Ed Hardy’s (b. 1945) unique vision spans decades, creating an indelible mark on popular culture. Hardy, raised in Southern California, became intrigued with tattoo art at the age of ten, setting up shop in his parents’ den. After attending the San Francisco Art Institute in the 1960s, he rejected a graduate fellowship from Yale to apprentice at studios up and down the West Coast. It was his intention to rescue tattooing from its subculture, “outsider” status and elevate it to at least the level of folk art.
Hardy’s success at breathing new life into the art form is chronicled in a plethora of tattoo designs, paintings, drawings, prints, and three-dimensional work spanning fifty years. While the world that inspires him may be lost, Hardy’s distinct visual language is vibrantly alive within American visual vernacular, synonymous to some with the spirit of the West Coast itself.