Tat-Tuesday: Students share stories behind ink

Thomas Boswell

Editor’s note: Tat-Tuesday is a weekly series that features students around campus and their tattoos.

Photos by Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

Becky Thompson

Spanish lecturer and UT alumna Becky Thompson’s fox tattoo on her back commemorates the completion of her Ph.D. dissertation. 

“I wrote my dissertation on a book from Peru that was published in 1971 called ‘[The] Fox from [Up] Above and [the] Fox from [Down] Below,’” Thompson said. “Foxes are the entities that make the world go round in Andean mythology.” 

Thompson said she is interested in the race, culture and identity in Peru. In the book, the author’s writing about a dichotomy in Peruvian society sparked Thompson’s interest in immigration from the Andes to the coast. 

“The book is written by a white guy in Peru who also grew up speaking Quechua,” Thompson said. “This was his last book, and he didn’t finish it because he said at the beginning of the book he was going to commit suicide. People say he couldn’t reconcile these two different identities. That always really interested me and was a jumping off point for my dissertation.”

Brianna Powell

A tattoo of an owl holding the earth covers youth and community studies junior Brianna Powell’s left arm. She said the owl, which serves as a symbol of wisdom, represents her spirit. 

“I like owls because of their sense of mystery,” Powell said. “When I went out on my own, I wanted to be this wise person. I think I am a lot like an owl, but I also strive to be wiser because I don’t think I am as wise as I should be.”

Powell said she thinks birds also represent freedom, which is why they shouldn’t be kept as pets.

“I would never have a bird as a pet,” Powell said. “They shouldn’t be in a cage. I don’t think birds should ever be in captivity unless they were sick in the wild or somebody rescued them.”

Jasmine Vallejo

After UT alumna Jasmine Vallejo’s brother attempted suicide in 2010, both siblings got a tattoo of LEGO blocks hugging. 

“He was going through this rough patch in his life,” Vallejo said. “We were best friends, but he kind of isolated himself from everyone. I told him, ‘Your problems are my problems. Your successes are my successes. We’re family.’” 

The two LEGO blocks are stuck together with one embracing the other. Vallejo said the LEGO blocks also represent her and her brother’s resilience.

“We had a really rough upbringing,” Vallejo said. “If you think about an actual LEGO, it’s really tough to break. That symbolizes us and our spirit.” 

Vallejo said the tattoo really helped her brother and strengthened the bond between the two of them. 

“This definitely helped him,” Vallejo said. “Whenever he is going through a rough patch, he calls me. It definitely opened up the communication. Branding our body created a special bond between us.”

Bradley King

Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Autumnal Tints” inspired UT alumnus and English lecturer Bradley King to get a tattoo of Thoreau’s scarlet oak leaf on his right arm.

“The essay is about all the leaves around Concord changing color in the fall,” King said. “The scarlet oak gets 10 pages of writing. He says some really beautiful things about the color.”

King said Thoreau’s vivid descriptions of the leaf’s shape really impacted him from a literary standpoint.

“He also talks about the shape of the leaf,” King said. “There’s just as much that you don’t see as you do see. It becomes this whole meditation on perception. It’s some of my favorite writing.”