Shannon Larratt 1973-2013

“As the saying goes, “by the time you read this I’ll be dead.”

Toronto based artist and activist Shannon Larratt passed away last month. The word of his death was quickly passed on among the BME (Body Manipulation Ezine) community, a culture I don’t participate in but I respect for a number of reasons.

You can read his touching End Of Life document here.

On the topic of body manipulation, perhaps Shannon said it best.

“The fundamental question in becoming publicly modified is a question of finding a balance between how free you want to be and how hard you want to work. The more free you are, the more responsibility you have to take for yourself. The more you blend back into the crowd, the less freedom you have, but the ‘easier’ your life gets. But is it really your life if you’re not controlling it?”

You can read more about the community with a Google search for Shannon Larratt and BME. Warning: often NSFW with images I find disturbing.

So why the tribute?

monstersquirrel

Monster Squirrel. 24×36 Acrylic on canvas. April 2006.

Shannon was also a father, programmer, artist and entrepreneur.

And he was good at all of it, so I admire him.

As the founding publisher of BME he created a community of acceptance and hygenic practices and built his ezine to create a safe haven for people interested in extreme body piercing and tatoos and other manipulation. Many online tributes have recently come in with the headline, “Shannon saved my life”. With memories of my awkward teen years still in my mind as a father of teenagers myself, I know how important it can be to have a mentor who understands what it’s like to be different. Shannon was that voice of reason for people who were conflicted about their bodies. The comments on his blog, tumblr and BME speak for themselves.

Copyright 2009 Shannon Larratt.

Copyright 2009 Shannon Larratt.

I came across the programming of Shannon the same time I was on sabbatical to re-learn programming myself, and in particular JavaScript. A consummate professional blogger, he was kind enough to tag the programming ‘tests’ separate from his BME logs. He was very careful to use open source HTML and JavaScript (as opposed to Flash) and pushed the limits of what a modern browser could effectively render. These days with Chrome and mobile apps, it’s common to see a web browser render text and images dynamically responsively, but he was doing it many years ago. And with considerable artistic panache. His Space Invaders / Missile Command Chrome Experiment game ‘Apophis 2009’ needs to be played to be believed (desktop only). And true to the spirit of mentorship and sharing, he posted the source code for everyone like myself to parse and learn from. I had no idea JavaScript was capable of doing this kind of animation!

uilen

Uilenspiegel. Acrylic on wood. 12 x 16 October 2008

His playfulness was infectious. For example, check out the header on his blog, “The best thing about censorship is … “. Once you figure out the solution, you’ll smile with the little Easter egg you’ve uncovered.

But above all for me was his bold use of colour and line and shape as evidenced in his paintings, some of which he shared credit with his young daughter. I’m still amazed at how inclusive he was with her, and how much he loved her. In fact in his blog he credits ‘Nefarious’ for keeping him alive as long as he was.

As his eyesight and ability to read diminished, he turned to jewelry as his creative outlet, and opened an etsy store. Also, he finished a large book on body manipulation that he and his fiance hand-bound in their studio in Toronto. I can’t find the exact quote, but he said in the preface to his book, “you’re holding art that was actually made by hand by the artist”. I love hand-made.

We had a few exchange via email around the Chrome Experiment time, but I never met Shannon and doubt I ever would have. For me, he was one of those personalities that are larger than life that sometimes are best left online. I definitely didn’t agree with his opinions all of the time. I found his recent appearance challenging and not at all pleasant. His exercise in tattooing his actual eyeball is as cringe-worthy as it sounds. But it’s not for me to judge. I just wanted to take a moment to recognize the work Shannon did.

A quote from his EOL message that spoke to me as a father, husband, son, brother, volunteer, world traveler, business owner, mentor and friend:

…seize every opportunity that’s in front of you and live life to the fullest. Even with everything I’ve done, there is so much more I wish I’d squeezed in. Don’t let a single day (well, maybe a single day) be idle. Have every adventure you can, and explore every street — although treat the one-way streets with caution. Don’t fritter you life away into television, random browsing, and pointless substance abuse (I have at times been guilty of all of these) — although remember there are valid uses for them, both for growth and entertainment. Have passion about the future, and in the present. Especially if you’re young, push your education and your skills to their limits on every level. Don’t just graduate highschool, get a degree, get a doctorate if you can. I know these things aren’t for everyone, they they are for most, and they also open doors to some of the most special adventures. Even if you can’t afford proper schooling there are many, many ways to learn, free courses to volunteering, and so on. Value your health, and the health of our planet, and strive beyond its borders. We have such a glorious future, but never forget that your part in that future could end at any moment, so live a life that you can be pround of. And of course love and treat each other well.

Flying Spaghetti Monster, February 2013

Flying Spaghetti Monster, February 2013

May he rest in peace.

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