Though tattoos were once taboo, GOA Exotic Tattoo and Piercing owner Franz Nieto says young people are the reason for the change in views of tattoos and piercings.
Nieto, who has been a tattoo artist for 20 years and has another tattoo parlor in Bogota, Colombia, opened GOA in Sweetwater six years ago. Today, he says that 30 to 40 percent of his clients are college students compared to 10 percent when he first opened.
The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at the the Florida International University Modesto Maidique Campus, tapped into the art and youth of tattooing and body modifications with their “Pierce Mark Morph” exhibit.
The exhibit displayed the work of contemporary artists including Lauren Kalman and Carlos Martiel juxtaposed with the piercings, markings and cranial modification in a Pre-Columbian sculpture from the Jay I. Kislak Foundation Collection .
Maryanna Ramirez curated the exhibition at the museum. She says that the combination of the historical use of body modification and the contemporary depictions are to start a discussion of ideas about the uses of body modifications.
“Using piercings and scarring are all a way of depicting beauty, gender and race. It’s all symbolic,” said Ramirez.
Included in the exhibit were Pre-Columbian statues from the Mayan era. The statues depicted how the skulls of young children were shaped as a form of religious worship. They also used different ear and lip adornments made out of obsidian.
Today, body modifications have a variety of meanings far from religion. Andrew Trabazo got his first tattoo as an act of rebellion.
“Now it’s become so normalized that it’s had an adverse effect,” Trabazo said.
The 30-year-old said the tattoo on his right arm symbolizes the pacification of man. The tattoo is a bear head on the body of a man in a suit. He also has a tattoo dedicated to his mom, the Fibonacci sequence and a genital piercing.
“The physical pain drowns out the emotional pain and makes the healing process a little easier,” said Trabazo.
Carolina Estrada also got some of her tattoos to symbolize her painful family experiences. She has five tattoos, ranging from quotes in different languages to an anchor.
“When you’re able to tattoo yourself, you learn from it,” said the 23-year-old.
Estrada, who also has multiple piercings in her ears, said that simple is better and wears one earring in each ear. She is also expecting her first child and said that she is covering up her tattoos.
“I want him to form his own judgments and make his own decisions,” she said.
Miami Dade College student Luis Alvarez got his first piercing in high school because of a girl he liked. He was able to get his earlobes stretched to one inch until he had to pay $500 to close them for a job at a dentist’s office.
Now, as a cashier at the more unconventional Spencer’s Gifts, he had his earlobes re-opened and stretched to three-quarters of an inch.
“It really puts you out there. You stand out because it makes you look so different,” said Alvarez.