August 2011 Archives

05:47 PM
tattoo books.jpgJust a quickie post to let you know that we now have a Needles & Sins online store where those in the US can buy author copies of my books quick and easy and cheap(er).

While Black Tattoo Art is currently sold out, I do have available copies of Color Tattoo Art and Black & Grey Tattoo.

For those outside the US, hit me up at for shipping rates.
01:06 PM
Garage Magazine Tattoo.jpgIt's no surprise there's tons of buzz surrounding the September 5th launch of Garage magazine. How does one not write about a Dasha Zhukova project that features Damien Hirst's art on a young model's vagina -- tattooed by Mo Coppoletta, no less?

Timed perfectly for NY Fashion Week, The NY Times describes the debut issue as "one of the most intriguing magazines to come along in years, it is not entirely clear whether this is a fashion magazine that takes more than a passing interest in art, or an art magazine that knows its stuff about fashion."

The magazine seems to know its stuff about tattoos as well, commissioning renowned tattooists Mike Rubendall in New York and Lindsey Carmichael in California to work with Coppoletta in London on the "Inked" spread of black and white portraits (photographed by Hedi Slimane) featuring "willing canvases" and their new tattoo work.

Such work includes Rubendall's execution of Jeff Koons art (shown below) and Carmichael's lettering of John Baldessari's "I will not wear any more boring tattoos." Coppoletta also tattooed a Dinos Chapman design on Dinos himself:  a pointed hand etching with the words "I'm with this idiot" underneath. [The high art ironic tattoo will no doubt be big in Brooklyn in about five seconds.]

View the full tattoo spread in this Daily Beast gallery.

Jeff Koons Mike Rubendall tattoo.jpg
The genital ink, however, has kept Coppoletta most busy with the press. Even the New York Post hit him up for details in an article that also quotes the proud owner of the tattoo saying:

I would have been stupid not to be part of this project. I have a piece of art on my vagina. Not one single person can ever say they gave birth through a Damien Hirst piece of art. I can [if I ever give birth].
The article further states that she threw a garden party in honor of her new vagina.

I too contacted Coppoletta for more info, and here's what he said:

The magazine informed me that Damien had handpicked me for this project and I agreed to take it on. I was curious about the design to be submitted, and on receiving it, we began to bounce the design backward and forwards until the final draft was agreed.

The butterfly needed to be adapted to the physicality of the area. The final tattoo was very close to the original design, but I needed to modify a few elements for it to be more tattooable.
When asked about the challenges of tattooing genitals, he said that there were no special techniques he used on that type of skin, and that the difficulty really lies in reach and body positioning.

On one of the Garage magazine covers, the actual tattoo is obscured with a peel-away butterfly sticker, a nod to the Warhol banana sticker on The Velvet Underground & Nico album. Nevertheless, it's already being banned by WHSmith booksellers. The two other covers are a sketch of Richard Prince's smiling tattoo design, and a Nick Knight photo of Dinos Chapman's dollhouse complete with Lily Donaldson puppet. See them on High Snobiety.

Looking forward to getting my hands on all three next week. Garden party to follow.
01:56 PM
mironiuk_2.jpgI walked into Phantom Audio in Manhattan's Flatiron District last week and was blown away to see that the studio's usually-bare walls were covered with buxom pin-ups sporting skin-art, sex-toys and squirt guns.  Unsurprisingly, all of the work on display (and for sale) was the work of Tattoo magazine's illustrator, Ed Mironiuk.

If you're in New York City, I'd highly recommend scheduling a private appointment to view the work (the exhibition is not open to the general public).  While Mironiuk's Flickr set gives you a watermarked sense of his style (and his sense of humor with pieces like "Adoration of the Hot Wings," pictured below), the prints are utterly beautiful and their online avatars just don't serve them justice.

mironiuk_3.jpgPhantom Audio is located at 48 West 25th St. in New York City.  Appointments to view the work can be scheduled by calling (212) 727-0452.

And for those of you not in the metro area, be sure to check out where you can order prints through his online store.

12:22 PM
Once again, it's "free stuff because we love you" time!

We teamed up with our friends at to offer two readers a gift card worth $25 each for anything in their online store, whether it be these sweet cherry wood heart plugs above, big gauge coral glass plugs below, a wide selection of tapers for stretching -- however, you like to pretty up. And as so much of EarGauges's selection is under $25, the winners need not put in a dime.

Ok, here's how we're gonna play this:  the two winners will be selected randomly from those who comment on this post in our Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook. [Please comment with your gauge size, not bra size.] In one week, on September 6th, we'll put all the names of the commenters into and the internet gods will offer up the chosen ones.

While you're at it, head to the Facebook page and "Like" them. Because we all want to be liked.

That's it. Easy breezy. Good luck!
05:13 PM
While we weathered the storms here in Brooklyn, so many of our friends were working and playing at the Hell City Tattoo Festival in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. Reading their twitter feeds, it was clear that Durb Morrison and his exceptional crew put on another top show. And the press agreed.

According the the Phoenix New Times, there was even a greater turn-out than last year with thousands in attendance at the Arizona Biltmore "to show off their tattoos, get new ink, watch live painting, and gawk over the art gallery." The article paints the scene of busy tattoo booths and fine art created live. It even finishes off with a note that tattooing should be considered an art form itself:

And if the fistfuls of reality TV tattoo shows, the thousands of people who showed up to Hell City, and the countless jaw-dropping tattoos they sported weren't proof enough, the dozens of detailed acrylic and oil on canvas works there (ranging from fantastical landscapes to realistic portraits) further proved that tattooing is not just something sailors and convicts do anymore -- it's clearly a mainstream art form.

Check their extensive gallery of photos by Ryan Wolf, including those shown here.

You can find more photos from the show on the's gallery, and Fox News has this quick video and write-up. If you have photos you'd like to share, hit us up.

02:26 PM
haiti tattoo.jpg"People tend to empathize with major events...until the next big thing happens. But we think the world's issues deserve more than just a moment of empathy. The Social Tattoo Project is making empathy permanent."

Making empathy permanent. The Social Tattoo Project description certainly got my attention. We live in a time when legions of people are sporting ironic self referential tattoos, parents are looking for cut-rate deals on baby portraits, and just too many have chosen to immortalize Kat Von D on their own bods. So tattoos used for social good could be a welcome relief -- a break from the fashion, marketing and general media clutches that have swooped in to co-opt an ancient art. Of course, The Social Tattoo Project is created by three interns at the BBH NY ad agency.

That said, these interns sold me on their experiment to blend art, social media and human interest together. It also helped that they partnered with our friends at Sacred Tattoo in SoHo, whose artists Matthew Adams and Jon Mesa are doing the actual tattooing.

Here's how the project works:

Our volunteers are getting tattoos that represent worldly issues, but they have no idea what their tattoos will be. They are letting you decide.

For each tattoo, we will post 4 trending topics on Twitter, and the most tweeted trend will be the subject of the tattoo. To vote, tweet #socialtattoo and your #favorite trend of the 4 to @social_tattoo. With your vote and our volunteers' skin, we can make what the world empathizes with today, what we care about forever.

So far, five volunteers have gotten tattoos with the following topics:  #human trafficking, #poverty, #Pray for Japan, #Norway, and #Haiti. The Haiti tribute tattoo video is shown below (finished tattoo is above).

All tattoo videos can be viewed on

What makes me a bit uncomfortable, though, is the idea of having someone else choose your tattoo, particularly from the whims of social networking. The biggest twitter trend this week was the earthquake that hit the East Coast. And do we really want to see more of these "I Survived the Quake" tattoos? [In this case, I have little empathy for dumbassness.]

But whether you agree with the praxis or not, the theory behind The Social Tattoo Project is positive and interesting. Kudos to interns Haywood R. Watkins, Stephanie Krivitzky, and Jennifer Huang for their hard work on this.
03:09 PM

Got one more excellent tattoo artist video profile for you today:
Part III of the Tattoo Age feature on Grime of Skull & Sword in San Francisco.
Check Part I here and Part II here. Enjoy!
12:45 PM

Cris Cleen Works from Cris Cleen on Vimeo.

With LA Ink canceled and NY Ink's first season wrapped, it's welcoming to see more and more media dedicated to footage focused on the art and offering real portraits of the tattooists. 

One beautifully produced documentary short, which was recently released, is a look at the tattoos and paintings of Cris Cleen. The doc is filmed and edited by Andreas Tagger
who followed Cris as he tattooed at Idle Hand Tattoo SF and Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn. Along with Cris's thoughts on the art and his approach to "the tattoo experience," there are close-ups of his work -- a style that he describes as "turn of the century, more European influenced traditional tattoos."

Samples of his portfolio are shown below. For more, click

cris cleen tattoo.jpg
cris cleen tattoo2.jpg
01:42 PM
sacred skin thailand.jpg
There have been a number of posts on this blog devoted to Sak Yant, sacred tattoos, performed by monks in Thailand. The yantras, mystical diagrams, on skin are not only beautiful, but for many, the tattoos bestow upon the wearer super-human powers.

Exploring Sak Yant from its origins to today is "Sacred Skin: Thailand's Spirit Tattoos" by Tom Vater and Aroon Thaewehatturat.

The book begins with an up-close look into the
Wai Khru ceremony at the Wat Bang Phra Buddhist temple:  "Uaaahh! The man is running straight at me, his face contorted into a thousand agonies. His bare, heavily tattooed chest gleams with sweat. He screams at the sky, he vomits anger, but he's rushing directly ahead."  The frenzied text, like the tattooed man, soon calms and the reader is then led into the studio of Achan Thoy (pictured below), "a highly respected Dabot Ruesi, a hermit sage of Hindu origin, known as a Rishi or Yogi in India, a man with the power to apply sacred and magic tattoos to a devotee's skin." The scene painted in that studio is indeed magic, with incantations, katas, and of course blood. It is not a mere tattoo appointment. It is a ritual.

sak yant tattoo.jpg

Tracing the roots of the ritual, the first chapter of Sacred Skin goes back thousands of years in describing Sak Yant designs and the beliefs behind them, particularly beliefs that the tattoos protect wearers against physical attack and further their strength -- beliefs that are still commonly held today. According to the book, it's because of this that many Thai people "disapprove of the sacred tattoos, ridiculing them as superstition and branding Sak Yant as part of the perceived backwardness of Thailand's rural population." Moreover, like in so many other parts of the world, the tattoos are heavily associated with Thailand's criminal underground.

Yet, as the authors explain, there are many layers to these spiritual tattoos. Most importantly, the monks who create them see Sak Yant as "silent and powerful reminders of a righteous path that all of us, whether we wear yant or not, should aspire to follow."

Chapter II on these tattoo masters and their devotees is especially compelling. A portrait of each is presented along with a short handwritten note by that person discussing the art.

Chapter III offers close-ups of traditional tattoo designs and their meanings; for example, this elephant below, Yant Chang, symbolizes strength.

thai tattoo elephant.jpgSacred Skin then comes full circle in Chapter IV, with even more intense photography from the Wai Khru celebration. The book itself is almost a seamless journey into Thai tattoo culture. I highly recommend it.

I also suggest checking out the Bangkok Post's review and CNN's interview with the authors. The CNN interview also briefly discusses Thailand's Ministry of Culture cracking down on religious tattoos (which we wrote about in June).

Sacred Skin can be purchased on Amazon for $24 (originally $33). And for a peak inside, click
04:01 PM
This morning, the Today show aired a video piece (above) pointing out "the trend" of tattooed grandmas. Despite the cliches and cheezy production, the women featured make the video well worth the watch. They show a fire and fearlessness that come with breaking the taboos of one's generation -- but with the luxury of not having to answer the ubiquitous question, What will that tattoos look like when you're older?

These women are a fabulous story on their own, and the piece really didn't need gimmicks like Jenn Wolfe's faux tattoo. As for the "trend" of tattooed grandmas, well, we'll take it over non-skinny men wearing skinny jeans.

If we had to chose the ultimate trendsetter, it would be Mimi, the 102-year-old woman who got her first tattoo at 99 years of age. As we noted in that post on Mimi, when asked "Why a tattoo? Why now?" she replied "Why not?"

Why not, indeed.

[Thanks to our friend Ron of for the link.]
12:44 PM
From September 15-18th, one of my favorite tattoo events will take place in Western Massachusetts, bringing in renowned tattooists from around the world to share information, paint together, and of course tattoo attendees:

The Paradise Tattoo Gathering is unique in this focus on education, creation, and recreation.

The Gathering takes place at Jiminy Peak, a ski resort in the Berkshire mountains on the border between New York and Massachusetts. This is the last time the event will be held here before it moves west next year. There will be 35 different offerings of tattoo and art seminars, workshops, and discussion panels covering a wide range of the art over the course of four days.

Many seminars have sold out already including the Nick Baxter, Craola, Shawn Barber, and Workhorse Irons machine building seminars. But there are still places left for seminars with Chet Zar, Bob Tyrrell, Tommy Lee Wendtner, Alex Depase, Joe Capobianco, Robert Ryan, BJ Betts, Big Gus, Hunter Spanks, Liorcifer, Bez, Chris Dingwell, Larry Brogan, and so many more. There also also seminars for the kids, as well as organized childcare for Friday and Saturday nights.

The hotel rooms are sold out too; however, there are still condos available for a limited time and the resort across the way still has rooms. Links on the website will get you what you need.

I had a blast at the Gathering last year, and I'm sure this year it will be equally exciting. Check my blurry pics from the show here.
01:50 PM
I had the true pleasure of interviewing American tattoo icon Lyle Tuttle for the September issue of Inked magazine, on newsstands now and available as a digital download.

Tattooing since 1949, Lyle rose to fame in the late sixties tattooing a predominantly female clientele and celebrities like Janice Joplin, Peter Fonda and Cher at his San Francisco studio. Despite criticism for being the tattooed media darling of his time, he is credited with presenting tattooing as an art form to the mainstream and promoting safe and hygienic industry practices. Lyle officially retired around 1990, but continues to travel the tattoo convention circuit, often teaching seminars on machine building and lecturing on tattoo history. In the interview, he offers some history lessons, discusses fame, and muses on tattoo artists as contemporary witch doctors. Here's a clip from our talk:

With your long and exciting history in tattooing, what do you consider one of the most significant landmarks in the art during your long career?

Women's liberation. With more freedom, more women got tattooed. Back in the day, I was in more panties than a gynecologist-because women were getting their tattoos inside the bikini line, little rosebuds and butterflies.

What about female tattooists? In the documentary "Covered" on women in tattoo, you said that when women would come into your studio wanting to be tattooers, you'd say: "Look honey, you got the world's oldest profession tied up, now you want the second. Do me a favor and buzz off." How have your thoughts on women in tattooing changed since then?

Tattoo shops today are a lot kinder and gentler places than they used to be. In the past, tattoo artists worked in arcades, and it wasn't a good environment. Sometimes it was hard enough to protect yourself, let alone be the front man for some woman. Women who were involved in tattooing at that time were generally married to a tattoo artist, so they worked together-there were a few man and wife teams. There was a woman who tattooed before WWII in the 1930s (she died in 1946 by her own hand). Her name was Mildred Hull. She was on the Bowery in NYC and had a sign displaying that she was the only woman tattooist on the Bowery. She was very proud.

So you're saying that you were talking more about the environment of tattooing at the time?

Yes, the environment has changed. It's eco-friendly to women now! It's a pink world! And I think women in tattooing have been good for the industry.


[Final question:]

In your 80 years on this earth, what personal doctrine or ideology have you developed?

"No sweat." Don't ever sweat over anything and don't let anyone make you sweat. I have it tattooed on the back of my leg in Kanji, but they couldn't translate "No Sweat" exactly so it reads "Perspiration No." I've been at Chinese places and pulled my pant leg up and they stare at it, beyond their comprehension. I'm actually just seeking to find one truth. If I find one, then maybe I will find the second one. Man is always looking for the secret. I'd like to know one goddamned truth before I die.
Read the full article in Inked magazine
01:50 PM
biohazzard tattoo.jpg
Michael Lee Howard's tattoos via CNN

A number of interesting articles on tattoos in the medical news have popped up recently, from infections to patient monitoring to symbols of HIV acceptance.

First up, according to Medical News Today, a report in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal cites two cases (only one confirmed) of a rare bacterial skin infection, Mycobacterium haemophilum, acquired by two healthy men who were tattooed at the same Seattle studio. The article states that it is "a bacterium that rarely affects people with a healthy immune system" and it is also difficult to treat with antibiotics. Here's the interesting part:  the tattoo studio was investigated and found to have complied with all Washington State safety standards. Investigators also took samples of equipment, containers, soap dispensers, etc. and did not find traces of the bacteria either. [Although, the inspection was conducted four months after the tattoo was done.]  The authors of the study suspect that the source could be from tap water used to dilute the ink for shading, and so they recommend using steam-distilled or sterile water in tattooing. Here's the link to full article (PDF).

Next, CNN profiles HIV-positive men and their tattoos. The central focus of the article is Michael Lee Howard, whose tattoos are shown above -- a biohazzard sign ("an unspoken 'symbol for the HIV-positive community'") and radiation symbol (representing his "rebirth"). The tattoos are not only personal markings for Howard but also designed for public discourse. The article explains:

Showing the world his status through the tattoos was like a second coming out for Howard. And the responses from others about the tattoos have been overwhelmingly positive. Since his tattoos are so prominent, Howard gets asked about them all the time. They give Howard opportunities for dialogue about living with HIV, with everyone from fellow light-rail commuters to his boss.

CNN also talked to Nick Colella of Chicago Tattooing and Piercing Company, who said that, at least since 1994, he has been tattooing HIV-related symbols on clients at the shop.

Colella used to tattoo more memorial motifs honoring people who had died of AIDS when he was starting out -- less so now, since modern antiretroviral medications effectively let patients live long lives with HIV as a chronic illness. Colella, like other tattoo artists, sterilizes his equipment and throws used needles away in biohazard-labeled containers so diseases transmitted through blood, including HIV, do not spread from person to person.


"People symbolize happiness, sadness, sexuality, everything with tattoos. It's all the good, all the bad, all the everything," [Nick] said.

Read more of this extensive feature and check its photo gallery and video segment here.

Finally, many thanks to all who sent me links to articles on the "electronic tattoo" that could "revolutionize patient monitoring." Science Magazine recently published studies on epidermal electronics -- ultra-thin devices placed on the surface of skin, like temporary tattoos, which pick up electric signals in the body. Researchers also studied how epidermal electronics could be utilized beyond patient monitoring, such as in gaming. Their goals are wide reaching, as the BBC reports:

John Rogers, professor in material science and engineering at the University of Illinois, said: "Our goal was to develop an electronic technology that could integrate with the skin in a way that is invisible to the user.

"It's a technology that blurs the distinction between electronics and biology."


Imagine the artistic possibilities -- perhaps tattoos that change color or pattern depending on brain waves or electric heart signals. And of course, I can't help but think how the sex industry will adapt this technology: electronic tattoo dildonics?

01:19 PM
Just back from vacation and catching up on the tattoo goodness I missed while helping the Greek economy with my food and bar tabs.

One such piece of goodness is the latest in Vice's VBS.TV series "Tattoo Age," which profiles renowned tattooers without any stomach-churning faux drama. Last month, the show featured Dan Santoro. Now August's three-part close-up is on the inimitable tattoo, graffiti and fine artist Grime of Skull & Sword in San Francisco.

Part 1 of Grime's profile focuses on his "tweeked out" portfolio, with plenty of tattoo images interspersed between commentary from the Skull & Sword crew as well as Saved Tattoo's Chris O'Donnell and Civ of Lotus Tattoo. In the video, Grime discusses how he approaches his work so that it "doesn't look like anyone else's" (otherwise, why would clients go to him, he says). Chris adds that he believes Grime came onto the tattoo scene "angry at the status quo" and wanting to change things up; while Civ talks about how Grime's burn accident as a kid shaped his intense drive to continually challenge himself. Watch the episode below.

At midnight, Vice will air Part 2, a more intimate view of the artist. I got a sneak peek and enjoyed watching Grime riffle through his old drawings and stencils, and show of his custom skate deck collection. Of course, there's plenty of tattoo talk, especially on his artistic influences like Marcus Pacheco of Primal Urge in Oakland. Also well worth the watch.

UPDATE:  Here's the direct link to Part 2 of the Grime series.

Following Grime's profile is Troy Denning, Mike Rubendall, and Freddy Corbin. Will post links to those videos when they're up.
01:45 PM
Marrying low brow art to tattoo flash, Quick & Painful, is a traveling exhibition and tattoo event where 15 artists and designers (with backgrounds in fine art, graffiti, and illustration) present their own special take on classic tattoo design sheets. All of the flash sets will be available for purchase at each of the show dates and available online at The Hope Shop starting October 9th.

The stellar line-up includes Alex Pardee, Amanda Visell, Brandt Peters & Kathie Olivas, Camilla D'Errico, David Horvath, Devilrobots, Greg "Craola" Simkins, Joe Ledbetter, Junko Mizuno, MIST, Ron English, Sam Flores, TADO, Tara McPherson, and Tokidoki co-founder and Creative Director Simone Legno.

At each event, attendees will be able to chose their favorite designs from the sheets off the walls and get them tattooed by renowned artists including Joe Capobianco, Eric Merrill, Julio Rodriguez, Jime Litwalk, Dan Smith, Patrick Cornolo, and Sean Adams. Here's more info on getting tattooed there.

The show bears the definitive mark of its curator, Nichole East, who reached out to iconic artists from her Pop Art background. She says, "After years of working in the low brow and pop art scene, I started to see how many fans were getting tattoos of my favorite artists. It seemed a natural urge to make sure it was done right."

Here are the places and dates for Quick & Painful:

August 27th, 7-10pm
Hope Gallery in New Haven, CT

September 3rd, 7-10pm
Crewest Gallery in Los Angeles, CA

October 8th, 7-10pm
Rotofugi Gallery in Chicago, IL

December 1-4th
Art Basel in Miami, FL

07:51 AM
Taking a quick beach break to post this interesting article from The NY Times today entitled "Booking Criminals and Comparing Ink." It's a report on the new policy by the Phoenix Police Department to ban visible tattoos that are larger than a 3-by-5 index card and tattoos on the face, neck or hands. Of course, racist tattoos and others deemed offensive are banned as well.

In the past, when I've discussed tattoos and employment discrimination, I've taken a conservative approach saying that one shouldn't be so outraged if Starbucks doesn't hire you because of your neck tattoo. I believe there is the responsibility of owning your tattoos, and if you chose to work in a field that has certain dress codes, then abide or chose another workplace, just like so many abide by hem lines and tie requirements.

For me, it's not just covering up in the courtroom. At this very moment, I am on a Greek island with my family wearing long sleeves in the heat out of respect for them because tattoos still have a stigma here that my family finds upsetting.

That said, I'm beginning to mellow on my original position re: covering up at work, and this Phoenix Police Department ban is a good example why. In Arizona, covering up is fairly impractical for cops because, well, it's really hot. As stated by Mark Spencer, the president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association: "Imagine having to wear long sleeves along with body armor, a gun belt and having to get in and out of a police car 50 times every day."

But this also has to be weighed against the goals of the department, one of which is establishing a sense of trust and security between the public and the department. And this is the tricky part. In the article, two cops offer differing opinions. One 11-year veteran says that he gets more negative than positive reactions from the public and has no problems with the new policy. Another officer, who has been on the force for three years, said that she believes it helps connect her to the community: "It gives us a sense of humanity [...] We're normal people just like everyone else."

Another big issue is the stigma itself. While clearly present on this small Greek island, is it still seen as a mark of criminality and deviance in big cities in the States? This is discussed in the article as well:

Mr. Spencer, the union official, said the culture has clearly changed when it comes to tattoos, which no longer have the renegade connotation they once did.

"I can bring my daughter down to Toys "R" Us and buy a Tattoo Barbie," he said. "My kids, one of their favorite shows is "LA Ink." Tattoos are not for me. But does this policy make the community any safer?"

Questions like these on the practical issues surrounding tattoo bans in dress codes do sway my thoughts on the issue. I've also been thinking on Professor William Peace's guest post yesterday in which he says that "every disabled and tattooed person has obligation to rebel against ignorance, prejudice and any attempt to socially isolate people who are different."

I'll continue to ponder it today over a cold cocktail by the sea.  Meanwhile, you can weigh in on the Needles & Sins FB group page.

03:34 PM
IMGP0539.jpgStill on vacation so the wonderful William J. Peace of the Bad Cripple blog is taking over to discuss his "stigmatized identity" for being tattooed and for using a wheelchair. Read more in his "The Artful Stigma" article for Disability Studies Quarterly.

My presence upsets my neighbors and strangers. Since I have moved into my house in the suburbs north of Manhattan not a single neighbor has invited me to their home. When I go to the local supermarket mothers grab their children in fear and tell their kids "Watch out for that man".  I have what academics call a stigmatized identity. What have I done that is so socially unacceptable? I use a wheelchair.

To me, my wheelchair is a powerful technological device or more simply an alternative means of locomotion.  However, for most Americans, I am the ultimate symbol of infirmity, my very existence a tragedy.  In short, my wheelchair is a portable social isolation device. My social transgression does not end with wheelchair use. I have knowingly and purposely modified my body--yes, I have a large scale Japanese style quarter panel tattoo.  When I wear a t-shirt my tattoo--my large tattoo--is clearly visible. Thanks to television tattoos are more socially acceptable but let me assure you that memo was lost in the mail where I live.  My neighborhood is not known for its diversity. Difference I have learned is for other areas.

This social phenomenon fascinates me. Which is more socially unacceptable--having a large tattoo or using a wheelchair? Much depends upon the social context. At Board of Education meetings my presence is met with groans. People know I will fiercely advocate for disability rights--an unwanted and expensive position. In contrast, at Boy Scout meetings my wheelchair use is not a factor--especially among the boys. My tattoo is a radically different story. I have been told on more than one occasion I am setting a bad example--tattoos are a violation of the scout spirit or law. 

As a result of my disability and tattoos I am considered a rebel. This is amusing and depressing.  It reflects a very narrow view of the world.  But one can find power and a place in society even if we are not wanted. Thus I have concluded every disabled and tattooed person has obligation to rebel against ignorance, prejudice and any attempt to socially isolate people who are different. Taking pride in one's tattoos and being, "Disabled and Proud," as a popular activist poster proclaims, is the only road to social equality. Tattoos and disability blur the dividing line between those within and outside mainstream society, a continuum that engulfs all humanity in a lifelong descent into entropy. It is not simply that others are afraid, impressed, repulsed, or bigoted but rather are social entities reflecting what they have been taught and chosen to believe.

William J. Peace earned his PhD with distinction from Columbia University in 1992. He is author of "Leslie A. White: Evolution and Revolution in Anthropology." His research interests include the history of anthropology, disability studies and body art and modification. He is a disability rights advocate and maintains a blog entitled Bad Cripple. He is at work on a memoir under the same title.   
02:28 PM
Click the image to view it full-size in a new window (or simply head to the always-brilliant and click here for a brief FAQ about oncology tattooing.

[nod to Rex Parker for bringing this little giggle to my attention]
10:45 AM
nick_wooster1.jpgAdmittedly, it's been over a decade since I let my subscription to Esquire lapse (the rising popularity of "lad-mags" in the late 90s seemingly generated a shift and subsequent downward spiral in the respectability of Esquire's content).  But it came to my attention through the twitterverse that style-maven and tattoo-aficionado Nick Wooster was talking about tattoos on their website.

nick_wooster2.jpgWith advice like:

What will they look like at 80? You can't think about it. Look, if I'm still standing at 80, that in and of itself will be a miracle. However I look will be just fine.


I love the idea of being covered-up in a suit and nobody can tell. That's a conscious choice you have to make, though. I really like neck tattoos and hand tattoos. They're just not for me.

It's definitely an enjoyable (and, for my money, entirely accurate) read.  Click through to read the entire article.

[Photos courtesy of The Style Blogger and Parker Steele]
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