Body modification is an acquired taste. While it's more widespread than ever, even the most open-minded or jaded, who think they've seen it all, will grow pale at the description of the more exotic flesh alterations available to those with a high pain threshold.
Dustin Mathis has been an Oklahoma piercer for about 10 years, and recently joined custom tattoo hub Cannibal Graphics, making the local studio a one-stop shopping source for body modification.
Cannibal Graphics will celebrate the new venture by hosting a 6 p.m. Sunday "Art Fusion" exhibit where artists will create collaborative works with charcoal that will then be auctioned off, along with original work by studio tattoo artists. Some of Mathis' handiwork will also be on display to show the broad range of body modification procedures available.
"Body modification is so much more than piercing your eyebrow, piercing your tongue or piercing a belly button," Mathis said. "There are so many new ways, it's pretty amazing."
Piercing has come a long way from the days where girls would heat up safety pins to lance each other's ear lobes. These days, some work to stretch and elongate the earlobe or even just split it in two.
Other procedures on the cutting edge include microdermals "? anchors implanted under the skin that provide a base for attached jewelry or studs to stick out of the skin. This modification basically allows one to pierce their chest, rib cage or any other body part too thick for needles.
Subdermals are another cutting-edge body modification where an entire implant is placed under the skin. For example, a subdermal implant can be used to make someone look like they have devil horns.
To create holes in cartilage, a dermal punch is used, which Mathis said works "like a cookie cutter, almost." A heavy gauge piercing is then put in the hole to keep it from closing.
Extreme body modifiers sometimes participate in suspensions, where their body is lifted off the ground through hooks attached to their piercings.
"People who do the exotic body modifications want to stand out. They want to be different," Mathis said. "Some people get body modifications because it makes them feel more comfortable with themselves."
Mathis said more intense body modifications can take up to six months to heal fully, and prices vary with each procedure. Body modification artists are subject to regulations set out by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, which ensures that every procedure is safe and sanitary.
Mathis said those interested in getting a body modification need to take the same steps that one should take when evaluating tattoo artists.
"You need to make sure you look for experience, ask questions, look at portfolios, make sure they have done that procedure before," he said. "Some people might say, 'Yeah, I know how to do it,' but they've never actually done it. Do research and make sure the artist knows his job, knows what he is doing before he starts cutting away at you."