Dying for tattoos

Feb 052004
Authors: Erin Skarda

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

physiological addiction.”

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.”

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