Another SCARTIST portrait by Scarwars 2005 event photographer Allen Falkner, this time featuring influential piercer/scarification artist Dave Gillstrap getting ready to start a cutting. I didn’t meet Dave until the morning of the first day of the 2005 event but his work definitely proceeded him and he went on to do some of the most impressive pieces that came out of the Scarwars events.
Event: Scarwars 2.
Location: Los Angeles.
Year: February 2006.
Photographer: Rachel Larratt.
Subject: Dave Gillstrap.
My wife and I took a much needed week long roadtrip for Thanksgiving; Philadelphia to Asheville North Carolina, Asheville to Atlanta Georgia and back to Philly, checking out the sights, seeing family and just unwinding from all of our responsibilities. I had packed my laptop and had a few blog entries ready to go out, but you know how it goes with vacations…
I’ve been focusing a lot on the 1970s lately, so I figured a 2000s post may be a welcome change. This 2006 photo, by BME’s Rachel Larratt, features scarification artist Dave Gillstrap at the second Scarwars event in Los Angeles. For the event portraits I asked our photographers to go very simple, white backgrounds and neutral lighting to let the personality of the subject stand out.
Dealing with technology that’s older than some of the readers of this blog comes with a certain level of frustration. Courting donations, finding the tech we need and buying it, waiting for it to arrive to find that it’s defective or doesn’t suit the needs of the project, starting the returns/refund process and then sitting in a holding pattern before you start the whole thing over again has burned me out a little on regular updates.
I have a replacement 8mm VCR en route to Philly and am scouting some digital8/DVC platforms as well, but in the meantime…. I’m enjoying the slack. I should be scanning photos, there are VHS tapes I could be importing… but eh. I think I’m going to let Slack win until the 8mm project gets underway.
I hadn’t planned to update until I had some good news, but once I started thinking about Slack… Flashback to 2006, Los Angeles for Scarwars2- Dave Gillstrap did this fitting tribute to the prophet of Slack himself, J.R. “Bob” Dobbs.
“Moses parted the Red Sea, Oppenheimer split the atom, but “Bob” cut the crap.” – Steve Antczak
Ten years ago today I was nervously pacing in a Port Richmond 1 warehouse, hoping that the months of planning the inaugural Scarwars event- from assembling the artists, hand picking the attendees, making sure the photographers had what they needed and praying that the warehouse owner believed my ‘we’re shooting pornography, please give us our privacy’ cover story- would be enough to make sure that the weekend would go off without a hitch.
We made some amazing memories that weekend; the artists made some beautiful scars and while there were some glitches (the gentleman walking around dripping blood comes to mind) by and large it ended up being one of the most laid back events I’ve ever hosted. In the decade that followed we’ve seen decorative scarification flourish; while not getting the same widespread acceptance that tattooing and body piercing are currently enjoying people are finally starting to come around to the idea that a cutting isn’t always mutilation and that sometimes our scars make us stronger. I hope that in some small way we had something to do with that.
I’ve asked SW1 staff, artists 2 and guests to share a memory from the event- here are their stories:
Angela (Medical Liaison)
As someone who was relatively new to the BME community and also now as “modified” as others, this event was extremely inclusive. I attended as a spectator as well as someone on the medical/biohazard team. A very distinct memory, may it be good or bad, was of a young gentleman who had just got some work done and was walking around shirtless. He happen to drip blood EVERYWHERE. I followed the blood trail to him, cleaning up as I went. Finally as I got to him, I drew a circle on the floor and told him he wasn’t allowed outside of the circle…. Over the years of scar wars, this def happened less and less as people were much more aware of themselves… But that was the first… Oh yeah, and I was topless for most of it.
Brian (Staff Fixer)
When you asked us to look back at the inaugural Scar Wars, I literally had to go through pictures and re-read diary entries to jog my memory. After being flooded with nostalgia and thoughts of “I miss them”, I searched for what it was like those important days. It was hectic. I remember being the first ones there and the last to leave almost everyday. My role in the event was a catch all. I documented what I could, helped wherever possible, and most of all was privileged to witness amazing humans enduring painful experiences that ended with huge smiles. Being part of the chaos was grueling at the time, but come 10 years later it stands out as a defining moment of my life. i also can’t believe how many titties there were.
My memories of Scar Wars are mostly about the people who attended. Many friends from around the world who I was meeting for the first time or seeing together in one place when they usually were so far apart. I had seen scarification done many times, but not in such a concentrated group of skilled practitioners, and it was great to walk around the room and watch them all work. The collaborative spirit was something that struck me as well- so many artists with different styles and techniques, all willing to share information and learn from one another. It and the subsequent Scar Wars events are some of the most positive memories I have of any body modification event I’ve ever attended.
Jesse Villemaire (Scarification Artist)
Scar Wars had so many great memories! 10 years later and I’m still proud to be friends with many of these great artists. I remember connecting with Ron Garza immediately as he put a camera crew in my face to interview me as soon as I arrived. Ron then made me comfortable and allowed me to ask as many stupid questions as I needed too in order to excel my techniques.
I also had the honor of collaborating with Brian Decker on a large bamboo scar piece on Corinna’s back. Corinna dealt with every emotion possible as many friends were coaching her through this intense project…still so unreal. It wasn’t just about cutting people, it was about bonding on a level that’s hard to describe.
The enjoyment of learning with many others, realizing there’s multiple ways to create a scar, watching Dave create “shading” with his cross hatching technique, seeing other artists collaborating for the very first time…it was all very inspiring.
Scar Wars is a significant part of our history. Thanks Shawn for having a vision that brought so many talented people from around the world to showcase the art we were truly passionate about.
Ryan Ouellette (Scarification Artist)
Scar Wars was the first time that I felt like I was part of a larger scarification community and that I really had colleagues in it. I knew there were other people out there doing it and getting it but I was in this little bubble of only seeing my pieces and only knowing my techniques and aftercare. Being able to watch other people doing it really helped me expand my own methods. I grew a lot from that experience and scarification really came into its own as a respectable art form, rather than just an internet fad.
Allen Falkner (Photographer)
So many fond memories form that weekend. Sadly most stories cannot be shared with the public due the nature of the indiscretions and the people involved.
Scar Wars was an intensely personal experience among friends and strangers, unique in a way that doesn’t feel possible anymore. I got cut at Scar Wars and love it ten years later, but it was not the most memorable thing about the event. What I remember most was an inherent trust in the people I was surrounded by that I’ve since learned is rare. It is hard to put succinctly into words how this event (and others like it) helped me personally grow. I’ll leave it to a simple thank you to everyone involved.
Shawn Porter: (Host)
The first Scarwars was fun. It was supposed to be serious, life changing, important.. but more than anything it was fun. The staff worked overtime (literally) to make sure that by the time I walked in the door everything had been taken care of so I was free just to enjoy myself and have a good time. Everything lined up perfectly and I was humbled to be part of something that meant as much to the artists and guests as it did for me.
Over the years we made so many event t-shirts that it’s hard to pick a favorite- but if I absolutely had to choose I’d probably go with this Dave Gilstrap design from the first Scarwars in Philadelphia, PA May of 2005.
These were originally made available for pre-order to help generate funds (and interest) for the event and quickly sold out long before we made the first cutting at Scarwars. This was the only design I ever broke my ‘one and done’ promise for with a second printing made available the following year for Scarwars 2, this time featuring an added orange screen for the flame/phoenix.
One of the most fun parts of hosting any event- from the backyard BBQs to the more organized events like ModCon and Scarwars- was having an excuse to make an event shirt. Long after all of the stresses of organizing a get-together have faded you still have that little reminder in your closet. Maybe a little worn out and not in the best shape, but hell- that’s the way some of us felt after the events were over.
This was one of the designs for the third Scarwars event, hosted in Philadelphia in October 2007. It features artwork by attending cutter Dave Gilstrap and was printed in Philadelphia by Awesome Dudes Printing.