Tell me a little bit about the tattoo on your back and on your leg. When did you get it and why did you get it?
I had went through a situation about two years ago, and so I actually had to restart P.A. school. I just really liked the phoenix because it’s the only creature who sort of self-destructs and is reborn again from its ashes. I felt like getting back into P.A. school and being able to complete my dream symbolizes the phoenix.
This tattoo [points to leg] I just got back in March. It’s a mandala. I don’t really follow any particular organized religion, but I really do like Buddhism and what it represents. I try to follow a Buddhist approach to life.
When are you planning on finishing the Phoenix?
Everyone wants to see what it looks like once it’s done. I’ll be done with P.A. school at the end of August–the plan was to have it done once I finished. It’ll have colors and in the front there will be a bird cage with smaller birds coming out symbolizing all the times I’ve been reborn.
Which was your first?
The back piece was my first tattoo, I was 15. [laughs] I told my mom I was going with my brother to get a tattoo and my mom thought I’d come home with something small. I came home with a huge angel on my back. She was just like, “I’ll accept it!” You get addicted. The medusa piece is really special to me because they used to call me Medusa. My mother always said I’m the black magic woman and I turn men to stone. The side pieces I got in Caboit was more of a spontaneous thing. The angel? I just loved her tits, honestly.
When do you think you’re going to get your next tattoo?
As soon as I have this baby! I want a phoenix. It shows strength.
What do the initials represent?
My parents are both deceased so I got both of their initials.
Tell me about your backpiece and when you started it?
I started it when I was about 16 and I started building it from there. Back in those days people were tattooing in basements, so we didn’t have to go to a shop. So, yeah, pretty much my friend did it and that’s where I started getting my tattoos. My first tattoo I was 14.
Since your back is mostly covered, what’s your favorite tattoo on it?
They all have meanings on my back, but the closest one to my heart is the memory piece to my little brother.
Do you have any plans for more tattoos in the future?
Of course. I’m probably gonna finish up my ribs. You know, my side ribs. Definitely got a lot more to go.
Which did you get first, the Statue of Liberty or the 718?
Oh, the 718– I got it, like, two years ago. I was in Buffalo and, I don’t know, people always ask me where I’m from and I grew up in the 718. The area code doesn’t exist anymore. Like, the phone numbers don’t exist anymore because they ran out. I moved to America when the 718 still existed so I have a 718 phone number.
Impressive. What prompted the tattoo on your arm?
The sleeve? I started in Colorado and it’s everywhere I’ve ever lived. I’m from Lithuania, so that’s the first thing on the bottom. I’ve spent most of my life in New York City, that’s why the Statue of Liberty goes across my whole hand. Then I have the Catskill Mountains; I have the Colorado Rockies, which is where I’ve been living for the past year… I move around a lot. I don’t know where I want to stay yet. I’m just going to keep going with it till I settle down somewhere. That’s when it’ll be finished.
This is my lucky day; I’m actually a tattoo artist.
Oh, really? When did you start tattooing?
I’ve been inspired by my friend. His name is Yaya, he owns Murder Inc. Tattoos in Queens, NY. Basically he just handed me the torch, you know, he saw my potential when he saw I could draw. I’ve been drawing for years. There’s a 20-year-long friend here who can tell you I’ve been drawing for years. I never thought I could draw from paper to skin, though. I love tattooing and I love what I do. I’m just planning on trying to get greater and change the business.
What was your first tattoo?
It was actually my name. I covered it with the city skyline. It fit in perfectly with the Statue of Liberty. I covered it because you don’t have to label yourself, you know. If people want to know your name they’ll ask you so. Whoever knew me knew my name. Those that didn’t, they didn’t need to know my name.
I’m curious about the work on your chest with the “hate” and “love.” Can you tell us a little about that?
Well, you know, in life we’ve all experience the thin line between love and hate. That’s a big quote, the famous quote that everyone says. I’ve faced that a lot. I feel like everything you put on your body, especially tattoos, should be something that’s very meaningful to you.
What is the tattoo shop you work at currently?
Oh, I’m not. I work for me. I’m trying to be the first delivery tattoo. I want to come to your home and keep expanding my art. You can follow me on Instagram and contact me there @poloman728
When did you get your tattoos?
I actually got these three just yesterday, July 5th, right after Independence Day! I’ve been planning these for over 20 years. I met this guy [points to Manuel] and we connected a long time ago. That’s why I got the cassette tape. It symbolizes our foundation and where we started from. We used to record on cassette tapes from karaoke machines. We made the transition. You know, we split apart for 20 years and we just reunited. This here, I just had to get it yesterday.
Are you planning on getting more?
Absolutely. This is something, like…I’m a believer now. I used to listen to people who would tell me once they got their first one they were already sketching plans for their next one.
Well, you sort of already did that already because you got three at once.
I had to break the ice sooner or later. I’m not getting any younger. The way I feel, the way I look… I take care of myself, thank god. I’m 35, I’m going to be 36 next month.
Waiting all this time, how did it feel to finally get tattooed?
I know what it’s like to endure pain mentally, physically and spiritually. This is the epitome of physical pain that I’ve ever really felt. I’ve had a couple fractured bones, a few cuts, banged my head a couple of times… But when you’re getting branded, you’re thinking about cattle. CATTLE get branded. You know what I’m saying? This is an official brand and I’m gonna let you know, when you see me, it symbolizes everything: this is where I’m from and this is what I am.
EVAN MCKNIGHT AND TAMMY LE
What was the first one you got on your body?
Evan: I’m not sure if I can remember exactly. It was like, the week I turned 18, I’m sure.
Tammy: I was 17. I have these awful tribal roses on my ribs. It was a spur of the moment decision. It’s not that I don’t like them, they’re just a bit ridiculous. But that’s okay. It’s part of it all.
How many would you say that you have? I feel like most of your body is covered.
Evan: I don’t even know anymore. I’d say 75% of my body is covered in tattoos.
Who exactly is the pinup girl on your arm?
This was my first tattoo–she was on the cover of Flirt magazine in 1948. I fell in love with her and she became my personal brand for years. I did advertising, branding and copyrighting for ten years. I grew up in the Bettie Page, Danger Girl, kind of.. um, you know, rockabilly clan era. This really embodied who I was as a person and as a creative.
How did the two-faced cat come about?
The two-faced cat was actually a Friday the 13th tattoo. It’s got the 1 and the 3 in the ears. We have an 18-year-old cat, so it was a little bit of a tribute to him. He’s a two-faced little jerk sometimes. [laughs]
The nurse is really interesting. Is there a story behind that?
This is a tattoo that represents my roller derby team. The theme is bloody nurses. Most of my team has the tattoo, we all got it together. Well, seven of us got them together. A couple of girls have it on their torsos and a lot of us have it on our thighs. I actually wore my kneepads in to the tattoo artist. I wanted to make sure you could see the tattoo above my kneepads so that when I’m competing my fans can see it.
The bird on your back is really beautiful. Where did you get it done and why?
I got it about two years ago, it took two sessions to complete. I got it in Gainseville, Florida at Bodytech Tattoo. I got it because the tattoo artist I wanted was drawing a book that’s called B is for Birds. I asked him to draw me a bird that I could put on my shoulder. The book isn’t tattoo specific, it’s just true art–drawing, sketching, etc. I told him what bird I wanted, it’s a red-flanked bluetail, and I told him I wanted flowers so he just drew it from there.
The belly button tattoo is intensely personal. I’ll try to make it suitable for a wider audience. It was at a time in my life where I thought a lot about motherhood and other forms of feminine creation. I thought that had a lot to do with blue and water. This was many years before Blue is the Warmest Color came out. It had to do with that warmth and fluidity. I designed this. She’s holding her little baby up as it’s the best thing she’s ever done.
This on my leg is Julia de Burgos, she is Puerto Rico’s greatest poet. She had a very tragic life, like many women who were fire brands before their time. The text around it means “I was my own path.” It’s what I believe is her greatest poem.
The tattoo on my back is the Morrigan, she is one of the primary Celtic goddesses. She’s the goddess of war. They were warlike people, so they worshipped pregnant woman. When my mother first saw it she said, “Beautiful tattoo, but why is she so chubby?” She’s pregnant, actually. Pregnant women sort of refurbished the tribe because they were dying all the time. The saying “I offered him my heart” comes from the Celts who believed the gods, when they fell in love, actually opened up their chests and physically offered their literal heart to someone.
What’s the significance of the words on your leg and foot?
The piece on my leg is my last name. I got it after my father. It’s kind of personal, but I’ll tell you anyway: basically, I found out a few years ago that my dad might not be my dad. I got his last name tattooed on my leg to show that no matter what he’ll always be my father.
The first tattoo I got was actually on my ankle and it’s dedicated to my mom. It’s an angel (she loves angels) and I have her name underneath it.
Tell us about the work you have on your feet.
On my feet I have musical notes because I love music and I love to sing. The bunny represents my rebellious stage. If I didn’t have such a strict family I would have actually went out for trying out to be a Playboy bunny.
When exactly was your rebellious stage?
Psh, it started when I was 17. So like, from 17 to 25. I was a little older when I got this–around 22? I don’t think you ever really get over your rebellious stage. [laughs] I’ve definitely simmered down though.
Let’s start off with the gas mask.
I got it done right after I got back from AIT in Fort Leonard, Missouri. This actually means what I do in the Army, which is a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist. I got it done two years ago.
What’s the story behind the dragon?
I got it done probably about 12 years ago. It was a freehand done by a friend. I don’t know, it was my first tattoo. It took three separate sessions. I used to work at a tattoo parlor before and I didn’t want to get anything small.
Go big or go home, I suppose.
I got this tattoo in San Diego, California where I was living at the time. The intent behind it is you’re supposed to pretend like you’re standing right here on a beach, watching the sunset over the ocean. As the sun sets, the sky darkens. As the sky darkens, planets, stars and galaxies emerge and you realize you’re not on earth.
Why did you get this?
I feel like if I have brightly color tattoos on my shoulders I don’t have to work that hard to accessorize when I’m getting ready in the morning.
Editor’s Note: The original version of this post was revised because, due to a miscommunication, it showed the face and surname of a subject who had requested otherwise.