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Ed Hardy bows on the big screen in 'Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World.'

September 18, 2010 |  8:01 am

Before Ed Hardy became a lifestyle of tattoo-printed T-shirts, $100 embellished trucker hats and, even, wine, Don "Ed" Hardy  was (and still is) a San Francisco-based tattoo artist famous for decades for bringing high-art influences into what was considered a low art. 

The real Don "Ed" Hardy is the subject of the documentary “Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World” and  there's a free screening at the Hammer Museum on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The film explores how Hardy,  who was born in 1945 and raised in Corona del Mar, wanted to be a tattoo artist by the age of 10. "Tattoo the World" features photographs from Hardy's archive of the 10-year-old "tattooing" his Orange County classmates with Maybelline eyeliner and colored pencils. Back then, Hardy was aware that his chosen profession raised eyebrows when it was still seen as either the province of sailors or exotic, underground transgressives. That's what made him want to pursue it even more.

When he was able to practice tattooing, Hardy  quickly set himself apart with a fine-arts background -- he studied printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute. In 1973, Hardy began studying traditional tattoo art in Japan. But by the 1990s, the thrill was gone. Hardy said that when tattooing became ubiquitous, "its fad status overwhelmed or negated most of the assumptions on which I based my career." The film also puts in context the oversaturated Ed Hardy brand with Hardy's nonflashy artist lifestyle.

Wonder how Hardy felt when his designs appeared on baby diapers and hand sanitizer?

-- Max Padilla

Video clip from "Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World" courtesy of "Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World" 

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