New York

‘Art Is Like My Soul:' Tattoo Art Muse Is Featured in New York Nico Documentary

“It's these stories that are really important to tell, otherwise no one would know.”

What to Know

  • Filmmaker Nicholas Heller, better known as New York Nico, just released his latest documentary about local artist Stephanie Boyce, 60
  • “If You Know Me Is To Love Me.” shares Boyce’s story as she prepares for her first solo, sold-out art show at a Williamsburg-based gallery
  • Boyce has become a beloved freelance artist among the Brooklyn tattoo community, selling her drawings to famous parlors

When Stephanie Boyce starts drawing, it takes her to another world -- one that has allowed her to escape from her previous reality of poverty, addiction and mental illness.

She was staying at a group home when she met Mark Cross, owner of Muddguts art gallery and Rose Tattoo Parlour in Williamsburg, and sold her first drawing to him for $1. She returned to the gallery with more drawings the next day, and then the next day and then the day after that.

Five years later, Cross has become Boyce’s biggest fan, collecting at least 1,000 of her pieces, and Boyce has established herself as a fixture in the Brooklyn tattoo community by hustling her designs around famous shops like his.

At the age of 60, Boyce was recently honored with her very first art show at Muddguts, and filmmaker Nicolas Heller just released his documentary, “If You Know Me Is To Love Me,” following Boyce as she prepared for the sold-out show.

“It makes [me] sometimes want to cry because I didn’t know that [people] liked [my art] that much,” Boyce said. “Art is like my soul… it’s coming from my heart.”

Heller, better known by the nickname New York Nico, has amassed 190,000 Instagram followers by sharing the hidden talents of eccentric New York characters like Boyce. Within moments of meeting Boyce, Heller knew that he wanted her to star in his next documentary.

“If you were to pass her on the street, you would never know that she is a really gifted artist and poet,” Heller said. “It's these stories that are really important to tell, otherwise no one would know.”

The film takes viewers on a ten-minute trip into Boyce’s world, including her family-like friendship with Cross. As one of the most acclaimed tattoo artists in New York, Cross said he has learned a thing or two from Boyce’s unique, childlike style.

“You can see her hand in [her drawings],” Cross said. “It's perfect because it's imperfect...there is no inhibition, and that is something that can be really difficult for some people, myself included.”

Boyce’s daughter credits Cross for giving her mother purpose through art, but Cross said it is Boyce who has gifted him with an unparalleled friendship. At the end of the day, it’s all about community, Cross said.

“[People] forget what's important, and that's your neighborhood, your friends, your community,” Cross said. “I hope people take away from this that they need not look further than their block that they're living on.”

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