The Resurrection of the Human Canvas

by Oscar Roether


The phone went silent. It seemed like such a simple, innocent answer to a question, but the lady on the other end must have thought differently.

In the early summer of 2013, I was asked during a job interview if I had any visible tattoos, which I do, sort of. I have a scripture on my bicep that reads, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me – Philippians 4:13”. When wearing a sleeved shirt, only the first few inches of the scripture can be read, and nothing more, but I guess that was just enough.

11 words and 3 numbers.

11 words and 3 numbers gently etched into my skin for the rest of my life was the reason that I wasn’t able to receive my first part time job at a Harkins Theatre.

Tattoos have been around for centuries, and hold cultural significance to the places they have come from . But only recently has the form of body art really planted its roots in American popularity. In today’s world, it is almost impossible to walk down the street and not see a by-stander without a tattoo.

The fact of the matter is, these tattoos are around, and by the looks of gaining popularity, they won’t be going away for a while, so why is there still the stigma around them?

Understandably, there are offensive tattoos. People have made their decision to cover their bodies with profane statements, and grotesque portraits that seemingly no sane person would covet. But that only represents a small population.

But then again, one person can ruin a good thing for everyone.

For every tattoo that showcases an individual that has overcome adversity and turned the challenges they have faced into positive outcomes, there is a profane tattoo placed on the lower back of a drunken ne’er-do-well.

For every master piece that has required hundreds of personally earned dollars, and hours of time given up to sit in a chair, there is another tear drop tattooed on the eye of a gang member signifying the lives he has taken.

I’m a strong advocate of those tattoos being thrown out of society, as they bring nothing but hate and oppression to the forefront, but it is unfair to destroy the integrity of great people who want to exploit life’s greatest canvas.

Art has always been a touchy subject. It seems as if the older generations have given themselves the authority to deem whether or not something is “appropriate”. And this has been true with art. Throughout history, there has been many banned artists and art pieces because of their portrayals and content, but just as that art work eventually became treasured components to the culture of man, so are tattoos.

Tattoos are todays new taboo art style, with a majority of older generations frowning upon the practice of them. But as older generations become more liberal, and younger generations keep pushing the bill of creative equality, the acceptance of tattoos is going to grow rapidly. I expect that in my lifetime, the ban on tattoos by suitable employers should be lifted, and seeing more respectable professionals like lawyers, doctors, and politicians with any kind of body ink is not only going to become more common, it is going to start becoming the norm. This disdain towards this expansively growing cultural phenomenon will eventually be extinct because it breaches one of the most inane human rights.

Freedom of creativity.

It shatters the right for one to express themselves outwardly in a (mostly) safe and respectful manner. It eradicates the beautiful minds that spend their time, money, and effort perfecting their “Mona Lisa’s” of the skin. Everyone has the right to their own creative mind, so who are the few that feel they can take this away from them? Who are these “authoritative figures” that make the decision that just because a young, perfectly qualified lady decides to have the date of her husband’s death tattooed on her body, won’t achieve the career she deserves.

A different generation.

But let us take a different route, the route that contains a bit more pleasantry.

Even with the oppression that they are still facing, tattoos are still growing in popularity at an astounding rate. Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults have tattoos, which is up from the 1 in 8 that had tattoos back in 2003.

This new found popularity has shown a considerable growth in creativity among the types of tattoos placed.

Pale barren skin is now being replaced with flamboyant colors that express the inner emotions of the recipients. Flesh is now covered by abstract and realistic images that detail motivational moments and a person’s true feelings.

With this explosion of creativity it brings forward a new wave of creative artists who are willing to manipulate this popularity to create jobs for themselves and create a new profitable occupation for the economy. Tattoo artists are the new “it” job.  Stemming to professionals who make considerable cash from their trade, to your cousin who gives you the “hookup” in their garage with their aftermarket tattoo gun and sketchy setup.

Personally, My Facebook feed has blown up with requests for the hottest tattoo artists, because that is just the generation it is now.  Someone is always looking for the new best tattoo artist, because these pieces of art are for life, so if you are to adorn someone’s artwork, you don’t want a 5 year old doodler leaving their mark, you want the Rembrandt of tattoo artists masterfully etching their permanent mural into your skin.

There have even been TV shows that are literally about tattoo artists. You turn on the television and just watch the everyday aspirations and events of a tattoo artist as they go through the motions of their craft. And just like every popular no profession, these professionals start to drive the economy in an upward angle because it creates one more opportunity for Americans to feed money into the system and boost what has been a recently bad economy.

Alongside these new jobs that these tattoos create, they also seem to have created a newfound sense of inspiration and motivation. People all over the world are starting to get inspirational tattoos that show them they can be the best every day of their lives.

A few personal examples.

My tattoo is a bible scripture, which perfectly accentuates my faith, which has become very important to me over the past couple of years. I get to wake up every day and look in the mirror at my tattoo, and it helps build my faith a little more each day, because it helps to remind me that my belief in Christ is going to help me get through my day, and my life (but on a personal side note, my religion is my religion and I could care less if you agree with it or not, and I’m not going to judge you on your religion or lack thereof, I keep my religion mostly to myself and have accentuated not being pushy about it).

My sister has dealt with asthma all of her life. Many of my childhood memories are of going to the hospital to see my sister after having a massive asthma attack, or seeing her sitting on the couch in pain with a breathing machine. On her wrist, she has the word “asthmatic” written with beautiful calligraphy.  This tattoo has helped her realize that she has overcome immense struggles to become the wonderful mother and person that she is today, and I am extremely proud to call her my sister.

Everyone from cancer survivors to just everyday people have had inspirational and motivational tattoos done to showcase to the world how strong the human race is as a whole, and how we are able to overcome such immense adversities to still be living on this planet.

But eventually the tattoo debate can all be ended with one sentence.

It is YOUR body.

Do what YOU want with it, and you should pay no mind to the people that silently criticize your choices, for they are yours and yours alone to make. The professional world needs to learn how to take their interests out of someone’s personal life, and realize that just because they decided to get a tattoo is not going to hinder their ability to do the job they are applying for in any such way.

So go forth human beings of the world.

Continue to impress people like me who understand the importance that artistic expression plays on the culture of not only this country but the whole world.


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