The Pleasure of Pain

These days anything can be considered art. The structure of a building, the human body, music on the radio, love, Versaci’s new line of winter, and pretty transvestites walking down the street are just a few of hundreds of thousands of examples. That kind of art is overrated. Most of these only exist because of society. As people grow and change so does the values and traditions that they are accustomed to. True art hangs on the walls of museums all over the world. Paintings by Monet, Da Vinci, and Picasso represent all that can be made beautiful by a man’s touch. The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian word tattau, which means ‘to tap,’ and can be traced back through a part of history. The art of tattoos has been evident since ancient Egypt and more than 1,500 years ago the Japanese marked criminals as a symbol of shame for their punishment (Britannica, 2000). In the nineteenth century tattoos were viewed as frightful and grotesque, but as the twentieth century rolled by technology gave way to the trend. The electric needle created a sense of precision and control. This is how the various designs developed and tattooing became more about expression, rather than branding.
It is a guarantee that tattoo and piercing artists can be found by the thousands in a metropolitan city. Their form of art may be simpler to an extent, but it has been growing in popularity for years. By using the body as a gateway for expression, people can present themselves in a new light, and as a mean for recreating their image. The concept of transferring art on paper to the body for the mere purpose of self-pleasure is attracting all types of people. It is impossible to walk through a mall without spotting people of all ages with this type of branding. “ Young adults have accepted this practice as a normal part of their culture. You can’t escape it.” Says Walter Hewitt, who recently completed a 19-school study on tattoos and piercing (Vogel, 2000).
There are big ones, small ones, tasteful ones, tacky ones, and probably some temporary ones, and because tattooing is forever and also carries a mental heath risk known as regret, the decision to get one shouldn’t be taken lightly. The customer is very vulnerable when entering a tattoo and piercing parlor, because all their trust for a good product is put in the hands of the artist. But how are we to know the artist’s level of experience, the reputation of their business, the cleanliness of their needles, the moderate price of a piercing or tattoo, or even if the area of work on the body is prone to infection? An article from The San Diego Union-Tribune states that, “ It [tattoos and piercing] has become so popular that professional piercers around the globe are seeking legislation that would establish sanitation and safety regulations for those in the piercing business.” Since the hollow needles that are used in piercing and tattooing can carry hepatitis, tuberculosis, the virus that causes AIDs and various skin diseases, business are looking for legal protection and supervision by the state. Despite its growing popularity, body piercing is only regulated in seven states. Before entering Ground Zero Tattoos, located at 329 Northwestern Avenue, I assumed that every tattoo and piercing parlor looks the same. Of course, there should be an area where the tattoo and piercing artists do their work, and another area for the customers. Also, there would be mirrors, couches, a coffee table, and a few ashtrays resting on magazines. Pictures of naked women, tribal art, and Chinese symbols would line the walls so the customers can find something they like. The atmosphere would consist of cigarette smoke, and an intense mood floating in the air. I decided to go to Ground Zero to see if it fit my mold of a tattoo parlor.
I found myself parking my car in between the yellow lines in front of Ground Zero. The beige bricks hugged the building, and the dark brown door begged me to come in. As I stepped out of my car, the sign that said Ground Zero displayed just a sample of the art that