are two oni (demons) from Japanese
kabuki, one on each leg.
Schop believes men are less likely to be
philosophical or personal about their tattoos.
He doesn’t have skulls, and “no mushy stuff.
And nothing cliché, like chef knives, though all
my tattoos are kind of cliché for their genre.”
Initially, Schop tattooed himself in avid defiance
of a quid pro quo society and for personal
expression. Now? “I don’t know, anymore. I
find it kind of peculiar and ironic that at first
you get tattooed to express individuality and
rebelliousness. Then you find others with
similar tattoos, and you discover that you are
neither individual nor a renegade, but you
become a cliché, the antithesis of what you
want to be. This idea of individuality is so stupid
when everybody looks like you.” He sums it up
simply: “We’re ‘sheeple,’ not people.”
Schop, whom Irwin would also consider a
collector, started tattooing at age 19, back
in the ’90s. “Then it was a little more taboo
to have images filling your sleeves, back and
neck, at a time when mutilation and safety
pins were pretty standard.” He asserted his
punk rock identity while mainstream parents
frequently pushed their kids away from him.
Now, nobody flinches.
Still, forward-thinking creators invariably face
dilemmas, Irwin says. “All avant-garde people
suffer through culture shifts when society
catches up with them and turns something
personal and authentic into something
mainstream.” She notes that this could
explain what happened to Schop. “We call it
the ‘popular co-option of the avant-garde.’”
Considered as neither personal
statements nor ways to make the body
more beautiful, Schop says of his body
art, “All I knew was that I wanted tattoos,
and a lot of them.”
“Food is art, and all the people I met who
did tattooing were really into it and really
joyful,” Irwin says. “They loved adding to
their body canvases.”
Ethel Hammer is a writer, lecturer and
cartoonist based in Chicago.
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