Caleb Atchison, a senior business marketing major, sat
motionless in the chair as tattoo artist John Suprenant etched a
design into his skin.
This is Atchison’s fourth tattoo. On his right arm he has
Japanese symbols for fortitude and on his left arm he has a
Some people say body art, tattoos and piercing, can be
“I think tattoos are very addicting,” Atchison said. “I got this
cross and six weeks later I got one on the other shoulder. I’ve
wanted this one for a year now.”
Surprenant, owner of Tribal Rites, a custom tattoos and piercing
shop, said many of his clients come back for more tattoos after
they get their first one.
“A good 50 percent do get more,” Suprenant said, “As you grow up
and go to college you can do what you want. It’s like a passage
into manhood. At least it starts out as simple as that.”
Ernie Chavez, chair of the psychology department, is skeptical
about the notion of body-art addiction.
“I’ve never read or seen anything related to that,” Chavez said.
“However, almost any behavior can become addictive depending on the
individual’s personality. An assumption would be that the behavior
is reinforced in the statement it makes. Things we feel positive
about ups the likelihood to keep doing that behavior.”
The Rev. Charles Maple, who does piercing at Millennium Gallery
of Living Art, said depending on how one looks at it, body art is
“My work makes people happy,” Maple said. “In that purpose, yes,
it is addicting – making yourself happy. I don’t think there is a
Amy Fleischman, a freshman art major, has three tattoos and used
to have her tongue, eyebrow, lip and ears pierced. She said the
pain caused by the artwork can be addictive also.
“I really enjoy how it feels. To me, it relieves emotion and
stress. When I got my first tattoo, I wanted to know what it felt
like. Then it made me want to feel what it would be like to get
something bigger,” she said.
Chavez said the pain should not fuel the addiction.
“Pain is not reinforcing, except for a few people,” he said.
“Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush.”
While in the past many saw body art as an act of rebellion,
today it has become more accepted. Surprenant said he gets a
variety of people in his shop.
“We get a lot of college kids, that’s our bread and butter,”
Surprenant said. “I get a whole range of people. Older people who
wouldn’t do it in the past are finally doing it.”
Maple also said that he gets a variety of clients.
“It depends on the shop and where you are at,” he said. “In this
town (the) college crowd is huge. However, I’ve pierced people from
16 to 65. The oldest I’ve pierced is 70.”
Fleischman said she is very happy with her decision to get a
“I really wanted to embrace all the things I have to say. My
tattoos will always be with me. I don’t regret any of them. I’m
definitely planning on getting more,” she said.
Suprenant said that creating one’s own look is a reason people
keep going back for more.
“(Body art) sets you apart from anyone else. It makes you
unique, different,” Surprenant said. “I’m an artist. I don’t do it
for the money, it’s what I love to do.”