Tag Archives: Scarification

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.

 

sw2_3235: Dave Gillstrap

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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.

Raelyn Gallina

©raelyngallina.com

©raelyngallina.com

This was originally posted to the SD Tumblr blog on 9th September 2014. Raelyn was an inspiration to many, myself included, and her presence is greatly missed in the body modification community.


To my generation, the body artists and pioneers featured in RE/Search Publications iconic MODERN PRIMITIVES are our Major Arcana.  In a time where information was hard to come by we read their interviews over and over and took them as the words of our elders, helping to illuminate the path we were on and most importantly to reaffirm to us that we weren’t alone.

Raelyn Gallina was the first artist I ever heard talking about scarification. Her influence as a body modification artist is often overlooked- regrettably overlooked- but you can bet she influenced the people who’ve inspired you.

In the twenty five years that have passed since it’s publication and to my initial introduction to Raelyn I only had the pleasure of meeting her once, but I found her to be a funny, warm and spirited woman who despite dealing with her own medical problems took the time to invite me into her hotel room, tell me some stories and raise a little hell.

Raelyn passed away this weekend. My condolences to her friends and loved ones.

In deference to Slack

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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

Community Garden

photo by Atom Moore for Scarwars

The Headmaster- Scarwars3 (2007)

Thanks to some generous donations over the last month we’ve been able to purchase a new-old media player that will help in capturing hundreds of hours of 8mm body modification films shot by Jack Yount from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, as well as donated hard drive space to preserve the content at full resolution for future archival. It’s been a rough process; buying aging “vintage” tech always comes with problems and frustrations so it’s been a waiting game of returning a defective unit, shopping for a new one, waiting for it to arrive and all of that nonsense, but I’m beyond touched by the support we’ve received- I still want SD to be a Community Garden (where one day I’m not the only gardener) where we all help keep it afloat and the support we’ve had in the last few weeks has really lifted my spirits and made me super geeked to get back to the import/archival grind.

I’m on hiatus until the tech arrives and the eventual and often frustrating learning curve of any new system is worked out, so in the meantime…

In 2008 we hosted the third and final Scarwars event in Philadelphia; our event manager rented a 35mega-pixel medium format digital camera for staff photographer Atom Moore, who was responsible for the portrait photography at the event. He captured this very serious photograph of Wings of Desire/Pain Solution’s Håvve Fjell showing off fresh cuttings by Christiane Pinpoint of Norway. Håvve is in the fundraising phase of WoD’s newest book, TOO BLEED OR NOT TO BLEED, which covers Pain Solution performances from 2003-2015.

We’ve been blessed here at SD with support, but if you’ve got a few extra dollars to spare, head over to the TBONTB Indiegogo and grab yourself an amazing book that’s my by and for our community: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/to-bleed-or-not-to-bleed-by-ps-media#/story

[email protected]

swperk

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.

05SW100We 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)
perkperkWhen 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.

Kathleen† (Staff)
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.

Julie (Guest)
SWJULEScar 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)
shawnscarwarsThe 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.

Notes:

  1. Port Richmond is a neighborhood in North Philadelphia, several miles from the downtown area.
  2. The artists at the first ScarWars were Ron Garza, Dave Gilstrap, Vampy, Monte, Jesse Villemaire, Brian Decker and Ryan Ouellette

SCARCON: This might sting a little.

BRENNO

I’ve just put the finishing touches on the latest installment of the ‘Safe Guide to Professional Piercing’ series of videos pulled from an instructional and critically out of date 1980s VHS produced by Sailor Sid Diller and Jack Yount, but before I post it I thought I’d break it up a little and add some recent content for folks who want to see more modern modifications being covered.

Eight years to the month after the original SCARWARS event was held in Philadelphia, Ron Garza brought together some of Europe’s best scarification artists for his inaugural SCARCon event in London, England. I had officially retired from hosting the SW events so I was pleased when Ron decided to carry on with the concept- this time moving it to the UK and inviting new artists to work in a collaborative environment.

It wasn’t much of a stretch to continue in the footsteps of the groundwork that had already been laid by Shawn’s events, but adding international artist and bring all of us together again to share ideas, techniques, tips and tricks once again. This time with some new blood! -RON GARZA, Bizarre Magazine

 

The artists from SCARCon came from Norway, the US, Hungary, the UK and Italy- which is where Brenno Alberti (pictured here) plies his trade. One of the most common questions we get about scarification is ‘does it hurt’- the look on the clients face may help answer that.

The Key to my Heart: Bruno

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It’s almost Valentine’s Day!
While not as gaudy as Christmas, as spooky as Halloween or quite to the level of Easter’s candy excesses Valentine’s Day is still one of my favorite holidays. Probably because I like getting cards. And flowers.

And while he’s never officially said it, I’d like to think that Bruno would be my Valentine, if I asked. You can see more of his modification work on his tumblr feed here: BrunoBMA.

RGC: Strike Branding

Another contribution from Ron Garza’s video collection, this clip features Ron performing a strike branding on a client’s neck. The popularity of strike branding- applying heated metal to the skin to burn the tissue and form a controlled scar- has waned in the years since the introduction of more predictable forms of scarification like ESU branding and cutting with flesh removal.

You can find out more about Ron via his website.

This video is dated somewhere between 1995-1997.

Ready to Wear: Scarwars 1

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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.