Thursday, April 26th, 2018

Tattoo Culture at USM

Posted on November 12, 2016 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

By Mary Ellen, Free Press Community editor

Regan Thibodeau, one of the few deaf professors here at USM, has several tattoos. Each one has meaning to her. Thibodeau and two of her deaf friends got a sun, moon and star tattoo trio upon conquering the idea of attending a hearing school, UVM. Another tattoo is a combination of twine and thorns on her wrist. This serves as a reminder to herself that all roses, herself, have their thorns, or negative things in life, that make us who we are. Her third and biggest tattoo is a phoenix feather on her ankle. Thibodeau’s husband,a tattoo artist, has a phoenix on his arm representing how he rose from the ashes to become a better man. Thibodeau’s phoenix feather shows how she is now with her husband and a part of him. Thibodeau’s fourth tattoo is a negative space tattoo of a snowy owl on her shoulder blade, using her freckles as the owl’s spots. Thibodeau’s CODA children use the ‘’hoo-hoo’’ sound of an owl to get her attention, something of which she is quite fond.

Danielle Morin, a senior studying general biology, has a tattoo of a robins nest and three eggs. Morin once rescued some robins eggs from a fallen nest near her home. Incubating the eggs, she managed to hatch one. The little robin hatching out of its egg, peeping,” Morin said. “I wanted to remember that experience, It was really cool seeing it be born into this world.”

Last autumn, Morin added a quote around the nest: “It’s always darkest before the dawn”, a quote from Florence + The Machine’s Shake it Out. This was very encouraging to Morin during a dark time in her life. Last spring, she got out of a three-year abusive relationship. During the time since then she’s had good times and bad. Listening to music helped her get through those times. “It took so much healing ,Morin said, and even now after a year later Im still healing from it .She got the quote added to remind herself that even if it’s dark now, it will get better.

Around the same time she got out of the abusive relationship, Morin had to put down her cat, Poe. Poe was dear to Morin, and having him put down was both unexpected and difficult. Having to make that decision on her own was hard and not taken lightly. Morin got a tattoo of Poe in remembrance of the good he added to her life, and also to remind herself that she could persevere through difficult things.

On Morin’s right arm is a half-sleeve featuring a red-tailed hawk. It took four or five two-hour sessions to complete. Being Native American and French Indian, the red-tailed hawk is one of Morin’s totem animals. One of the things that really hit home for Morin upon finding the red-tailed hawk to be her totem animal is the similarities between herself and the hawk. Songbirds will gang up on red-tailed hawks because they don’t like them and try to bring them down from the sky. But  red-tailed hawks are resilient and always find a way to keep soaring. Morin feels this is not dissimilar to her experience. Her half-sleeve featuring the red-tailed hawk reminds her she can always keep soaring.

Mariah Villalobos, a freshman art major, told of an experience one of her friends had. Her friend, a waitress, was discriminated against because of a full-sleeve tattoo she has. Two customers coming into the restaurant almost immediately requested a different waitress, claiming she would spit in their food and be rude. They formed a false opinion about her simply because she had tattoos. One tattoo from her sleeve in particular has significant meaning to her. For much of her life she battled with self-harm. As a symbol of what she has beat, she got a dagger tattooed on her arm with the phrase fight off your demons. If the customers had known of the strength she has because of defeating that, would they have treated her differently? Respected her maybe?

Villalobos plans to get a tattoo within the next couple of months as a form of art and self-expression, saying, “I look at it as your body being a canvas.” Her step-father told her that people with tattoos are evil and she shouldnt get any. She is staying true to herself and will get a tattoo on Halloween.

In addition to those who have tattoos, some who dont yet have tattoos, or just simply dont plan on getting them, have some opinions on it as well.

Gretchen Wagner, a freshman biochemistry major, plans to get a tattoo within the next six months. Recently having to put her dog, Padfoot, down, she wants to get the tattoo in memory of him. Several people see tattoos as cool,as  a form of art, a way of self-expression or just fun. Occasionally youll still find people who think that tattoos are gross, irresponsible, unprofessional or even trashy. But as Wagner said: Tattoos in modesty and moderation are fine.

Richard Stiffler, a sophomore English major, sees tattoos as a form of self-expression and art. While not yet having tattoos of his own, mostly due to time and money constraints, he respects the decisions of others to get them

Tattoos are a growing part of American culture, in both the hearing and deaf worlds. Many people don’t know the stories behind the tattoos by which they so readily judge people. Each tattoo has a story, which is fun, sad, inspiring, silly or crazy. Each tattoo is a piece of art, at least it is to the tattoo artist and the person who is acting as the canvas. Its a bit of that persons story displayed in a creative and often beautiful manner.

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