oaks community, talked about his two-year apprenticeship and the time it took to master his craft.

“When I turned 18 and got tattooed, it was not a cool thing to do– it was almost outlawish. Only bikers, gang members and rock stars had tattoos,” Hernandez said. “Within the first year of an apprenticeship, you’re learning to run the shop…It took a lot to get to this point, doing an apprenticeship is really hard,”

The amount of time and effort that goes into the training process for tattoo artists constitutes it as an art form. 

“Apprenticeships are not what you think…you’re the first one here and the last one here…If you stick it out, you come out with something to offer,” Hernandez said.

Not only do tattoos demonstrate creativity, but other body modifications like piercings are another outlet for self expression. Palace Art Tattoo piercer Haven Giddings has served eight years in the body modification industry. Giddings talked about the precision it takes to pierce the body.

“You think it’s just sticking a needle through someone, but there’s so many angles you can take and you can tell if it’s messed up,” Giddings said.

Both tattoos and piercings alike nonverbally communicate different signals to society, whether it be good or bad. While it is less radicalized, people still hold strong opinions in regards to body modifications. One thing is certain, there is artistic value in tattoos and piercings.