Tattoo artist Art Godoy has built a 30-year career around his hyper-realistic work. As the owner of Funhouse Tattoos on Cambie, his tattoos adorn thousands of living canvases across Vancouver. But some of his best work rarely sees the light of day.
For breast cancer survivors who have undergone a mastectomy, Godoy will tattoo hyper-realistic nipples on their chest, giving them back some semblance of normalcy after having had so much taken from them.
“These women, they feel like they don’t own their bodies anymore,” says Godoy. “They feel miserable all the fucking time, so when they find out they have this as an option, and they can make their nipples anyway they want them, they’re excited.”
The first set of nipples Godoy ever tattooed were for a woman named Catherine who had both breasts removed to stop the spread of cancer, and replaced with implants. Catherine brought in magazines with examples of exactly the kind of nipples she wanted. Godoy made a stencil, and carefully measured to make sure they would be symmetrical.
“When she sat down in the chair and took her shirt off, it was like she had nothing to hide. You could tell she felt sexless… her breasts were just a smooth shiny surface,” he says. “When I was done, she looked at her self in the mirror, and instinctively covered herself up.
“It didn’t feel like she had her breasts back until there were nipples on them.”
Godoy estimates he’s done more than 30 sets of nipples for cancer survivors over the years. While some doctors offer nipple tattoos to mastectomy patients, the result is usually a crude circle that looks nothing like a nipple.
“Some doctors attempt to do it, but it looks like a pink bingo dabber,” says Godoy. “They don’t know what they’re doing. To make it look real, you need the little bumps, the shadowing, it needs to look like its sticking out.”
Godoy says he offers cancer survivors a discount on the work he does.
“I can’t do charity all the way, but I do a sliding scale based on what people can afford,” he says. “It’s more important to help give people’s lives back than make a buck.”
The cancer survivors Godoy tattoos are among his favourite clients to work with.
“They don’t act like your typical first-timer, they have their minds made up, so there’s no apprehension,” he says. “It’s cool to see. I love doing it, I love the reaction I get.”