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I Love to be Revolting: Non-Binary Tattoo Artist Char Bataille on Adorning and Adoring Your Freaky Body

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Char Bataille and I am a tattoo artist from Montreal, Canada. My work focuses on destroying the norms around what makes good art, good bodies, and good citizens. I love to do ugly artwork on ugly people. I mean that in the most positive way; I love, adore and admire my freak clients,and I want to adorn them with wonky lines, wacky colors, and revolting art that validates their bodies and makes them smile.

As a tattoo artist, your work deals intimately with other peoples’ bodies. How do you think about that intimacy? Has it affected your relationship with your own body? 

I tattoo a lot of young queer and trans people, and I also tattoo a lot of fat people (more than the average tattoo artist as far as I can tell). Most, if not all, of them have complicated relationships with their bodies; their bodies are policed and invaded by other people, and as a result, most of the people I tattoo engage or have engaged in self-harm behaviors. 

Growing up in rape culture, I learned again and again that my body was not my own. People stare, comment, and touch without consequences. I have noticed that the closeness that tattooing requires can trigger or touch closely to other body trauma they might have, and that’s something I approach with respect and tenderness. 

At the same time, I also believe the act of tattooing a body can engender revolt and healing. Getting tattoos has certainly had that effect on me–I like to make my body weird, to make it ugly. My fatness and my body hair and my ugly tattoos make it challenging to exist and interact in the world sometimes, but as scary as it is, striving to resist beauty norms has made me feel powerful. I love to be revolting. Tattoos give me a sense of control over my body and how it is perceived. They are marks that make it clear that this skin is mine and mine only. 

Transcending the shame that society projects on our bodies are a constant struggle. I feel so much shame when I look at my body. But I hope that by giving others the opportunity to adorn and adore their bodies, I am working to counteract that shame with love and power. 

What was your early experience with makeup? Any formative moments that you remember that helped to shape your relationship with makeup?

Makeup is so complicated. I am in a gender lava tornado right now, and I have never been as confused about and consumed with makeup as I am at this moment. 

Makeup is my mom asking me how come I am not wearing any and gently pushing me in her bathroom so I can use some. 

Makeup is colour and energy and power, makeup is art.

Makeup is chemicals and a vicious wasteful industry.

Makeup is self-definition, control over one’s own body, independence.

Makeup is what I’m supposed to do.

Makeup is what I want to do, and it’s what I don’t want to do.

In the past year, I’ve finally found myself in a stable place, 5 years sober, connected to a strong community, and dating someone with a similar gender identity as mine. I now feel I have the tools required to slow down and evaluate who I want to be. As I question my gender, repressed fears have surfaced: I am terrified of not being desirable. I panicked, wondering, who will find me attractive if my presentation is blurry? Who will find me beautiful if I don’t wear makeup? Where will I find validation?

Growing up a fat girl in a hypersexualized cultural moment, I associated my self-worth with sexual gratification and men’s attention. Putting on makeup was part of obtaining this attention, and as I question my gender presentation, I have started to scrutinize my relationship with “dolling up.” Honestly, I am a little mad at makeup right now. I am taking a little space. But I also miss makeup so much!

My solution, for now, is to treat makeup like my other art adventures. I am not doing my makeup to go out or to control my image, I am doing my makeup to explore color and explore my facial features. I am seeing makeup as a medium and my face as the canvas. I think it is taking me somewhere positive, and I am definitely having fun! 

Who are your fashion/beauty icons? Whose look inspires you?

I am obsessed with non-binary makeup enthusiast @Disssgrace. I love to peak at @lucyphirr. I am always energized by anything @fatgirlsdancemouvement posts. I have a huge crush on Dan Levy, and I also want to be Dan Levy. Lately, I have discovered @janellerabbott and their “Wardrobe Therapy” and I am so in awe and excited about it. Worth a look! 

What thoughts help you get through hard times? 

Honestly, the power of prayers and meditation. Accepting the things I cannot change. And more than thoughts, I would say my home, my safe bubble. I am a very visual libra and I curated my house perfectly to feel serenity and calm when I’m in it.

Where can we find you and your work?

You can follow me on Instagram at @charlinebataille.

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