Feb201727
"The Healing Role of Postmastectomy Tattoos"
10:00 AM
m_jam170001f2.pngIn the recent edition of the The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there is a wonderful article written by tattooer and painter David Allen entitled "Moving the Needle on Recovery From Breast CancerThe Healing Role of Postmastectomy Tattoos."

As posted here before, David has created some of the most beautiful ornamental tattoo work over mastectomy scars. In this article, he offers a detailed account of the process. Here a taste of it:

I screen the women who contact me with a lengthy phone call in which I ask hundreds of questions. I need to know that they're ready. Some women don't know what they want, which means I can't be certain that what I do will help them, or they want to regain control by controlling me, which doesn't work since it inhibits my freedom to help them. Some are managing disagreements with family members about the appropriateness of what I do. One woman wept when I touched her--her husband had left her because of her illness and she hadn't been touched by a man in many years. That wasn't the time for me to begin my work. My contribution needs to be a healthy, organic part of their path through their illness. I'll decline to do the work if I get the sense that this is not the case.
[...]
Over the 10 years I've worked with cancer survivors, I've developed a tattooing process and imagery that's a little different from other artists, plastic surgeons, and micropigmentationists. A standard approach to postmastectomy micropigmentation is to tattoo images of a nipple on a breast mound or reconstructed breast. To my eye, a clinical, trompe l'oeil image of a tattooed nipple lacks character. It has no relationship to the woman's altered body and mind. The women I see want the opportunity to turn themselves into something that transcends an imitation of what they used to look like. Additionally, the nipple image fades with time. So over years of work I've evolved toward botanical imagery--branches, stems, leaves, flowers--as the most effective way to transform the surgically altered breast 9. Artistically, the use of organic imagery lends itself to variance and deviation; the imagery is freed from a rigid adherence to scar patterns and can move the eye along designated paths and away from the areas of the chest that feel most abnormal or disfigured to the woman. It is forgiving of changes to skin and scars that come with healing and age. And the symbolism of quiet, inexorable change and growth evoked by flowering plants fits where the women are in their journey through and away from their illness.
Read more on JAMA.

You can also find more of David's work on Instagram.


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EDITOR IN CHIEF:
Marisa Kakoulas
CONTRIBUTORS:
Miguel Collins
Craig Dershowitz
Brian Grosz
Sean Risley
Patrick Sullivan
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