Matt Wilson has spent the past 18 years adorning and creating art with ink and a needle as a tattoo artist. His canvas ranges from the torso to the balls of the feet — ultimately any clean surface on the skin.
"Everyone's interpretation of art is a different thing,” says Wilson. "Some people find it weird and different."
These days, this artist is leaving his mark on some traditionally uncharted territory - the armpit.
“Sometimes in the armpit, they want to say something,” Wilson said, talking about his clients. “It's more of a private thing to them.”
In the case of Nick Zook, his armpit tattoo pays homage to his mother — a piranha plant from the television show Super Mario Brothers with the words 'HI MOM' at the bottom.
"She was the one that kinda got me into tattoos, surprisingly,” Zook said, “So this is a little dedication to her.”
When Wilson first started tattooing at his shop, Pain and Pleasure Tattoo Parlor in South Dallas, he says he did, on average, one armpit tattoo every six months. Since the start of this year, he says he averages two to three a month.
Many of his clients are effecting attempting some level of “completion,” or full tattoo coverage of a particular region of the body.
“When I look down and I see certain spaces, it just doesn’t look right,” says Deon Fuller. He has spent more than a decade covering his body in ink, also known as a body suit.
“It’s a big goal.”
Achieving this goal is nothing short of painful. The armpit is full of nerve endings, which means it is extremely sensitive.
“It goes back to the original art of tattooing,” says Wilson. “You were passionate about it and you wanted it and you laid there and you took it.”
“You earned that artwork and that becomes then part of you.”
Experts says it is safe to get a tattoo on the armpit, but there can be added risk of infection while it heals.
“The moisture and the warmth in that area that helps bacteria grow,” said Dr. Nicholas Hendron, affiliated with Parkland health and Hospital system. “You want to keep it dry.”
Given the high levels of bacteria in pools, hot tubs and bodies, Dr. Hendron suggests not swimming in these places while an armpit tattoo is healing.
"As long as patients are going through a licensed tattoo parlor and they follow the steps of the routine tattoo care afterward, it's a perfectly fine, safe, reasonable choice.”