Senior studies tattoo meanings

The Newtonite

by Kayla Shore
That tattoo you are considering getting might carry more meaning than you think.
For her Senior Year Project, Ilana Cohen investigated the designs and meanings of American tattoos, and their evolution over time, relative to the tattoos of other cultures, she said.
Cohen chose this topic because of a general interest in tattooing, she said. “Tattoos are awesome,” Cohen said. “I’m interested in going into tattooing, and I like history.
“It’s a really interesting topic because tattooing hasn’t always been okay in Western cultures, and it’s becoming more acceptable, where in some places it’s always been the norm,” she said.
Studying tattoos was not the idea Cohen had at first for the project. Originally Cohen planned to do a “study of depression and anxiety at traditional and non-traditional high schools,” she said. She switched to tattooing about two and a half months ago.
“I didn’t get very far with my first project because it was really difficult and relied on field work because not a lot had been published in that area, so it was too big to fit into the time schedule,” Cohen said.
Cohen’s goals for her final project were to design 15-20 tattoos and determine how most people choose what tattoo design they get, she said.
“I wanted to talk to tattoo artists around Boston and ask how many people just choose random tattoos out of a book or off the wall, and how many come in with an idea for their design,” Cohen said.
The decision to do Senior Year Project was an easy one for her, Cohen said. “I find it very hard to focus on classes, and I’m just so much more interested in tattooing than some of the other things you study at school.
“Senior Year Project allows you to do something that’s all you, as opposed to just writing a paper on X, so I’m actually motivated to learn,” she said.
Time management was Cohen’s major hurdle, she said.
“It was really difficult, because it’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re not obligated to be anywhere at a certain time.”
Cohen discovered that tattoos aren’t always just decoration. “For the Maori people of New Zealand, facial tattoos tell everyone the individual’s status in the community—they’re a form of communication.
“In Italy, it is possible that tattoos were once used for medicinal purposes, such as therapy for back pain,” Cohen said.
Senior Year Project is a good choice for almost any student, she said. “Even if you sign up and don’t know what you’re going to do, you’ll find something you’re interested in. It’s good preparation for college, and it’s a good way to get yourself out of the building and escape senior slump,” Cohen said.