By Megan Blauvelt
Jorge Torres had no worries about this presentation. Being a celebrity tattoo artist for 13 years, he is more than comfortable discussing the history of tattoo artwork.
This past Wednesday night, Jorge Torres visited the Sweigart Hall auditorium on the Lawrenceville campus to discuss the origins of tattoo art.
“I was a graffiti artist when a friend asked me to draw a tattoo and use an improvised tattoo machine, so I did it,” Torres said. “Not long after, people I knew showed up at my door asking if I could give them one, too.”
He has come a long way since the starter kit days. Torres is now a professional body modification expert and can give piercings, brandings, implants, scarification and tongue splicing.
He talked about cultures outside the United States that require tattoos and other body modifications. These cultures modify their bodies to represent important life milestones, tribal affiliations and their own belief systems.
“Having tattoos is a lifestyle,” Torres said. “Countries such as India believe tattoos are a way of penance on earth while Siberians have faith that it will repel the cold surrounding them.”
Two listeners among the crowd, freshmen Kimberly Knox and Alicia DeGraw, felt that the most intriguing aspect was the origin of tattoos from other cultures.
“The history and why people get the body modifications were most interesting,” DeGraw said.
“And also the different ways people can express themselves through body art,” Knox said.
Along with slides of tattoos were short detailed video clips from Youtube of people getting branded, scarred and tongue spliced. Torres showcased some of his own tattoo artwork on costumers. Along with the captivating material were tips on getting tattoos and tattoo shops.
“I’m not a doctor, but as a body modification expert a certain amount of medical knowledge should be known,” he said. “When you go into a tattoo shop, it should look and smell like a hospital, with a brand-new setup of fresh ink, ink cups, new ointment, brand-new tongue depressors.”
Of his 13 years of practice, he said, nothing has gone wrong medically during or after any of his procedures, he said.
“Make sure the artist is a reputable artist, too,” said Torres. “Most artists have a disc showcasing his or her tattoo artwork.”
Torres has worked on big names such as rapper Busta Rhymes and a few other celebrities.
Many Americans nowadays have their bodies modified in order to express themselves. Along with that is a story behind the tattoo that helps define that person. Torres has in the past turned down profitable tattoo requests because of their frivolity. Such trivial tattoos are subject to ridicule; people should think long and hard about something that relates to many facets of their lives before having ink done, he said.
The vast majority of the audience had tattoos of their own on their ankles, back of the neck, arms, and chest. Freshman Jessica Bohnenberger described her tattoo of linked stars and hearts following the presentation.
“The stars represent dreams, and hearts [represent] love. Together, they remind me that you can’t achieve your dreams without loving what you do and you can’t find true love without your dreams,” she said.
Tattoos are part of a lifestyle, and as a tattoo artist, Torres feels privileged to modify others’ bodies. He understands a basic picture of what a client may want. However, he takes the initiative to get to know the person and then personalizes the tattoo even more so based on the reasons behind the desired ink design, he said.
“I owe something to every person who will allow a body modification,” Torres said. “Part of me leaves with them when they walk out that door.”