Many thanks to all who sent me the link to this article, which was front page news in the Wall Street Journal: "Tattoo Checks Trip Up Visas."
At issue here is concern over granting green cards or permanent citizenship to members of foreign gangs. The applications are denied on national-security grounds, but even those who do not have a criminal record could be flagged on the basis of gang-related tattoos. Here's more from the article:
The presence of tattoos isn't enough to deny an application, according to a spokeswoman for the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs. She said "more attention has been paid to tattoos as indicators of a gang affiliation during the visa process" as law enforcement has better understood the relationship between "certain tattoos" and gangs. The department doesn't comment on individual cases, she said.But what's a gang tattoo?
The article discusses the plight of two Mexican-born applicants for US residency, Hector Villalobos and Rolando Mora Huerta. Both were denied visas because of their tattoos. The article particularly cites the popular "Smile/Laugh Now, Cry Later" design, which US officials believe to be gang related. While the origins of the motif in Latino art are arguably rooted in prison culture, the symbol has come to mean more than criminality.
As I wrote in the introduction to Edgar Hoill's Latino Art Collection, the ethos behind the Payaso (or Payasa) centers on the belief that one cannot show weakness but should appear strong and happy in the face of adversity and later deal with troubles when alone. It is also said that the motif reflects the ideal of living life fully in the moment without regard to consequences and suffering them afterward. Some even believe that music may be behind the imagery, noting songs like "Smile now, cry later" by Sonny Ozuna.
You don't have to be a criminal to wear this tattoo. Indeed, both men deny any criminal affiliation.
Particularly in black & grey tattoo culture, some of the artwork may find its roots in gangs and prisons, but as a gang expert cited in the article states, a number of these tattoos have become part of "popular culture at large" over the last ten years.
US officials should not decide critical immigration decisions based on how they interpret tattoos and nothing more. What about swastika tattoos? Will all those "gentle swastika" proponents be barred from residency for being in a Neo-Nazi gang?
Perhaps it will take a lawsuit to clear up this issue.
Photo of tribal tattoo masters Leo Zulueta and Rory Keating by Diane Mansfield
It's been tough getting to the media's tattoo news when I'm focused on my own, the upcoming release of my book Black Tattoo Art: Modern Expressions of the Tribal on September 10th.
I'll be doing a shameless post soon with more info on the book and how to buy it, but you can actually get a preview of what's in store by picking up this month's Inked Mag and checking out my interview with the godfather of modern tribal tattooing, Leo Zuluetta of Spiral Tattoo (shown above with Rory Keating who is also featured in my book). Here's a taste from that interview:
"I think there's always going to be a stigma to tattooing. Even as accepted as it is today, there's always a stigma, which goes back to deeply rooted church morals in society (although I have tattooed a Catholic priest twice at Bob Roberts' shop). Modern society will never accept something too primitive."I agree with Leo. Just look at some of this week's headlines and see how true it is:
The Dallas Police Department's "no visible tattoos" policy went into effect yesterday. Officers argued that the tattoos actually helped their job when undercover by giving them "street cred" but the Department still said that tattoos can be considered "offensive" when the cops go back on patrol. [As a tattoo snob, I raise my pointy nose at many a bad work, but if I'm in trouble and need a cop, no amount of inexplicable Kanji will ever offend me.]
In Pennsylvania, a State Police recruit is suing the Department because he was told that he had to remove his tattoo in order to be hired. Wow. The government telling candidates to undergo painful laser removal? He's suing under First Amendment arguments and claiming that the Department's tattoo policy is vague and overbroad. This one might win.
Across America, tattoo studio owners still have a hard time opening up shop.
In Malmo, Sweden, the nightclub The Swing Inn has a "no tattooed women" policy because they think "tattoos look distasteful." Thankfully, nightclub popularity doesn't even have the trendy staying power of the Kanji tattoo. Look forward to eating at the McDonald's that replaces it soon.
In Canada, a teardrop tattoo may land a Toronto man behind bars for life. The man was acquitted in the shooting death of a rival gang member but now that has been reversed because the Ontario Court of Appeal said that the lower court should not have excluded testimony from a gang expert that the teardrop tattoo signifies that the wearer has killed. This is a bad call. Tattoos symbolism is not a science. Yes, a teardrop could mean the guy killed a rival but it could also mean that he lost a loved one or fellow member. It could even be a dumb attempt to gain street cred. Leave it out of evidence.
[But a visible tattoo did help one Chicago man accused of robbery go free.]
Of course, there are the dumbasses that justify the stigma, like these people:
Maria Erika Vasquez of Brownsville allegedly tattooed her 6 and 10-year-old sons -- with three dots on the hand for "Mi Vida Loca" no less. Mother of the Year.
Or cage fighter Toni Valtonen who sports a large Nazi Swastika tattoo -- not the "gentle" kind we talked about last week -- along with a ton of other bad work. While he noted his tattoo regret in a statement, the best way to do so is with cover-ups and laser removal. Toni, here's more info on laser removal. A donation to a Holocaust museum would also be nice.
In shiny, happy tattoo news ...
The tattooed hotness of the above Sean Risley, model and former bodmod blogger, is gracing numerous mags this month -- notably Purple's Fall 2009 Fashion issue -- in Alexander McQueen's latest ads. See a close up of the add and Sean's tattoo work here.
The Hindu also talks about how hot tattoos are in India right now. Here's a taste of that interesting article on a growing tattoo culture:
While the old favourites -- angels on shoulders, tribal art on the lower back and Yin-Yang across biceps -- are still popular, people also design their own art now. Tattoo artists are constantly asked to come up with unusual concepts. Most people rarely stop at one tattoo - the city average is, in fact, is about five per person. And, 'conservative' Chennai is reportedly studded with seemingly regular people with unprintable tattoos across unprintable parts of their bodies.Check the slideshow illustrating the article, which includes this photo below.
In Australia, tattoo culture is equally thriving. According to the Herald Sun, "Popularity of tattoos among young Melburnians continues to grow, with a survey finding 70 per cent of people aged 16-30 are considering getting one in the next five years." Interestingly, tattoo removal is also on the rise -- "500% in the past two years."
And across the Internet, tattoos rank in the top 5 of the most common image or videos shared on Twitter, according to Mashable.com.
Case in point: the Twittered Tattoo Ode to John Stamos and his brilliant portrayal of "Uncle Jesse" in the classic must-see TV show Full House. Here's the Twit pic.
Have Mercy, indeed!
The Michael Jackson tribute tattoos dominated the headlines while Rihanna created some buzz of her own by tattooing three people at East Side Ink in Manhattan, home to her favorite artist Bang Bang. Tattooists at the shop got Ri's signature umbrella with the letter 'R' underneath it. But the biggest treat was for the paparazzi: see more photos on INFDaily.
Alas, the sweet press for the studio has backfired because now the NYPD and the NYC Health Department are looking into Rihanna tattooing without a license -- a misdemeanor offense that could mean fines and loss of license for East Side's owner. It's not confirmed, however, whether the city has opened an investigation into the unlicensed tattooing.
In more illegal ink news, this dude was jailed for tattooing minors but it should've been for his "online tattooing school." Note to self: ask my next tattooist to see license and diploma from Bob's Tattoo School.
The problem with unlicensed tattooing is the risk of severe infection, never mind shitty umbrella art.
Perfect example: this tattoo gone wrong law suit [via NSFW Modblog] where three friends walked into a Morgan Hill, California shop and walked out with massive staph infections. One posted this puss-filled tattoo (below) on HelpMeSue.com, also noting they researched the studio and found it was not yet licensed by the health department. It would have been better, of course, if such research was done prior to dirty tattooing. The image is a reminder to do our homework on the artist and shop opening our skin.
Infection may be common at unlicensed shops but I wouldn't go as far as ex-MTV veejay Jancee Dunn's fear of "rampant hepatitis" -- the argument she gave her over-60 mom who decided to get tattooed. But the super cool mom ignored such drama and gave the best reason for wanting a tattoo -- simply because she liked it:
"I've passed midlife. Your generation thinks every action has to be fueled by some major psychological motive. You know what? I just want some art on my body. And I like ravens."They went to Shotsie's Tattoo in Wayne, NJ, a long time tattoo staple in NJ (fully licensed of course), and the Ink Shrink worked a raven on her wrist, which she loved. The rockin grandma's next plan is to head to Burning Man, and while her daughter remains horrified, I'm inspired. Jancee's book Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask is now out.
Ok, now to cleanse that icky tattoo image from ya head, behold the Beckhams:
I just licked my screen. Their Armani ad is hot. Less so, The Beckhams: 10 years of tattoos, Tom Cruise and malnutrition.
Further celeb hotness, Mena Suvari shows off her '13' tattoo.
But I gotta ask, What would prompt someone to get a Lady Gaga tattoo?
In more important news ...
Quebec Superior Court judge has ruled that a dress code for day care workers forcing employees to cover-up tattoos was in violation of their rights.Supported by the daycare worker union in Quebec, Nadine Bélisle can now show off the snake tattoo on her shoulder blade. The union president said "We agree that if a tattoo is sexist, racist or violent it should be camouflaged. But I don't see how children are going to be traumatized by a flower on someone's ankle." The lawyer for the daycare argued the board put the general ban in place so they did not have to make the decision of what tattoos are deemed suitable. The judge didn't dig that argument and found that the ban "rests on prejudices." The Globe and Mail further quotes the Judge Jean Bouchard:
Another reason to love Canada:
Eric has been getting tattooed for over 20 years but saved room on his upper arm to mark the birth of his beautiful daughter Hayden (both shown right). And as Hayden was born on a full moon, he added one behind her name and above it a rose with a pink diamond in it. Ok everyone, time for a group "aaawww."
Another note to self: add Eric to our growing N+S "objectified tattooed men."
Not to be objectified: This dude with the Stooges backpiece and facial ink!
Perhaps he'll be inducted into Australia MSN's world's worst tattoos hall of shame. A group rivalled by those featured in this blog: Most unfortunate tattoos for a mugshot.