String theory

Words by Andrew Harrison
Photography by Laura Coulson / Styling by Santi Rodriguez

Kelsey Lu reached New York’s avant-garde music community via strip clubs, surrealism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She tells Andrew Harrison how she got from Bible study to Blood Orange

There’s dedication to your craft, and then there’s dedication. Tattooed on the lower back of Kelsey Lu – avant-garde cellist, North Carolinian turned Brooklynite, and junction box between the worlds of Etta James, Björk, Minnie Riperton, PJ Harvey and Lauryn Hill – are the twin f-holes of a traditional cello.


Kelsey Lu was inspired to get this particular ink by Man Ray’s famous photograph of his lover Alice Prin, the 1920s Parisian art-world habitué, model and erotic icon better known as Kiki de Montparnasse. In the surrealist image Le Violon d’Ingres, Kiki too is adorned with the sound-projecting portals of a cello, the picture at once a visual pun on female beauty and an ambiguous statement on sexuality and freedom. The woman becomes an instrument, but whose instrument?

“I saw that image when I was a lot younger and it was in my mind for a long time,” explains Kelsey Lu. “I thought, ‘That’s got to be my first tattoo.’ I love that image. It says everything. Like
the cello, it follows me everywhere.”

Read more in Issue 3...