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Body art aficionados show off work at Venezuela Tattoo Expo

Your butterfly ankle tattoo and Celtic shoulder knot are lovely but they will not act as any sort of social currency at the Venezuela Tattoo Expo 2013.

Para nada. To properly participate in this eye-popping, four-day body art bacchanal, you had better be covered in an impressive array of ink.

On January 24, some of the world’s most elaborately tattooed individuals filtered into Caracas for the expo’s third annual event.

Scene-stealers included Portland, Oregon resident Matt Gone, also known as “Checker Man” because you could probably play a game on his face.

And while it’s tempting to come to quick conclusions about someone who has inked approximately 98 per cent of his body, the 41-year-old’s back story offers insights into his life choices.

Gone suffers from a rare birth defect called Poland’s syndrome, which resulted in a host of underdeveloped muscles on the left side of his body. He started inking his epidermis at age 14 in order to create a living canvas he considered beautiful.

“I got tattooed not to hate my body. I have seven birth defects and kidney disease… so I hid my birth defects with tattoos. I got my body more special with the tattoos,” Gone told the Guardian.

[ Related: Ottawa hospital workers win right to display tattoos ]

La Mujer Vampiro (Vampire Woman) is another expo star who pushes norms – and loves it.

Mexican national Maria Jose Cristerna has become famous for her transformation into a pierced, tattooed, body modified work of living art. Though many may disagree on the aesthetic value of her body modifications, the tattoo artist isn’t particularly interested in social conventions.

“It’s all about freedom of expression at its fullest. No taboos, no prejudice. That’s why I am what I am,” Cristerna told the paper.

[ Related: The girl with the monkey tattoo ]

In addition to mingling with like-minded ink aficionados, participants attended fashion shows, concerts, workshops, and signed up for the opportunity to get more ink.

Not in attendance at this year’s event: This person.

(Reuters photo of Matt Gone)

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