Pauly Lingerfelt, a New Orleans raised artist, works primarily as a tattoo artist. His eclectic interests are refined to a tee in his uniquely recognizable line work. We collaborated with Pauly to create a new limited edition spin on our original shirt design, the Classic.
Photo: Michael Tucker
Where are you from originally, and what’s your story?
I’m from ‘Kenner brah’, of course...my family on both sides is from and live in New Orleans. My mom grew up in the Ninth Ward and she had the accent and swag that goes with that. I attended NOCCA, which was lovely for a teenager with an interest in art but no clear defined space for it in everyday life. Post-high-school has been a beautiful blur of travels, carnival seasons, too many bars, lots of laughs — all that good life shit.
What was it like growing up here and how has that influenced your work?
Growing up in New Orleans was divine. I never felt trapped or suffocated in the way that I've heard others describe their hometowns, but I didn’t know how lucky I was until I got a bit older and saw other sides of the country. I think from a young age I was able to see and interact with the full spectrum of different walks of life. My future always seemed like it was truly my decision and the possibilities were not limited. The influence New Orleans had on my work couldn’t be measured or separated because its integral to it…the connection a person can have with New Orleans can get almost sick, twisted, or cult like. My mom speaks of New Orleans as if it were someone she's with. People here just say “my city” like “my girl” or “my daughter” or “my ole man…”
You seem really into travel and collecting – the impact of this can really be felt in your work.
I do enjoy traveling – it keeps me fresh and with a healthy perspective on my own life and priorities…as for collecting, I’m constantly selecting books, photographs, and objects that inform my work and state of mind. I’ve gotten better at [traveling], like knowing what kind of places I like. I never go anywhere colder than New Orleans — only warmer. Travel always yields unexpected discoveries and experiences. Generally, being out of your comfort zone is a quick way to learn about yourself.
How much work are you able to do on the road?
As far as tattooing is concerned, the possibility to work on the road is limitless, although I limit myself to how much I’m actually doing that…most of the time on the road I’m working in sketchbooks on new ideas. I do tattoo at East River in New York and enjoy being there a couple times a year. I usually put tattooing aside when I travel. East River Tattoos in Brooklyn, NY is the creative hub for the style of tattooing I’m keen on.
“I’ve gotten better at [traveling], like knowing what kind of places I like. I never go anywhere colder than New Orleans — only warmer.”
How did you first get into tattooing?
I worked at Electric Lady land just cleaning up and assisting the tattooers. I got comfortable with tattooing as a career option after seeing daily life at the shop. A man named Joe Cox ended up becoming my friend and mentor for tattooing, which I’m very grateful for. I didn’t originally have hopes or dreams or goals of tattooing, but I always was into tattoos and thinking about what I’d get.
Your style is so striking and unique.
I guess I don’t see my work as striking or unique enough, which is the driving force that keeps me working out new ideas. I’d say that my style is definitely an extension of my interests and a way of processing them, but I don’t strive to make work that is strikingly unique as much as authentic to the ideas I’m expressing.
You’ve compiled a sizable body of work over the years – have any notable themes emerged? What has your work taught you?
My work reflects the subjects that I’m engaging with at the moment, and it shifts and changes. A constant interest is religious iconography, and also ethnography and the obscure. I’ve learned that you need to just put in the work on a daily basis, even small efforts at creating give way to defined concepts.
“I don’t strive to make work that is strikingly unique as much as authentic to the ideas I’m expressing...I’ve learned that you need to just put in the work on a daily basis, even small efforts at creating give way to defined concepts.”
How does living in New Orleans inform your work?
Day to day life here for me is an endless parade of inspirations. I’m having a love affair with the city…we’re in a really good relationship.
What is it that most makes this city feel like home?
The corner stores and streets. All of it.
Are you working on a body of work outside of tattooing at the moment?
I have paintings in progress…I spend all my off time painting and working on a collaborative project with Jimmy Horn involving a freshly drawn tarot deck. I also have a new book project based on my found photograph collection layered with drawings and paraphernalia.