Body Art

henna painting body art

If you think body art is just about tattoos, take another look. Any way of altering your body is body art. For some people, a canvas and some paints are all they need to vent their artistic creativity. For others, that release comes through sculpture. For those who practice body art, their body is their canvas and their clay, and they are prepared to endure pain for the sake of their art.

Artistic Ways to Modify Your Body


When you hear the term body art, tattoos are probably the first thing that come to mind. Once the domain of motorcyclists and sailors, tattoos are enjoying a real resurgence in popularity, only this time everyone wants in on the act. Family men may be sporting the Celtic tattoo for fatherhood, women are adorning themselves with beautiful butterflies and flowers and the rest of the world is getting just about any type of tattoo you can think of. Permanent tattoos are made by injecting dyes referred to as tattoo ink beneath the outer layers of the skin. It takes many small sticks of the needle to complete even a simple pattern. Some can take the pain in stride, others require a bit of local anesthetic to get them through it, but when all is said and done, some fantastic body art has been created.

For those who like tats, but don't want anything permanent marking their body temporary tattoos provide a great option. Depending on the type of temps you get, they'll either fade or wash away eventually and you're free to pick out an entirely new design.


Body piercings

Name a body part and rest assured someone's managed to pierce a hole in it. Body piercing is another ancient art that has never really lost popularity. Both men and women pierce their ears and noses. Many youths have taken to piercing their tongues, eyebrows, nipples, cheeks and navels. Some adventurous individuals have even pierced their private areas in their quest for the ultimate piercing experience, while others use their piercings to signal their sexual preferences. When it comes to this art form, anything goes.


Scarring is the art of creating specific wounds in the skin that leave raised marks when the wounds heal. It can be used to create patterns or textures on the skin. Ancient cultures used scarification as a rite of initiation into adulthood, among other things.

For many people who practice scarring, the act is almost a religious experience. Scarring is typically used to commemorate a significant life event, whether joyous or tragic.

Scarring is usually performed by:

  • Cutting: Using a sharp blade to sculpt designs in the flesh.
  • Branding: Using a hot metal shape to burn a permanent mark on the skin, much like the cowboys did to mark their cattle.

Body Painting

Body painting provides a temporary expression of art for those not wishing to have a permanent tattoo. It can be as simple as painting a letter on your naked torso for the big football game, or as extravagant as air brushed artwork done with waterproof body paint. For a while, you can be whoever or whatever you want with body paint. Henna painting is a traditional Indian form of body painting. While the paint is not permanent, it does dye the skin and can last for several weeks.

Surgical Modifications

Whether you're into body shaping, body modification or plastic surgery, this form of body art can get pretty extreme. Corseting the waistline, neck lengthening and foot and head binding have all had their heyday in certain cultures. Men and women have been getting their fat sucked, their faces lifted and implants inserted in their cheeks, breasts and butts for decades. Body builders work out for countless hours to sculpt their muscles into what they consider the perfect form.There are more extreme examples of body shaping to be found. Some people have had body alterations to make themselves look like something other than human. Tongue splitting is just what it sounds like; a central cut in the tongue to give it that forked serpent look, while ears can be surgically altered to resemble Mr. Spock from Star Trek.

Nothing illustrates the extremes of body alteration better than the story of Stalking Cat, a gentleman that has spent years modifying his body to transform himself into a tiger. He has stripe tattoos, fang-like teeth caps, posts implanted to hold whiskers, facial implants to restructure his face and a host of other cosmetic alterations all added as a part of his quest for the feline form.

Your Body As Your Canvas

Man with facial piercings

Body art really seems to have no limits except what the human body can endure. From the simplest to the most extreme alterations, people will do almost anything in their quest for what they consider to be the perfect form.

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Body Art