The Multi-faceted Women of Mary Joy

The Multi-faceted Women of Mary Joy

Joy's lady head tattoos are layered with color, subtle nuances, and a profoundly complex beauty

The key to creating any believable lady head is authenticity. As so many poets, writers, and artists have said time and time again, good art is derivative of real life — the ultimate artist. Artist Mary Joy, who works out of Ed Hardy’s shop in San Francisco, Tattoo City, is churning out some of the most inspired traditional lady heads.


Equal parts authenticity and intangible mysticism, Joy’s ladies are sweet yet sinister, real yet mythological, delicate yet strong — the constant push and pull of light and dark an underlying theme throughout her work. While the concept behind tattooing has always been complex — taking a needle to skin to create something incredibly delicate, yet bold — the layered nuances in Joy’s ladies only add to the intricacy of it all.

Joy, the same woman that brought you ballpoint handkerchief art and got her start in tattooing from Hardy in 2007, has been known to create increasingly elaborate characters, so it makes sense that her ladies would follow suit. With bold lines and vibrant color that’s reminiscent of Valerie Vargas’ work, Joy creates multidimensional women, none of which resemble each other, effectively rooting them in real life. Where her ladies cross over into the world of the occult is their personalities, which seem to range from lighthearted psychics to enigmatic and foreboding mythological monsters whose all seeing eyeballs outnumber the hairs on their head.

Punctuated by impeccable shading and a profound use of color that only adds to the mysticism of her work — reds and blacks appearing in her more sinister characters while soft purples and delicate peaches graze her innocent ladies — Joy’s perfect balance of light and dark is evocative.


There is light and dark in everything, a delicate balance in all forms of art. Complexities are the foundation of art, and the layered subtleties in Joy’s work are astounding.

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