Whatever it is that makes America the rhinestone- encrusted dream factory of the world, Austin Maples captures it with a needle and ink. Sailor Jerry would be proud. Austin’s work brings to mind the adventure, exoticism, and wayward souls that used to be associated with tattooing. To me, his art represents a sliver of the wanderlust that is shot down in favor of the rat race, a sliver that is desperately needed by today’s society.

Maples attacks the American style of tattooing with the air of a refined artist, meshing quality and attention to detail with nostalgia, attitude and rebellion. The careful highlights on an image of the devil having a smoke or the Virgin Mary shedding inky tears point to his technical abilities, as does his mastery of color. Colors that seem as if they would clash in any normal tattoo come together in perfect harmony, emphasizing the nature of each of his pieces. I had a strange sensation of rhythm while viewing his work; each tattoo felt like jazz, or blues, or jukebox rock n’ roll. Maple’s art taps into the American personality in a very particular way.

I am also enamored with the variety of subjects Austin has brought to life. He does the classic pin-ups and religious icons beautifully, but also creates very original pieces which combine elements of satire, romanticism, and the macabre. Austin’s identity as an artist evolved from his love for graffiti, and that defiant passion that fuels street art is evident in his tattooing. He strikes me as the kind of artist you’d seek out without a tattoo design in mind, just to see him produce something borne fresh from the fire pits of his imagination.

Though his style can be considered vintage, Maples’ tattoos have a twist of modernity in their vibrance and lack of shame. I think that because of their beauty and confidence, these tattoos will never become hidden, outdated symbols of rebellion to their owner. They will forever be part of an identity. Rendering an eternal representation of a client’s sense of self is no easy task, but Maples handles it like the pro he is. Austin Maples works out of Idle Hand Tattoo in San Francisco and has a killer collection of limited runs of wind wear, pullovers,
jumpers, and long sleeves available for pre-sale only at Maples Merchant


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