It’s an image ingrained in the culture of both the United States and countries throughout Central America: the heavily-tattooed, ruthless gang members on the prowl for victims.
These inked-up thugs – such as members of the feared Mara Salvatrucha (or MS-13) and Barrio 18 street gangs operating in El Salvador and Honduras – have been blamed in part for the surge in unaccompanied minors streaming north toward safety in the U.S. and have kept border agents busy making sure that none of these hoodlums enter the country.
While law enforcement officials in places like Los Angeles and throughout the federal prison system have been studying gang tattoos for years to get a grasp on affiliations and meanings, the countries in Central America have only recently latched on to this practice as violent crime rates spiral out of control throughout these nations.
Police in Honduras now claim to have cracked the code on the symbolic meaning of these tattoos even as more and more gang members hide their ink amid a crackdown on gangs in the country.
One of the most popular images found on gang members is two hands clasped together and fingers facing skyward in prayer posture. Experts interviewed by Honduras’ El Heraldo newspaper say that this tattoo is not a representation of any religiosity on the part of the gang member, but a plea to “forgive me mother for my crazy life.”
“This phrase means that there are normal moments in the life of gang member or a gang that let you think properly about the actions carried out in the course of one’s own life,” the newspaper reported. “As a result the position of consciousness arises because [the gang member] realizes he is doing something wrong which is against morality and decency, even taking the life of one or more persons.”
Other religious tattoos, such as Jesus or the Virgin of Guadalupe, are found throughout the Central American gang world and represent similar meanings, although the Christ tattoo is almost exclusively used by MS-13.
The yin yang is also a popular tattoo in gangs throughout Central America. While most commonly associated with Asian gangs, it has become increasingly popular among the MS-13 street gang in El Salvador.
The design, experts say, symbolizes the balance between good and evil, which the gang members have achieved through force, violence and death.
One the most notorious and widespread tattoos in any gang culture is the spider web, meant to represent power and a gang’s expansion into new territories. It is found mostly on elbows, shoulders or knees.
Experts recommend that young people thinking of getting a tattoo should study what they want carefully and make sure that the ink they get doesn’t have some subliminal meaning that could have them hurt or even killed unintentionally.
“Just having a tattoo alluding to one of those groups and crossing to some other group’s turf is an offense, because the person is identifying himself or promoting a different group,” an unnamed expert interviewed by El Heraldo said.
Tattoos, however, are becoming less prevalent among gang members in Honduras after the country cracked down in 2005 on gang associations by threatening people with ties to street gangs with nine to 12 years in prison and a hefty fine.
With tattoos being easy identifiers of gang associations, some members of gang’s leadership have warned their fellow brutes to cover up their body art or put it on a place of the body that is not easily seen.
Younger gang members have been saved from the cover-up because they came into the groups after the gang laws went in place, but older members have been forced to wear long sleeves in the hot weather and even caps to cover up their head tattoos.
Video by Luke Holley
Tattoo on Luke Holley
By Kevin Miller
Tattoo artists in Brazil are being trained by doctors to look for signs of skin cancer, thanks to Sol de Janeiro. Sol de Janeiro is a sunscreen company, and had the brilliant idea of having artists attending training courses to look for early signs of skin cancer.
This is simply brilliant. With skin cancer being the most common type of cancer in the world, this could help people quickly identify the early signs.
The suggestion that “tattoos are not just for sailors any more” is a familiar one. It might be surprising to learn, then, that the popular media has been reporting the arrival of tattooing in high society for nearly one hundred years. To celebrate the release of “Forever: The New Tattoo”, Gestalten hosted an evening of informative and entertaining talks by renowned tattoo artists Alex Binnie and Duncan X, as well as by heavily tattooed art historian Matt Lodder, author of the book’s preface. Further tattoo protagonists, namely Jon John, Liam Sparkes and Zoe Binnie, attended the event at the Gestalten Space in Berlin and gave us additional insight.
The book shop.gestalten.com/forever.html
See photos from the event here bit.ly/V4w6rP and bit.ly/Sqd5uW
More videos on gestalten.tvhttp://vimeo.com/50360812
By Pete Kasperowicz
The Food and Drug Administration is warning people that getting a tattoo comes with several risks, including the possibility of being infected with HIV or hepatitis, allergic reactions, and other skin problems.
And if you ever decide to remove your tattoo later, the FDA is warning about “pain and high costs.”
The FDA’s warning focused on women who get tattoos for “beauty, self-expression or cultural events.” It explained that tattoos can be done by injecting ink into your skin, injecting henna, or by getting a temporary tattoo.
FDA said that because of the risk of infections, scarring or other problems, the FDA “has not approved any inks for injecting into your skin.”
FDA has also not approved the injection of henna or hair dye into people’s skin. The FDA said it does not regulate tattoo parlors, but does monitor problems associated with tattoos — problems can be reported by calling 1-800-332-1088.
The agency said removing tattoos is not easy. “You may not be able to completely remove your tattoo,” it said. “You could get a scar when you remove your tattoo.”
There are other more complicated methods for removing them as well.
“Tattoos can sometimes be removed by cutting out the tattooed skin then sewing the skin back together,” it said. “Other times, the skin can be sanded down to remove the tattoo.”
The FDA indicated that least painful and easiest to remove option is the temporary tattoo, like the ones found in Cracker Jack boxes.
“A tattoo design is on a coated paper,” FDA said. “It is put on your skin with water. Temporary tattoos may last up to 3-4 weeks. Sticker tattoos last hours to days.”
By Katherine Brooks
Oh, the tattoo. From an innocuous badge inked ever so carefully on one’s back to a blanket of color flowing from the shoulders to the ankles, the world has proven the tradition of permanently adorning the body with artwork is here to stay. Hidden from sight or paraded in public, designed by professionals or picked and poked by amateurs, humans just can’t get enough of this particular brand of body modification. Take, for example, a Harris poll from 2012, which declared that in the U.S. alone, one in five individuals had chosen to bring needle to flesh. That’s 20% of the adults surveyed, for those bad with fractions.
By Aimee Heckel
Accept the discomfort with love, I keep telling myself, knowing that love is the opposite of fear, and that any drop of fear will destroy this experience. If I let fear cloud me now, I am going to miss the message.
Any rational human would say I should be scared.
I have given my entire back to Chris Fuller, a tattoo artist at Junkyard Ink in Louisville. I met Fuller during an interview in a few months earlier. I clicked with his philosophy: that tattoos are art on flesh. In fact, Fuller and most of the other employees at the shop were traditional artists first. Fuller was a painter.
I visited the shop regularly to talk about my next tattoo. My first four had been specific words or designs in specific places on my body for precise reasons. I had over-thought them all. They felt like extensions of my body, and they were an external expressions of internal enlightenments. They were my babies, in ink.
This time is different.
I don’t know what Fuller is going to tattoo on me. Neither does he.
We agree to not go into the tattoo with preconceptions, but to approach it in the same way he paints his murals on canvas. I will be Chris Fuller’s canvas for a free-form tattoo painting.
Like I said: not rational whatsoever.
But rationality — the over-thinking, the limiting human mind, the man-made labels and explanations — is exactly what I want to suppress.
I am hoping by stilling my brain, I will shift perspective. Gain sight through the endless spirit, not eyes, which can shut or go blind. I hope that by diminishing the physical absorption of a physical experience, it can transcend into something spiritual.
And maybe not hurt so dang bad.
Of course, it’s a far leap. But you can’t catch air without leaping. And I’ve always believed art is an experience and expression, not a logical, finite explanation to prove, or even understand.
Like Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
I get that, in theory.
I am about to really get it, personally. Do you believe in anything deeply enough to let it transform you? To let it become you? For the love of art, and the sake of its raw beauty, I am about to become it.
Hour two: As I lean over the chair, breathing into the pain, I decide this is what it must feel like to be the marble, or wood, or iron being welded into a new form.
When Michelangelo created some of his greatest masterpieces, he did not go in with an agenda. He did not carve the marble into an angel. Quite the opposite. As he put it, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” The angel was already inside.
Amid the dull hum of the tattoo machine, this quote haunts me. I try to imagine the beauty living inside everything: every piece of paper, every chunk of wood, every empty stage. Potential is hovering beneath the surface of everything, like scientific joules: artistic jewels.
Fuller “carves away” at my canvas in the same way he paints. He lays down layers of color until something emerges out of the lines and shapes, and he builds on that. He had been wanting to attempt this revolutionary style of tattooing for years, but he said he could never find anyone who wanted to do it. They were too afraid of letting go of the control.
What — or who — is living underneath my own skin?
As I sit, I wonder. It could be my own Michaelangelo angel. An octopus. A tree. Beneath my skin could be a flower, a lion, a snake. A demon.
Hour five: I think about beauty.
A person’s style is their temporary artistic expression. A daily opportunity to paint and celebrate our bodies.
Fashion is only as shallow as how you choose to confine it. Because it is possible — albeit difficult — to appreciate something for its pure and simple beauty. In fact, the origin of Zen came from that idea, a “silent sermon” during which Buddha held up a flower and gazed at it, saying nothing. Enlightenment might just be letting go of everything we thought we knew, the labels, the mind, the over-analyzing of every single thing, and just letting the beauty be.
I wrote about this one night. Just a free-form poem to myself. Not to share with anyone. I opened up and the words fell out onto the page.
It was the next day that Fuller told me his tattoo idea. I didn’t hesitate. I would lose control, but gain a mark for beauty’s sake alone. What greater honor than that? Not to remind me of something that I had experienced and learned; but rather to be that very experience and lesson.
Hour 11: I think more about Michelangelo.
Perhaps we all are born with the ability to unearth this perfect beauty, in various ways. For some, it’s dancing or drawing, photography, singing, writing, woodworking, playing an instrument, cooking, theater, a sport, making jewelry or designing clothes. You do not pick your art; it is a gift, given to you. You know it is yours because it chases you.
And it will. It nags at you until you die. That’s because it is your duty to do something with it. Art is what you give back, in exchange for the love that you receive, and the opportunity to have life. And it is balanced; every human’s art is as deep and breathtaking and awesome as the perfect love that God created us from and offers to us.
But occasionally — most of the time, actually — people decide that gift is not there. They suppress it. They bury it under things that do not satisfy. It is almost as if they don’t want their gift, or for some very human reason, they are afraid of it. They do not acknowledge or accept it, so they cannot express it.
Michelangelo accepted it. He opened up and took it. If people accepted their art and stopped thinking about it, and just became that gift, their art would flow from them perfectly and fully and completely.
The reason Michelangelo’s art was so incredible is because he simply removed the dam and could see what was already inside — of the marble, and of himself. Art flows out, like love flows in.
By letting go and releasing my canvas to an artist, and trusting him, I was allowing him to follow his art.
Of course, the very manifestation of this experience, the reason I was ready for it, came from the poem I had written the day before. In an artistic cause-and-effect, this made the tattoo a ripple effect from my own art: writing. Art begetting art.
Hour 20: I can’t wait to see what is living inside my skin.
It has been four sessions of about five hours each. Fuller used more than 20 different shades of blues, greens and purples. The white highlights he added at the end will continue to grow brighter as the tattoo heals.
He tattooed the entire right side of my back, from my neck to waist. I felt him painting swirls. I felt spirals and coils and curls, tracing the natural curves of my body. Fuller followed those shapes and connected them until they created a picture.
I stand up to finally see the completed project. I feel open and trusting, but exhausted. Above all, I feel honored to spend the rest of my life wearing a painting. Fuller initials it. I turn to see the mirror.
One of her arms is reaching up to the sky. Her chin is lifted, and she’s gazing up. She is feminine, elegant and fragile. She is abstract, almost a mermaid, or a cyclone, a Siren, a ghost, or an illusion in the water or sky or both. Fuller barely knew me when we started, but he tattooed my spirit.
Underneath my skin was a dancer.
This article originally appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera.
Photo by Mark Leffingwell/Daily Camera.
By Deb Yarian
The first thing out of my mouth when a couple says ” We’ve decided to have a baby ” is usually “Congratulations” not ” What happens if you get a divorce?” I wish as many obstetricians counseled their patients against having babies using the same reasoning as some tattooers do when they advise their customers against getting a partner’s name – “What happens if you break up?”
Well… what happens if you break up is that you, having made an adult decision to show your devotion to someone by getting their name tattooed on your skin must now make another adult decision and learn to live with it, cover it, or change it. A ludicrous comparison, yes- but the name tattoo (a foolish choice only in retrospect) seems far less permanent when compared with the really permanent -living child
This sort of counsel is a particular pet peeve of mine. I think that when a person wishes to commemorate their love and devotion to another person by getting a tattoo of their name, that is their adult decision and they don’t need my opinion other than possibly font or calligraphic design choice or placement. I’ve heard so many tattooers respond to name requests with such negativity. With mocking responses ranging from ” That’s a sure way to end a relationship!” “You sure you want to do that?” To ridicule or refusal to do the name tattoo. But why should any couple coming in to get name tattoos from me or any other tattooer have to validate anything other than their legal ability to get tattooed? Since when did the tattooer become the priest and rabbi and moral counsel of their customers? During my 35 years of tattooing there have probably been hundreds, even thousands of tattoo designs that I have been asked to do that I myself would not have chosen to get. In my opinion many more ugly or foolish design choices have been made than choosing to get the name of a loved one.
I am speaking solely on my opinion of a person’s decision to get another’s name- not the aesthetics of it. Certainly, if the aesthetics of type interferes with the look or design flow of a larger tattoo then when asked for my artistic opinion I would give my honest one. However, if asked my opinion as to whether someone should get their partner’s name – how could I answer that? I feel that it’s only my responsibility to advise on design choice and placement and to try and do the best job that I can regardless of my opinion of someone else’s choice of what to wear on their body.
By Michelle Tan
Tattooed soldiers seeking to trade in their sergeant’s stripes for a lieutenant’s bar may soon see some relief from one of the Army’s most controversial regulations.
The Army is very close to announcing changes to the policy, that will likely relax the rules for soldiers looking to earn a commission.
Army spokesman Paul Prince confirmed a review had taken place and that changes were imminent.
“Specifics about these changes will be published in the forthcoming version of” Army regulations, Prince said.
Army officials are remaining tight-lipped about specific rule changes until the revisions can be published. But it’s likely to be good news for soldiers, many of whom have lambasted the service for not grandfathering enlisted soldiers who want to go officer.
The current version of Army Regulation 670-1, published March 31, includes the following rules:
• No tattoos on the head, face, neck and hands.
• No extremist, indecent, sexist or racist ink.
• No more than four visible tattoos below the elbows and knees. In addition, those tattoos must be smaller than the size of the wearer’s hand.
• Visible band tattoos cannot be more than 2-inches wide,
• Sleeve tattoos are not allowed.
But here was the kicker: While most soldiers were going to be grandfathered, the regulation states that enlisted soldiers with illegal ink cannot request commissioning without a waiver.
The Army said it tightened its tattoo policies in order to maintain a professional look across the force.
The clause angered many soldiers, who took to social media to vent their frustration.
Many felt insulted that they were deemed ineligible to be commissioned because of their appearance, especially if their tattoos honored their fellow soldiers killed in combat.
Staff Sgt. Adam Thorogood of the Kentucky National Guard filed suit July 10 in federal court, seeking to have the new tattoo rules declared unconstitutional. Thorogood, who has 11 tattoos, hopes to become an aviation warrant officer.
As of July, the Army has granted “approximately 59 exceptions to policy for tattoos” for enlisted soldiers working to become officers or warrant officers, Prince said.
Despite the waiver process apparently working for some soldiers, there remains confusion.
Army Reserve Sgt. Lindsay Urena, a medic, just earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with the sole purpose of seeking a commission and training to become a physician assistant.
Urena had a tattoo of a lizard removed from her right hand – a procedure she said was incredibly painful because the dermatologist she saw tried to remove the tattoo in one sitting. Almost three months later, her hand is still healing.
Now she’s worried because she has a large tattoo of Bumblebee from the “Transformers” on her left forearm.
Her commander wrote a memorandum requesting a waiver on her behalf, Urena said, but the unit is now mobilized, and she doesn’t know where her application stands.
The whole process has been painful and frustrating, she said.
“I am a noncommissioned officer,” Urena said. “I am professional in every aspect of my military career. How is having a tattoo a symbol of being unprofessional? As a medic, does my tattoo prevent me from saving a life, giving medical care of helping my fellow soldiers? Not in the least, so why am I being punished for it?”
Staff Sgt. Alan Lalonde, who has half-sleeve tattoos on his arms, said in an e-mail to Army Times he wished his service would get with the times.
“I wish they would see the generation in which we currently live and adjust slightly to take care of the good ones,” Lalonde said.
By Some Quality Meat
For Some Quality Meat we created a short and playful series about beautiful woman and their tattoo’s. Celebrating femininity and independence. With these shorts we try to depict the essence of and way of live of these beautiful females.
Model: Michelle Goormans
Jewelery: Monocrafft | monocrafft.com
Music by Hippie Sabotage, Stay High.
The Huffington Post | By Katherine Brooks
original article here
Imagine this scene:
Sharp waves stretch back for as far as you can see, eating up the horizon in a vast display of stunning movement. Like the peaks and troughs of a chaotic line graph, the seas capture jumping fish as they weave in and out of the thrashes. Careful shading separates the animal bodies as they surface, drenched in the bleeding red pigment of a sunset-flooded landscape.
The description might sound like a recounting of an ancient Japanese print or a sprawling painted canvas, but the words are actually attached to artwork of a different sort. They tell the story of artist Chaim Machlev and his gorgeous tattoos.
I will be attending the Seattle Tattoo Expo this weekend. This is one of my favorite shows in the US… So many talented artists… the show is busy, and the city is fun. If you’re around, please stop by and check it out. They always have good entertainment, good food, a good bar, cigar lounge, and most importantly… GOOD TATTOOS! Hope to see you there!
For more information about the show like featured artists and event schedules, visit: www.seattletattooexpo.com