Tag Archives: Keith Alexander

The Middle School Era: Scarification by Keith Alexander

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Sent to me sometime in the late 1990s for safe keeping, these photos feature scarification (cutting and possibly branding) from Keith Alexander. Keith was the only artist officially invited to the first ScarWars event in 2005 (the rest filled out a registration form that was open to all) to which he politely declined. I think that made me respect him even more.

 

The Middle School Era: The Art of Cutting and Scarification with Keith Alexander

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If you enjoyed May’s branding performance, you won’t want to miss this one! In an encore presentation, Keith Alexander, on of NY’s premier piercing, cutting and branding enthusiasts returns to the Learning X-Change to present a lecture and live demonstration on one of today’s most popular forms of body art… Cutting/Scarification. In a riveting presentation, Keith discusses the art’s origins, rapid rise in popularity, social ramifications and present day applications, and demonstrates proper preparation and sterilization, tools of the trade, creating an applying the design, cutting techniques, aftercare, how to achieve optimum scarring special effects, etc.

If you’re a reader of Occult Vibrations you may have seen a recent update with a few early 1990s tattoo shop fliers with art by bio-mech legend Guy Aitchison; discovering them happy accidents since I was looking for a piece of correspondence for a future SD update and found a stack of unsorted mail that hasn’t been out of storage in at least a decade. I still haven’t found the piece of mail (a letter from Bud Viking Navaro to Jack Yount) that I was looking for, but this stack yielded the Aitchison fliers, a letter from “J” (from J: Story of a subincision) and a few from Keith Alexander.

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I had forgotten about his Learning X-Change Scarification class; the flier included didn’t include full information (day and month, no year given) and the envelope’s postmark is unreadable so I can’t say for sure when this class- $10 per person to learn the basics of scarification- was offered. It was likely 1996 (judging from the MAPS Corporate Seal on the enclosed letterhead) or shortly after when scarification was just beginning to receive any outside of the community media attention.

It might shock modern audiences to see technique classes offered to the general public, especially at so low a price, but the crossover with cutting in a S/M context “democratized” the modification, with a large segment of the clients looking for scars and brands in the 1970s-1990s a part of the fetish lifestyle and the amount of professional scarification artists worldwide offering safe, sterile cutting a small minority.

 

Mail Call

10346362_10205313162736072_1248252913514474697_nToday wasn’t quite the horrific Snow Day that local meteorologists called for, but with 1/8″ of snow on the ground I used it as motivation to do a little cleaning around the house, starting with unsorted boxes in my closet. Years of correspondence were lost in one of my moves (from Florida to Philadelphia, I’d bet) but there are still a few boxes of mail that were saved from that fate so after a trip to Target to buy more Rubbermaid bins I took to the task of sorting twenty year old letters and hopefully making headway with the creating of a filing system.

Some of the highlights so far:

A letter from the editor of ‘Epidermal Intrusions’ which was intended to be to Modification what PFIQ was to Body Piercing. My name had been given to the editor (Rhalan) by Steve Haworth, who I wouldn’t meet in person for another year. We exchanged a few letters before the project eventually lost steam and was canceled before ever going to print.

Keith Alexander’s followup letter to the APP after sending in his membership application (circa 1995/6) with detailed counterpoints to issues raised by the fledgling organization with typical K.A. passive aggressive charm.

Open Letter to 1996 APP Conference (Orlando) attendees, possibly from Keith. It’s unsigned.

5″x7″ original print of Jack Yount from  photographer Stefan Richter.

Postcard from Jack Yount from a vacation to Southern California.

Well- here I am trying to be discovered. All the do is undress me and then they faint. Such is fame. Went to the Gauntlet this A.M., Sorry but it didn’t do a lot for me. Poor rep by people I talked to in the shop. Was in Mexico, San Fran and now L.A. Will be back next week. Tell the family I said “High”. -Jack

 

Letters from ‘Toecutter’ written in his typical ‘stream of consciousness’ style.

UNIQUE contact list mailings.

Photos of Tom Brazda doing ‘lo-bretts’ on Shannon Larratt, mailed from Stainless Studios.

While it’s made me sad that I’ve lost so much correspondence over the years I was pleased by how much was still around; I’m going to start scanning the letters and postcards tomorrow so they’ll never be lost again.

 

To Infinity…

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I met this gentleman somewhere around 1996-7 at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Tattoo Convention in Portland, ME. I’m sure I have the notes somewhere to go along with this but if my memory serves he had been cut by Raelyn Gallina and Keith Alexander- though who did what is lost in time.

It wasn’t common to see scarification at conventions back then; even displayed piercings could cause furled eyebrows and not so quiet mutterings of disapproval from some of the older biker folks, so when I spotted him from across the room I quickly made my way over to chat with him and snap a few photos. Part of the charm of the smaller community back then was having instant mutual friends; conventions were like family reunions that gave you the opportunity to meet some truly genuine characters.

Remembering Keith Alexander

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As I get older, nostalgia has become much more important to me. I didn’t get it as a kid; holidays with my parents and Uncles invariably led to annual recollections of since passed family and friends. By the time I was a teenager I could have told some of the stories verbatim; a collection of anecdotes about people who had passed away before I was born but who held a place in my Mother’s heart that was so special that stories were retold again and again for fear of losing them forever.

Eight 1 years ago today Keith Alexander passed away. Out for a bicycle ride on the Shore Road Path in Brooklyn a child cyclist riding ahead of him swerved, causing Keith to swerve quickly to compensate, his front tire hitting a pothole in the path causing him to ride full-speed into the guard rail.. The accident cost him his life. In the years that have passed I’ve found myself telling stories about him; sometimes to mutual friends who’ve heard them a million times, sometimes to people who never had the pleasure of meeting him but who listen intently as I share the “this one time” stories of one of the most dynamic human beings I’ve ever known.

When Keith was around I was always aware that I had to try harder. Not to impress him really; he never made any bones about being proud of me when it was warranted, offering me advice when I asked and kicking me in the butt when I needed it. I’m infamously critical of modern body piercers because piercers like Keith spoiled me. So many practitioners in our community consider themselves Shamans but offer nothing more than the promise of a straight piercing or a sterile suspension. They talk about Rites of Passage, but they’re not self aware enough to realize that it’s not the modification that’s the Rite- it’s the paths we walk. Keith saw the bigger picture, realizing the incredibly personal role a modification practitioner can have in the lives of his clients.

When I posted a teaser of this article on my Facebook page the other day, a friend responded that she didn’t know who Keith was. So. Let me tell you about my friend Keith.
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Notes:

  1. July 11th 2014 marks nine years since Keith’s passing.

Night of 1000 Scars and the birth of Spinning Beam Suspension

In 1998, Keith Alexander 1 organized an after party for the release of Dee Snider’s Strangeland 2 at NYC’s Webster Hall. Called Night of 1000 Scars, Keith arranged for a variety of performances including a 3 person ‘human mobile’ style suspension by Dallas  collective TSD (Traumatic Stress Discipline) 3 to tie in with the film’s theme of ritual body art.

Due to a technical error, the beams were rigged too low allowing the suspendees (Allen Falkner, Xeon and Pat Tidwell) to be able to make contact with the floor while spinning, unintentionally creating the spinning beam suspension. Other performers that night included Essie and Spidergod5, who went on to become The Lizardman who had this to say about the event:

In alot of ways, this event was a pivotal point in the current era of my life – it was after this event that I cemented my decision to leave my doctoral program and devote myself entirely to performing as both my career and way of life. This was also where I first met and became friends with TSD. – Erik Sprague

While the film ultimately had very little long term impact (Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 6%)  Night of 1000 Scars remains a turning point in the visibility of suspension in the traditional media as well as creating one of it’s most loved styles.

Video footage courtesy of Allen Falkner.