Don Ed Hardy

Born in 1945, Des Moines, IA
Lives in Honolulu and San Francisco

Don Ed Hardy is a painter, printmaker and tattoo artist. Fascinated by tattoos since childhood, Hardy became a master of his craft while continuing his work in the more traditional mediums of painting and drawing. A scholar of tattoo history and lore, Hardy has curated tattoo exhibitions and written and published catalogs about the art of tattooing. Don Hardy collaborated with Master printer Bud Shark in March 1995 to produce a portfolio of lithographs entitled “Tattoo Royale”. These seven images based on traditional tattoo designs, as well as original images, range from the spiritual iconography of Nurse Mercy, to the autobiographic Frontier Justice. Graphic images of a panther, a devil, and a shark are included in the portfolio.

In 2000, he completed a 500 foot long scroll painting of 2000 dragons in honor of the turn of the century and the Dragon year. The scroll has been exhibited at Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, the Cuenca Bienal in Ecuador and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco.

“My recent collaboration with Bud Shark resulted in three images based on classic sailing ships, as seen in traditional American tattoo design. Along with sails, they’re rigged out with trellis forms. Both themes have fascinated me since childhood. The house I grew up in was surrounded by trellises. Our small beachfront town, Corona del Mar, was part of Newport Harbor in Southern California, where I saw many varieties of sailing craft. At ten, when I became transfixed by traditional American tattooing, clipper ships were a strong design component that I drew repeatedly. Later, when I became a professional tattooer, I was able to frequently execute these subjects, a mainstay of Western tattoo tradition.” Don Ed Hardy.

Don Ed Hardy curated the exhibition, “Pierced Hearts and True Love”, which was shown at The Drawing Center in New York in September 1995 and traveled to several other museums. His work is represented in the collections of The Honolulu Academy of Art, The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, The San Francisco Fine Arts Museum Achenbach Collection, and the University of Colorado Fine Art Galleries.

Ed Hardy: Deeper than Skin is the first museum retrospective of the renowned tattoo artist and surveys Don Ed Hardy’s life in art that has as its inspiration both traditional American tattooing of the first half of the twentieth century and Japan’s ukiyo-e era culture. The exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco was on view July 13, 2019 to October 6, 2019.

A monograph about Don Ed Hardy’s work, “Tattooing the Invisible Man” was published by Smart Art Press.

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