Tattoo designs have long been regarded in countless places throughout the years as art with special, symbolic meanings. Although most of today’s tattoos are a modern way to express many different emotions artistically, there are still some cultures which use their unique tattoos to show their allegiance, religion, or identification.
Formal interest in tattoos as art has become increasingly pronounced. This is evidenced by popular television programs such as LA Ink and Miami Ink, which air on TLC, and Inked, which airs on A&E. There are even contemporary exhibitions for artists that feature tattoos specially crafted by talented artists and institutions. Many examples of body art are being incorporated into mainstream artists’ exhibitions.
In many cultures, tattooing is an ancient tradition of religion and spirituality that has been implemented from the very roots of history. In Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, the yantra tattoo design is used to promote good luck and ward off evil. Certain tribal groups in the Philippines believe that their tattoos have magical qualities of protection, and most of them are designed according to their life accomplishments or status within the tribe. In Herzegovina and Bosnia, many Catholic Croats decorate themselves with Christian tattoo designs in an effort to protect themselves.
Tattoos have functioned for many as a rite of passage. Some traditional indigenous cultures have special tattoo designs for adolescents to bear during their transition into adulthood. Tattoos may also have served as marks of rank and status within a leadership situation. Besides being a proclamation of one’s beliefs, they may also be decoration for acts of bravery or punishment, love pledges, fertility marks, and protection against evil spirits.
In many parts of the world, tattoos have made a big comeback in popularity, most noticeably in North America, South America, Europe, and Japan. There has been a remarkable influx of new artists into the tattoo industry, and many of them have been trained in fine arts. Along with great advancements in technology, the creation of special and unique art, and the refinement of pigments, the quality of the tattoos being created today is better than ever.
The impact behind each design varies with different places and people. Many designs are of loved ones to show how one feels about their spouse, child, or perhaps a sibling. Some choose to have loved ones who have passed away immortalized in the form of a tattoo on their own body. Even convicts and members of criminal gangs have their own special tattoo designs that identify themselves to each other.
Many tattoo designs that are still regularly used today have roots in old traditions from all over the world. The Koi fish, an important fixture in Asian history, symbolizes perseverance, strength of character, and longevity. Another often-used design from the Asian culture is the dragon, which represents majestic supernatural powers. The commonly utilized barbed wire is used to denote one’s deeds in prison. It was adopted by the Latino culture and made into a pop-culture staple by Pamela Anderson when she starred in the film “Barb Wire.” Most of the tattoo designs we see today are, in fact, important historical symbols from all over the globe.