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Inky Etchings: A Way to Start Fresh

By Aissa Sow • May 1st, 2008 • Category: 'Sup Wit Dat Tat?


“It’s like freezing periods of time in your life on your body,” said Matthew Terry, a 21-year-old low-voltage electrician.

Terry was first tatted up at the age of 19 during a rough patch that he was experiencing at home. He has always had a tough time expressing his feelings and needed to do something to release the feeling of being overwhelmed. Ink was the drug of choice. Terry got the word “Justice” on his forearm in order to release the pain and emotions he was experiencing. Justice also happens to be his middle name. 

 Art has always been a love of Terry’s and being a human canvas seemed the perfect way to express this adoration. However, he is not only the canvas but the artist as well. All of his tattoos were concepts birthed from his own mind and put down on paper. Most of his tattoos were thought about for a long time before he actually went through with it.

The demonic jester, situated on his left arm, manifested out of Terry’s self-proclaimed morbid sense of humor.

One of Terry's creations, the demonic jester.
One of Terry's creations, the demonic jester.

“I tend to look for humor in the most inappropriate things,” said Terry. “I still haven’t figured out if it’s my subconscious way of trying to shed light on those things or if I’m just really an asshole.”

In his last tattoo Terry pays homage to his childhood and the nostalgia of being a kid. This takes form in the cobra logo from G.I. Joe with the decepticon logo from Transformers inside of it located on his upper right arm. Terry recalls having it easy—no responsibilities and no big decisions, things were as simple as turning to the Saturday morning cartoons and getting lost in the world his mind had created.

The process of getting a tattoo for Terry is a very rejuvenating experience.

“Tattoos for me are like therapy,” said Terry. “All of them have meaning for me. I can always look at them and think back to where I was at that point in my life; what was good, what got worse, who I was and who I am.” 

The next tattoo Terry has designed to express his lineage. He is the son of an ex-black panther mother and Jewish father. As a representation of both parents the tattoo will be a panthers paw holding the Star of David.

Although most people compliment Terry’s tattoos he does get the occasional “you’re ruining your body.” As if following his description of himself as “dorky,” Terry aspires to be a computer consultant. Even if his tattoos are not considered professional, Terry has no regrets about his inked bodily artwork.

“It was a huge feeling of relief,” he said. “The pain felt like weakness being removed from my body. Through the process I let all [the stress] go. I got to start fresh.”

Aissa Sow is a junior at Hunter College, majoring in media studies. She is considering a career in magazine writing or entertainment law.
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