Many students at California Baptist University use different forms of self-expression, including writing, sports, music, art — but what about tattoos?
38% of U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo, according to a 2019 article in Psychology Today. California Baptist University students are no exception. Students on campus explain their tattoos, their meanings and how they use body art to express themselves. Art tells a story. As author Charles de Lint once said, “Tattoos … are the stories in your heart, written on your skin.”
One of the reasons tattoos can seem frightening is because of how permanent the art is. Cindy Chic is a tattoo artist in Chino Hills who has been tattooing since 2004. She learned from her husband and said that art was her best subject in school. Now that she has been in the tattooing field for so long, she said she has seen a lot.
“My advice for the first timers are: do not rush on a tattoo,” Chic said. “It is forever. You only have a certain amount of canvas on your body. Think long and hard about what you want. This way, you will never regret the art on your body.”
Much controversy has surrounded tattoos, especially in the workplace. As students, many are preparing to enter the professional world, but the work environment is also starting to change. One-third of companies now see no problem with employees “donning visible tattoos,” according to the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Career Exploration Program.
While tattooing is evolving and becoming more acceptable in the workplace, tattoos have also been controversial in the Christian community. Many Christians have been opposed to tattooing the body. Psychology Today reported that 11% of participants who opted not to get a tattoo did so due primarily to religious reasons. One participant gave a response relating to her faith as a Christian and explained that her body is a temple.
Christians often hear a common argument regarding tattooing from 1 Corinthians 6:19 (ESV), “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
At the same time, this topic of getting tattooed as a Christian has become part of a larger argument. Some Lancers have opted to use this form of expression to even aid in glorifying God’s name.
Savvy Freshwater, junior early childhood studies major, said when she got one of her tattoos, it helped her to share the gospel.
“I honestly think Psalm 62:5 is the statement of my faith,” Freshwater said. “It is an everyday reminder for me, and it definitely has been such a conversation starter. I am not just saying that to say it, I have had such a unique opportunity to share the gospel simply by asking what my tattoo means.”
On the other hand, tattoos can come with challenges. Joseph Mitten, senior kinesiology major, said he receives questions quite often about his tattoos.
“I am not sure if any of mine are truly unique, but I do not care,” Mitten said. “They have meaning to me, which is what is most important. That being said, I do not regret any of my tattoos, but if I had known how often people would ask about their meaning, I would have waited to get the Odin one on my arm. I have explained it hundreds of times, and it gets tiring.”
Just like Mitten sees his tattoos as a representation of his life’s journey, Chic said she views her customers’ tattoo choices as valuable aspects of their identities.
“I do not want to say no to someone who wants a specific design that they want to express themselves with because we are all different and beautiful in our own style and expression when it comes to tattoos,” Chic said.
Since Chic is a tattoo artist, she can express herself through art on her own body and help others pursue the same goal.
“All of my tattoos are well thought out and are part of my life’s journey,” Chic said.
Tattoos have the ability to hold memories, just like writing our thoughts down on paper, and they can be seen as a form of expression.
“I love expressing myself through art in any way that I can — painting, music and I truly just see tattoos as an extension of that,” Freshwater said. “Especially now that I am really taking the time to sketch out and design all these tattoos that are drawn from experiences and people, each of my ideas has a story attached to them that I just want to express through art, specifically in the form of a tattoo.”
The art form dates back centuries. The earliest evidence of tattoo art comes from 5000 BCE, according to the Welcome Collection, and has now reached our Lancers at CBU and allowed them to be expressive in their own ways and styles with the help of equally expressive tattoo artists hoping to help their clientele achieve the style, idea and image they desire.
“I cannot see myself doing anything else,” Chic said. “My quote is, ‘Tattooing is my Passion. Do what you Love. Love what you do.’ (I am) so grateful every day to be able to make someone smile.”