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Ohio University Student, Morgan Browning, showing her tattoos in Baker Center 3rd floor, in Athens, Ohio, Sept. 18, 2023.

The meaning behind the ink: students, professionals share significance of tattoos

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the earliest evidence of tattoos dates back over 50 centuries ago. In this century, it is nearly impossible to walk outside and not encounter at least one person whose body is decorated by one, or many, tattoos. This phenomenon is simple proof that the art of tattoos, whatever their meaning may be, is timeless. 

One of the many students at Ohio University who has gone through the tattooing process is Morgan Browning, a freshman studying sociology and criminology. Browning has two tattoos and is already planning on getting more.

“Getting tattoos…makes me feel more like who I’ve always wanted to be,” she said. “Both my parents have tattoos and I felt like that was very cool of them, and…it’s just really nice to have a piece of artwork on my body. It definitely makes me feel cool.”

Browning currently sports a tattoo that is symbolic of her cat, along with a sun design on her arm that she spontaneously got with a friend after this summer’s Columbus Pride Festival. While the latter of the two does not carry a large, deeper meaning with it, the former certainly does. 

“I had (the appointment) set up and planned out for my birthday, and it was actually really sad because literally three days beforehand, my cat passed away, so it was a really hard time, but it was a really good tattoo process,” she said. 

Sophia Dicuirci, a junior studying studio art, also got her first tattoo on her 18th birthday, one that she had been planning for three years, and hers also comes with a symbolic meaning. On her shoulder blade are lyrics from “You Are My Sunshine” written in her mother’s handwriting, and her mother has the second half of the lyrics tattooed as well. 

“Literally on the way home I was searching things for my next tattoo,” she said.

Dicuirci is planning on getting another one in October at the parlor where her roommate is currently going through a tattoo apprenticeship. 

Dicuirci and Browning’s reasoning behind their tattoos only scratches the surface of why people decide to get permanent ink on their body. 

Brad Taylor, a tattoo artist at Skin Hooked Tattoo and Body Piercing, located a 8 N. Court St., believes that people can come in for any number of reasons. 

“Sometimes it’s a scar coverup, sometimes it can be to cover stretch mark, and some people just like to get them, some people get them for family members,” he said. “I think it’s a little bit of everything.”

Taylor got his first tattoo as an homage to Native American artwork on his arm and now has very few spots on his body that aren’t decorated by tattoos. As to why he decided to become a tattoo artist in the first place, he said he has always had a passion.

“I’ve just been an artist all my life,” Taylor said. 

Similarly, Dicuirci believes that being an artist herself enhances her tattoo experience in different ways. 

“They’re fun, it’s just someone’s art, and being an artist, it’s cool to have other people’s art on you,” she said. 

She also believes that because she will eventually pursue a career in an artistic field, she is less likely to experience a stigma against tattoos. 

While Browning does not engage in the arts in a professional or academic sense, she also has never experienced any negativity toward her tattoos. 

“A lot of people ask me why the cat has three eyes,” she said, laughing. “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten anyone telling me it looks bad or trashy or anything.”

For those debating whether or not getting tattooed is right for them, it can be concluded that if they are done safely and correctly, tattoos can enhance one's sense of self and be a beautiful representation of a memory to someday look back on.


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