Nathan Hickling/ Opinion Editor and Raevyn Walker/ Staff Writer
Nov. 8, 2013
Art has always been a part of culture. No matter which civilization, era, or part of the world, art serves as a way of expressing the complicated feelings and emotions which define humanity. Art has been through many stages, including the bold move to using canvas, and today, the internet. As for this generation, the fate of art is being decided at this very moment: one of the outlets for modern art may be the very bodies humans live and breathe with.
Body modification itself is a broad field, and includes tattoos, piercings, and any other alterations. Plastic surgery in some circles is considered an acceptable form of body modification, while in others modding can be as dramatic as splitting or removing parts of the human body
“Who says art needs to be on a canvas?” asks body-mod enthusiast Jane Milnes, senior. “The fact is that it’s different, and unique. It’s really an art form in itself.”
Milnes, and many who think like her view the human body as the next canvas for art. They see body modifications as a way of bringing their art of expression to the common people. Art is no longer something that one has to dress up in suit and tie to experience. All one has to do to find art is look around.
While past generations saw body modifications as morally impure or sinful, body art has gained increasing popularity among the younger generation. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, in a survey of 500 people, ages 18 to 50, 24 % stated they had tattoos. 14% stated they had a piercing other than on their ears.
One major concern over job security still haunts those with mods. Forbes magazine states that many workplaces are loosening up on their workplace attire policies, although these may change depending on where one is hired. Still, many fear that getting modifications will affect how coworkers view them or even get them fired.
However, Tiffani Coull, a social science teacher who has multiple tattoos, acknowledges that this isn’t an issue for her. “Legally it can’t affect my work,” Coull says. “Most people honestly don’t even notice.”
At the same time, not every worker’s experience is the same. Many complain of being unfairly fired, or told that they must cover up the tattoos they have. Milnes herself says she has had a different experience than Coull with co-workers.
“I do work with some people who have a few piercings and tattoos.” She adds, “Basically, it’s kind of like a hush-hush thing … as long as you don’t show it, it’s fine.”
Of course, as modifications become more popular, more workplaces are changing. “Discrimination in employment based on tattooing and body piercing is not illegal, except when individuals claim the tattoo or piercing is part of their being a member of a protected class,” according to an article by Brian Elzweig and Donna K. Peeples in the SAM Advanced Management Journal.
“I think it’s just becoming more mainstream,” Coull observes. “In our parents’ generation it was more of a taboo … my parents still don’t accept it.”
As body art becomes seen more as a form of self-expression and less of a form of rebellion, it may also become more popular with forthcoming generations. “It’s different … it’s about being unique and being your own person. People don’t like stuff that’s different,” Milnes admits.
However, the border between art and graffiti, tribal signs and gang symbols, is still thin. Regardless of opinion, the increase of Americans with body modifications, dramatically in the new generation, is growing to be considered as a legitimate form of art. “I just really started to appreciate the artistry that goes into it,” Coull says of her own tattoos. “They’re just tattoos of things I found beautiful ... the tattoos all mean something to me.”
The world of body modifications is a creative universe. Still, no one can deny that this world is clouded with the dangers of sharp needles and poisonous dyes. When everything goes right, body modifications can seamlessly pull individuals out of the sinking sands of conformity, but there are a million different ways for them to go wrong. Milnes, as enthusiastic as she is, still addresses that there are potential dangers.
Milnes says that sterilization, as well as being “familiar with bloodborne pathogens,” is important when planning to receive body tattoos and piercings. She also warns against getting modifications from less reputable sources.
Even with dangers included, body modifications signify a new culture, and appeal to the younger population. To those who think like Coull and Milnes, tattoos and piercings mark a new era in art; however, their opinions do not stand alone. Differing opinions on the issue will continue to clash as the place of body modifications in society is further explored.