Tat Tuesday: Antonio Rodriguez pays homage to famous artwork, Greek mythology through tattoos

Mimi Calzada, Life & Arts Reporter

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the August 2, 2022 flipbook.

Soon after he graduated high school, Antonio Rodriguez sat for his first tattoo — a self-designed geometric take on the solar system located on his forearm. Since then, Rodriguez has amassed 11 more tattoos, and he said he has plans for over a dozen more in the future.

“I call getting tattoos my expensive coping mechanism,” said Rodriguez, a medical laboratory science and nutrition senior. “Freshman year (of college), I got my ‘The Starry Night’ tattoo because I got a very poor grade in general chemistry, so that was my stress response. Then, one week later, something similar happened, so I got another tattoo.”

Resting on the forearm opposite his solar system design lies Rodriguez’s most treasured tattoo, which displays the Rod of Asclepius — a symbol from Greek mythology representing medicine and healing. Rodriguez said he always knew he wanted to study medicine but changed from a pre-med track to focus on laboratory medicine. Despite changes to his expected path, Rodriguez said the tattoo reminds him to follow his passion for helping others heal.

“(The Rod of Asclepius) reminds me not only of the path that I’ve chosen to take and how tedious (and) discouraging it can get at times but also that with every action I put out in the world, I want it to be healing,” Rodriguez said. “I want my actions to be the kindness in the world we need nowadays.”

Rodriguez said when deciding to get tattoos, inspiration can range from boredom to having a few extra dollars to spare, to marking important transitions in his life. 

“Each tattoo I got at a different point, (so) that, when I look at that tattoo, I’m reminded of whatever time period I was in,” Rodriguez said. “Since I got a lot of these (tattoos) before COVID, there’s a lot of good pre-COVID memories. The Rod of Asclepius I got as soon as I got back from the first COVID summer. (Transitions are) what I mark with tattoos as opposed to a single event.”

Rodriguez said he plans on adding to his Asclepius tattoo, envisioning floral arrangements that blossom up toward his shoulder. With a folder in his phone dedicated to tattoo inspiration and plans for at least 13 more tattoos, Rodriguez said he wants to continue with the theme of famous works of art. Currently, he has “The Starry Night” and “Fallen Angel,” and he plans on adding Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Vitruvian Man” and Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” to his art-inspired collection. 

Despite a wide range of meanings showcased by his numerous tattoos, Rodriguez said all of his designs are rooted in an appreciation for artistry and self-expression through tattoos.  

“It’s an honor to have people’s vision(s) on me,” Rodriguez said. “(There’s) a sense of community with people that have tattoos. Some have one tattoo. Some are tattooed from head to toe, and (we all have) our own little understanding of why we get tattoos.”