Seven years into her marriage, Emily Wells felt like she had reached a make-or-break moment. She left her husband and her home in Portland to start fresh in Denver.
In February, one month after deciding to move forward with a divorce, she had Denver International Airport’s infamous Blue Mustang, also known as “Blucifer,” tattooed on her thigh. It was meant to mark a new chapter in her life.
“A mustang is a very powerful symbol,” Wells said. “The statue itself is just so strong-looking and resilient. That’s what I want to move forward with in this transitional phase of my life.”
She commemorated the new ink in a Reddit post in r/Denver on Tuesday.
Local Redditors quickly debated the tattoo’s design, declared their love (or hate) for the 32-foot, laser-eyed sculpture, and commiserated about their own dead relationships.
Although Wells hasn’t even been in Denver a year, her connection to Colorado, and to Blucifer, goes back over a decade. She first spotted the statue at DIA almost as soon as it was erected in 2008.
“I thought it was awesome,” Wells said of her first impression. “It’s one of those alluring-yet-scary, beautiful, ‘What the f**k? Why is this here?’ kind of art pieces. I love that kind of art.”
But instead of simply telling her own story, Wells has added a new chapter to Blucifer’s lore with the tattoo, one that Wells quite accurately describes as “pretty metal.”
For those who haven’t fallen into this particular Wikipedia hole yet, the city of Denver originally commissioned sculptor Luis Jimenez to build the statue in 1992. After years in development limbo, a piece of the horse’s torso came loose from a hoist in Jimenez’s studio and pinned him against a support beam in 2006. He subsequently bled to death at the age of 65.
Blucifer lives on as a kind of Frankenstein’s monster, a sculpture that killed its own creator.
Wells doesn’t want the same fate for her ex-husband, obviously. The separation and divorce have been amicable, but the connection is deeper than a revenge fantasy.
“(Jimenez) shares the same last name as my ex-husband, so it’s all about the depth of that name,” Wells said. “And I just… I want to be done with that part of my life.”
Wells had just gotten back from the DMV when we interviewed her. She’s in the process of changing her IDs back to her maiden name.
Wells is not the first person to get a Blucifer-themed tattoo. A quick Google search will show at least one other Blue Mustang living on someone’s bicep, although Wells contends hers is the best in its category. For now, Denverite can testify that she definitely has the coolest documented Blucifer tattoo.
The tattoo was completed in one 5-and-a-half hour session by artist Anthony “Slay J” Box. He and Wells designed the tattoo together, incorporating other Colorado elements, like columbines, as well as a background inspired by the sunsets that grace the skies out on Peña Boulevard.
The blooms are strategically arranged to hide some of Blucifer’s most alarmingly and precisely rendered anatomy, outraging some of the statue’s Reddit fans.
Like another woman Denverite interviewed about her singularly Denver-themed tattoo, Wells has received mostly enthusiastic responses from strangers spotting the piece for the first time. She was at Meow Wolf when a staff member asked her about the tattoo, then brought out other coworkers to take a look.
The online response was in some ways exactly what she expected, too. Sharing a sliver of thigh and mentioning you’re single is always a gamble for a woman online. “There was an increase in DM-sliding,” she said with a laugh. “But other than that, it was a positive experience.”
An unexpected upside came in commenters who cheered on Wells’ decision to change her life.
Redditors recounted and celebrated the clean slates, fresh starts and brand-new opportunities brought on by dead relationships. And Wells celebrated with them. “Congratulations on your new life and tattoo! It’s weird to say, but divorce can really be an amazing gift,” one commenter wrote.
“When you’re through the fog, it’s glorious! Welcome to blue skies to go with your Blucifer,” another said.
Wells has quickly integrated herself into Denver’s scene. She dances tango, performs as a Drag King and practices the martial art Aikido. Plus, she’s been a DJ at Denver’s Underground Music Showcase.
And Blucifer certainly isn’t going anywhere, either.
Unnerving and alluring, he’ll continue guarding DIA, his laser-eyeballs side-eyeing each passing vehicle. He’s resilient and strong — the same things that Wells hopes to embody in the next steps of her life in a new, but very familiar, city.