Pin-up girls, a style of women’s editorial and commercial photography popular in the 1950s and 1960s are undoubtedly part of American Tattoo history. Characterized by their tight clothes and seductive poses, pin-up girl photos celebrate women’s beauty and sexuality. However, traditionally they have only featured representation of women who fit into unattainable cookie-cut Western body standards.
LA-based tattoo artist, Brittny Abad aka Blaabad’s tattoos aims to change that. They depict body positivity to everyday people in pin-up girl tattoo style. Abad’s figures come in a wide range of body sizes, race, gender, and sexualities, showing that everyone’s bodily and sexual experience is valid, reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality.
Abad’s work is characterized by colourful graphics, strong and perceivable line work, and more often than not, romantic subjects. Take for example her tattoo that is based on Alma Lopez’s Our Lady. The original piece is a photo montage of performance artist Raquel Salinas as a strong Virgen de Guadalupe, meanwhile, cultural activist Gutierrez is portrayed as a nude butterfly angel that sits under her feet.
For Lopez, the piece is her interpretation of an empowered Virgen de Guadalupe, one who is confident in her skin and not afraid of her sexuality. However, the piece faced harsh criticism from Roman Catholic Bishops when in 2001, it was exhibited at the Museum of International Folk Art in New Mexico. They found it to be an offensive portrayal of the Virgin Mary, to which Lopez replied, “I see this woman’s legs and her belly and [the angel’s] breasts, and I don’t see anything wrong.”
Abad’s version of the artwork emphasizes Virgen’s unconventional societal standard of body shape, all while retaining the original pieces’ sensual confidence and playfulness. Abad has also re-created the piece in their signature bold line work, reminiscent of American traditional pin-up girl tattoos that come with a cheerful and high-spirited feel to it.
Pin-up girl tattoos are traditionally defined by women who fit certain body criteria, reminiscent of characters like Betty Boop. By depicting figures who are sensual and confident in their bodies, bodies that don’t have thin waists and large breasts, Abad’s tattoos promote self-love and body positivity.
Abad’s work doesn’t only focus on portraying women in a body-positive light. They aim to portray people from all genders, races, and sexualities. One piece, which has the words “Loverboy” inscribed under it, even portrays a man with visible mastectomy scars on their chest, which is often regarded as a sign of gender-affirming surgery that trans-men often undergo. Again, this piece portrays the figure in an uplifting, sensual, and body-positive light.
Abad also frequently creates pieces that portray couples and celebrate inclusive sexual freedom. In an interview with Collateral. al Magazine, Abad has shared that when it comes to sexualities, they believe that everyone should choose according to what makes them happy, without thinking too much about other people’s judgment.
In these pieces, Abad employs their signature style with non-exaggerated colours and bold line work to portray love in its purest and simplest form, and most important of all, free from shame.
These pieces, which are proudly displayed on people’s bodies, increase the public’s awareness of queer representation and visibility. Normalizing them while at the same time showcasing the beauty of these intimate moments.
In conclusion, Brittny Abad emerges as a trailblazer in the world of tattoo artistry, challenging traditional norms and championing inclusivity through their vibrant and empowering creations. By redefining the narrative of pin-up girl tattoos, Abad celebrates body positivity and self-love across diverse genders, races, and sexualities.