Artist Mira Mariah on the rituals and inner work at play when we adorn our bodies in ink.
– KEYS SOULCARE
For so many of us, our purpose is to live up to our highest values. But, in Mira Mariah’s case, embodying her ideals shines through every aspect of her life. Case in point: her prosthetic left leg — a result of a congenital birth defect, that she (totally rocks) and speaks about in campaigns across beauty, fashion, and health, and Girl Knew York, a downtown New York tattoo studio that counts a frequent wait list and pop stars among its art-inspired fanbase. She’s an outspoken muse and advocate for fellow creatives, those in the queer and disabled communities, and — perhaps, most inspiringly — for herself.
Here’s our chat about the gifts that empower us to tune into every inch of ourselves — in ink and otherwise.
How many tattoos do you have and can you tell us about your first and most recent one?
I have 56. My first tattoo was a needle and thread, because I thought that I was going to be a seamstress. And my most recent tattoo, I got yesterday. It’s a large floral piece that covers my stomach and has little butterflies surrounding it. My friend, the artist, drew it and then I purchased the illustration. So originally, I just had it in my house for a few months, and then I was like, “Let me have this as a tattoo.” She was able to do it.
So many times, we hear that tattoos are impulsive. But it sounds like you literally sat with this one for a bit.
I do have some tattoos that are just like, I want this, so I’m going to get it. Others have been slower, and both types are great. If you want to meditate on a piece, I want to support you in that. And if you see a vampire flower piece that makes you laugh — like I have, with another of mine — that’s cool, too.
How do you know in your gut, “I’m going to do it,” either way?
I don’t know, you know? The same way, you know when you’re in love. You just kind of are like, Yeah, this is what we’re doing now…
What do tattoos say about and for us that other mediums can’t?
I’ll speak from the place of a feminine disabled person, if that’s alright. But as one, so much happens to our bodies that we don’t get to control — and aren’t in control of the conservation about [it]. Body art is a way for people to take the reins on what is going to happen to their body.
You’ve spoken about art as a tool for reclaiming your own physical body — trauma and all. How has body art informed that?
I’ve had a baby, I’ve lost my leg, and I’ve had lots of different feelings about my body. But my theory is that if I love something, I embellish it. I love my leather jacket, so I add patches to it. If I love my own body, I feel called to embellish it. And then, I love the things I embellish that much more.
Do you have any pieces specifically about your prosthetic?
I have this piece from [artist] Mars Hobrecker that’s a seashell with a reverse mermaid — so you can see the prosthetic leg on her. A big part of healing for me is to move from something being a wound to owning and romanticizing it.
What does your daughter think of your tattoos?
Her favorites are ones she got to be a part of, especially if her handwriting or Frida Kahlo — whom she loves — are involved. She did an illustration of a vampire flower on my leg the other day, because I needed to entertain her for 10 minutes and gave her a marker. I love the way it turned out, so I’ll probably tattoo it on myself tomorrow!
What’s your soulcare style and a few of your go-to rituals?
It can be hard to navigate a disability, motherhood, and being an artist. A lot of times, we don’t get to choose what we do when, so carving out time to be one-on-one with each of those practices is important: time to just be with my child, or just be an artist.
I use different CBD oils and take really hot baths to manage pain. And — this is an amazing tool that all women need to learn to manage as we manifest — I say no when I’ve had enough, or when I want to do something but it’s not responsible for me to provide it at the time. And, I love a good pajama.
Beyond tattoos, how else can we amplify the goodness that we see in ourselves?
I encourage people to ask themselves, “Does this feel good for me? Or am I just told this is supposed to feel good?” Getting facials is really cool, but do you like someone physically touching your face? Do you like going out of your way for that experience, or do you prefer another? That’s what you have to focus on. I like being with my partner, my sister, my daughter; nothing revolutionary, but they are my rituals. Journaling is a great way to ask yourself hard questions that you’re not performing for anyone.
Do you have any words of wisdom for someone curious about getting their first or next piece?
Just to explore. I love the tool of Instagram because you can look at as many tattoos as you want. Think of the subject, but also the style. If you want to get a palm tree, look for an artist whose work speaks to you and then have a conversation about it. If a project isn’t a good fit, good artists will say, “I’m not the artist for you right now, but here are a few others you should try.”
What are some visual ways you’re expressing yourself these days?