Making Her Mark: Tattoos, Mural Art and Magic with Azha Graham
Tattoo artist and muralist Azha Graham has always had an affinity for the fantastical.
"I love creating something that hasn't existed before," Azha (pronounced like the continent) said. "Whether I'm drawing a native flower or someone's favorite character, I love to give it an air of magic."
A native Mississippian, Azha grew up always wanting to color the world around her, literally and figuratively. "I can't remember a time that I didn't want to color or draw or create," she said. "I was always asking for a new coloring book. It wasn't until I got older that I realized I could make a career of it."
Now in the tattoo industry for 15 years, Azha has become known for her artistry with ink and her talents in large-scale mural work. One of her most recent projects was for the Museum Trail, where she was inspired by the local wildflowers that bloom alongside the paths, painting them in lively magenta, gold, and purple hues.
"My favorite subject matter is the natural world, 'flora and fauna,'" she said. "The Trails mural was an honor to work on, and I hope that it makes visitors look at and appreciate their surroundings in a new way."
A Fondren resident, Azha is a strong advocate for the power of public art in the capital city. Some of her other vibrant murals can be found in the halls of JPS buildings and the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport, providing light and life to an otherwise stark landscape.
"I think when people can look at a building in a different way, they can look at their city in a new way," she said. "There's so much to be proud of in Jackson, and so many of the people I know and love are here. Helping them have new pride in their city is a driving force behind why I do this work."
When prompted about the most significant triumphs and challenges in the world of art, Azha is quick to note that, in her eyes, the two hold the same value. "Whether it's a meaningful tattoo for someone or a large-scale public piece, there's always going to be a balance of letting my creativity shine through while delivering something the client wants," she said. "There's beauty in that middle ground, and I've been fortunate enough to have close friends and mentors support and guide me as an artist."
One of her craft's heartwarming stories is how she met her now husband, Josh Graham. "When you're tattooing someone, especially when they have to come back for multiple sessions on a tattoo, you get to know their story well," Azha said. "That was the beginning of our story - he was one of my regular clients, and we'd spend hours talking and connecting."
She smiles when she talks about their dynamic. "We work really great as a team, [and] Josh provides the structure I need to keep all of my deadlines straight," she laughs.
True to her word - whether it's reality and magic, triumph and challenge, color and colorlessness, creativity and structure - life has a push-and-pull that works in tandem to give a dose of extraordinary to the ordinary day. All you have to do is look for it.To learn more about Azha's art and tattoo work, visit her website and social media.