Lady Tattoo Artists We Love: Noel'le Longhaul

noel'le longhaulArtist Noel'le Longhaul's tattoos tell stories. They are incredible pieces of art she creates in close collaboration with her clients. When talking about tattoos, Noel'le says they are ways to "alter" the way the "body is read." Her work is beyond art on skin.

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Noel'le currently is a tattooer at Charon Art in Great Falls, Massachusetts, but she travels often doing guests spots at shops around the country. She does freehand tattoos in mostly black ink, and when color is introduced it adds an unexpected pop in her beautiful work.

noel'le longhaul tattoo

noel'le longhaul tattoo


The Stir: How did you get into tattooing?
NOEL'LE: I got into tattooing out of a need to affect, alter, and rename my body before I had a language to articulate its trans-ness. I used tattooing as a teenager to map out my life on my skin, and to make the stories that constructed "me" visible to myself. It was a way to combat an almost constant dissociated state as a young person; crystallizing an ecology of events into a describable mythology tethered me to my life at a time when I was otherwise chronically removed from it. In other words, the concreteness and groundedness of tattooing combated an otherwise liminal experience. Eventually, I started to tattoo the people that I was sharing my life with. Tattooing evolved into a subcultural ritual of belonging to each other and to our lives, especially as people that didn't really belong anywhere and were often houseless, hurting, and lost. 

More from The Stir: Lady Tattoo Artists We Love: Lara Scotton

noel'le longhaul tattoo

noel'le longhaul tattoo

What was the first tattoo that you got?
The first tattoo I ever got was a stick and poke of an empty picture frame that I gave myself with a quill pen when I was 16. It fell out over the course of the next year. 

noel'le longhaul tattoo

noel'le longhaul tattoo

Share a good story about a tattoo that you have done and what it meant to a client.
Shortly before I became an above-ground and state-sanctioned tattoo artist, I was living in the attic of a rural western Massachusetts farmhouse. I had crash-landed there after a spring in a Berlin flat and a winter alone in a central Maine cabin. A friend of a friend approached me from the center of their grief for their friend Helen, two generations older than them, who had recently died. They needed a tattoo that could hold the intensity of Helen's life and the impact it had had on them: Helen was wild and vulgar, as monstrous as she was beautiful. Surrounded by effigies and tokens of her, we crafted a piece at midnight on Helen's birthday; the bat that I shared the hot farmhouse attic with flickered about our heads. My client, who later became my partner, had no tattoos on their chest. We crafted an image in light of their plan to receive top surgery at some point, and used our lines and marks to disrupt the contours and forms that were alien to their experience of what their body should be and look like. We created a strange and monstrous guardian creature with eyes wide enough for Helen to see through. In the years since then, we have tattooed together for dozens of hours, working to fundamentally alter the way their body is read. 

More from The Stir: 30 Brilliant Tattoo Ideas for Moms Who Want to Get Inked 

noel'le longhaul tattoo

noel'le longhaul tattoo

noel'le longhaul tattoo

Have you ever tattooed yourself?
I've tattooed myself extensively: my whole left arm, face, neck, chest, legs, feet, and abdomen were tattooed almost entirely by me. Tattooing myself was how I learned how to tattoo. It was a way to take impulses towards literal self-harm and shift them into something that was more complex and nuanced: a road to somewhere better than where I was, a trail of lights leading back to the most vulnerable version of myself. 

noel'le longhaul tattoo

noel'le longhaul tattoo

Who and what influences you?
More of my art influences come from outside the world of tattooing than inside it. My tattooing is influenced by several years of transience and perpetual motion, and by a relatively solitary childhood spent largely in the small woods I had access to in western Massachusetts. Before I worked primarily as a tattoo artist, I made installations: temporary and fragile structures in marginal parts of the world that most people would never see. I'm influenced as much by medieval iconography and printmaking (my field of study in school) as I am by certain contemporary tattoo artists. Other contemporary fine artists such as Kiki Smith and Leslie Dill have had an impact on my practice as have other younger artists like Alicia Wistrom Brown, Jess X Chen, Beyon Wren Moor, and Pat Perry.   

noel'le longhaul tattoo

 noel'le longhaul tattoo

 

 

Images via Noel'le Longhaul

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