Ed Hardy's ROCK OF AGES is a slim hardcover volume that was produced in conjunction with an art exhibition at La Luz De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles, California back in May of 1992. This is a history about the symbolism of the Christian Rock of Ages from both a religious and tattoo point of view. I have collected a lot of Hardy's writing and publications about tattooing and this addition to my tattoo library is a lovely acquisition both informatively and visually.
The full title of the book is "The Rock of Ages Being A Celebration and Manifestation of the Historic & Enigmatic EPIDERMAL ICON, As Seen By VARIOUS ARTISTS Whose Particular Visions in Skin, Canvas, Wood, Paper, Clays, etc. Were Solicited by the Author Donald Edward Talbott Hardy." The book itself is a cute little 8.5 inch by 5.5 inch hardbound book, about the size of a Bible, but thinner. Most of its pages are full-page, full-color reproductions of images from the art show. Some pieces are very tattoo flash-like, some are very painterly or abstract. The artists index is a virtual who's-who of the tattoo world: Fred Corbin, Eddy Deutsche, Kandi Everett, Michael Malone, Bob Roberts, Cynthia Witkin, Leo Zulueta.
Along with this visual buffet, Hardy has provided his personal research into this historic emblem. The evolution from a Calvinist church hymn to a "classic" tattoo design and backpiece is quite interesting. There's even a picture of the author visiting the site of the actual etched rock in southern England where it all began. I especially enjoyed Hardy's analysis how of The Rock of Ages was first a physical rock niche, what he points out is a feminine shaped-space, sheltered a man from a rainstorm and now it has now evolved to be a phallic cross, thrusting up from stormy seas to which a woman clings for her salvation.
Hardy also relates his personal history to the Rock of Ages, both in his religious education as a child and from his childhood fascination starting from when saw the large Rock of Ages design on Bert Grimm's Long Beach tattoo shop when he was 13 years old. Also included is the carnival history of the Rock of Ages, as told by professional sword swallower Captain Don Leslie. He related to Hardy his fictional story of the Rock of Ages, created to go with Captain Don's full backpiece tattoo of that design.
For tattoo historians, this is a rich analysis and informative art collection in one. For anyone interested in this imagery, especially tattoo artists who want to draw it or collectors who are thinking of wearing it, this is the definitive guide to exploring this tattoo design.
THE ROCK OF AGES is available from the specialty tattoo bookseller BookMistress.Net