The Body As A Canvas: Body Art
The human body is the tool through which somebody experiences life and his surroundings as well as interacts and communicates with others. To some people, however, the body is another piece of canvas through which they could express themselves, their beliefs and their traditions.
Drawing a Picture, Telling a Message
Just as paintings hanging on walls make a room more beautiful, body art can enhance a person's good physical attributes. Some ladies have a sunflower tattooed on their backs so that they can wear backless dresses that will reveal their flawless skin adorned by the tattooed flower. In this sense, body art is worn the way diamond necklaces are - it is meant to adorn and enhance the wearer's beauty. However, there are other much more complex reasons for the proliferation and practice of body art. These reasons can be cultural, political, or spiritual.
Body art is extremely common in jails. Tattooing and branding are some of the most common rites of passage for inmates who wish to be part of certain groups. Body art can also be used to declare personal beliefs and political stand. In this case, body art can be compared to graffiti on the wall; it declares what the person wearing the art believes. People in ethnic groups also used tattooing extensively as a form of ornamentation. In some cases, tattoos were used to mark how many people a warrior has killed in battle.
Body Art Types
Widely known types of body art are body painting, tattoos, shaping, scarification, branding and body piercing. Body painting is usually done by painting on the body, usually covering the whole body completely with water-soluble makeup or paints. Body painting is very similar to painting on canvas, however, it can be more difficult to accomplish as the body has contours that makes painting pictures and scenes on the body more complicated.
Tattoos, probably known by all, are permanent decorations on the body applied through the use of an electrically ran needle. Body tattoos usually cover a relatively small portion of the body. Favorite places for body tattoos are the chest, the upper arms, and the back of the shoulders. Body tattoos are relatively permanent, too, as the picture or the letters are etched onto the skin.
Body piercing is accomplished through the use of materials such as beads and precious stones and metals. Ear piercing is probably the most practiced by women and some men for accessorizing. Today, piercing is performed on almost all parts of the body such as the nose, the lips, the tongue, the eyebrows, the bellybutton, the nipples, and others. Shaping, on the other hand, is done to permanently shape the body according to a person's preference. Methods of this type of body art are foot binding - common among Chinese women.
Scarifications are more unconventional methods of body art. There are religious groups that deliberately scar their body (usually with pointed objects like knives) using a prescribed pattern. Somewhat similar to scarification, branding is another type of body art that involves a whole lot of pain. This was originally done to farm animals (cows and horses) and originally used for identification purposes. This is accomplished through placing an extremely hot piece of metal with a certain design on the body until it burns the skin and leaves a mark that may last forever.
Whatever form of body art is practiced, it is certain to elicit varying reactions. Body art can be beautiful, captivating, or disturbing depending on the beholder's point of view and set of values.