This weekend marked the ninth anniversary of the third and final Scarwars event. I was going to wait for the tenth before putting a post up, but sentimentality got the best of me and I grabbed a backup drive and pulled over a few of the thousands of photos taken that weekend to share with you folks here on SD.
In 1995 I received an email from BME’s Shannon Larratt asking if I had heard about the controversial body piercer who performed a modification at the Houston Tattoo Convention; he had used a technique similar to pearling 1 to implant teflon “horns” into the forehead of Jim Rose Circus Sideshow personality The Enigma. It caused quite a stir; both the public nature of the modification (facial modification always inspires a certain level of concern) and the openness with which he did it- modification which had existed on the fringes of the piercing scene was now being brought out into the open.
Shannon and I were fascinated; while the aesthetics of a split penis or smooth crotch could certainly be appealing to the niche members of our subculture, these modifications were generally done for functionary purposes like sexual gratification and fetishistic value. Moving implants from the penis to the forehead (or wrist, the site of Steve’s earliest implants) was making a statement that the times were about to change.
The same can be said for Steve’s contributions to the scarification world; feature articles in Tattoo Savage, 2 In the Flesh 3 and Body Art 4 would introduce his branding technique with an electro-surgical unit (or ESU) which allowed for a more detail oriented healed scar. The abstract design choices that were popular at the time- chevrons, geometric shapes, modern interpretations of tribal symbols and sigils- were replaced with more representational choices; and with each healed scar Steve was able to refine his process to allow for more detail and longevity. Were it not for his ESU brandings (and the tattoo oriented aesthetic of scarification artist Ron Garza) it’s unlikely that scarification would be as popular (among a certain subset) as it is today.
Over the last two decades Steve’s name has become synonymous with 3D body modification; he’s continued to innovate and his work has had a lasting impact on the generation of artists who’ve come after him.
Photo: Steve Haworth, ESU branding 1997 Philadelphia. Scanned from ink-jet printed 4×6 print, collection of Shannon Larratt.
- Inserting pearls or steel balls into the skin of the penis to add aesthetic and sexually functional texture. Pearling was reportedly a tradition among the Japanese mafia- the Yakuza- with one pearl implanted for every year spent in prison. Legendary tattoo culture personality Tatu Scotty had been interviewed about having pearling done in Japan, and Southern California’s Cliff Cadaver detailed the procedure in magazines as varied as PFIQ, Hustler and Body Art. Piercer Sean Philips did a fantastic series of articles on Cliff for BME News that’s worth checking out: http://news.bme.com/2011/02/25/cadaver-chronicles-episode-3/ ↩
- Issue Number Needed ↩
- Issue Number Needed. ↩
- Body Art #23, 1996, article by Jan Seeger. ↩
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.
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.
Without a doubt, having my palms tattooed was the single most painful tattoo experience I’ve ever had. Any other infamously sensitive spot: ribs, armpits, inner thighs or throat I’d gladly do again to never have to experience the sensation of having my palms poked.
While putting this video together I couldn’t help but remember the pain and to commiserate with the gentleman whose palm Ron was branding. I can only imagine the hellish healing process.
Ron Garza is an internationally recognized and respected Body Modification artist currently in California, USA. He travels constantly in the role of body piercer, modification and scarification artist, lecturer and teacher. He’s been generous enough to share his collection with the Sacred Debris project, so check his tag for more.
He can be reached via his website: http://www.rongarza.com