At NYC Bodypainting Day, Naked Bodies Become Artists’ Canvases

Across from Pret-a-Manger near Union Square Park on Sunday, Nicolette Baryshoff paused while an artist painted blue eyes piercing her sternum. The temperature was around 88 degrees and a crowd was gathering around them. But neither the temperature nor the audience disturbed Mr. Barishov. So was the fact that she was naked.

“It’s just a Zen experience,” she said as photographers snapped pictures from behind police barricades. “This is my fishing.”

Los Angeles-based author Barishov, 38, was one of 60 people who paid $100 to get 40 artists, most of them nude, during New York Bodypainting Day, an annual public art exhibition since 2014. According to the event’s founder and artist Andy Golub, this year’s exhibition is the 10th and final. He said he would be closing it to focus on other projects for the organization. human connection arts.

Nije Dardeen, 31, came from Philadelphia to become a model when she knew she might not have another chance. She “can’t get arrested for nudity in public,” she said, standing near a table holding a bottle of Gatorade that’s almost as bright as the turquoise paint that covers the right side of her body.

Dardeen has been a body paint model for about seven years. She has played a few gigs in artists’ studios, but she said she preferred painting in public so she could observe a wider range of reactions. On her day of body painting this year, some passers-by blushed and rushed past as the artist decorated people of all shapes and sizes. Others stared and took pictures.

“Art should be subjective,” says Durdeen. “Some people might be offended.

Golb, 57, began using the body as a canvas in 2007 after another artist introduced him to models for body painting. He said he felt that skin was a canvas like no other. Part of the reason is that skin belongs to living, breathing people, and their individuality often influences the artist’s final design.

In 2011, he was arrested and charged with violating the Public Exposure Act for painting nude models in Times Square.price dropped after. Not long after, other artists started asking him how to body paint in public, he said. He added that body painting days are always held in partnership with the city and are a way for artists to practice without fear of police intervention.

“The final product is nice, but what I really wanted to see was the whole process,” Golub said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the event has some critics. David Pumo, who has worked as a model for several projects, said some people turned up at a bodypainting day at a park in Brooklyn in 2019, arguing that people shouldn’t paint naked bodies in the presence of children.

Pumo, a 62-year-old Brooklyn attorney, said the complaints may blur the line between nudity and sexual objects. “This is not a sexual event,” he said as an artist painted his bald head during this year’s festival. As he spoke, another model with delicate white flowers painted on his limbs was eating a sweet green takeaway bowl.

Body art is probably one of the oldest art forms, says Bela Volen, an artist and gallery owner who teaches as part of a training program on the history of body art. world body painting association. Temporary paint has been used to commemorate ceremonies and rites of passage by the Kayapo people of Brazil, Australian Aborigines, some African tribes, and Native Americans.

Throughout the 20th century, body painting became more commercial and some began using it as an expression of freedom or provocation. In the 1960s, artist Yves Klein instructed women in blue paint to press themselves against a canvas in front of a live audience. Women with painted bodies began to appear on the pages of magazines. These include Playboy, Sports Illustrated, and Vanity Fair, whose 1992 cover featured Demi Moore in a suit painted over her nude body.

Fred Myers, an anthropology professor at New York University who specializes in indigenous peoples in Western Australia, said many modifications of the practice and its commercialization could easily fall into the realm of appropriation. “You’re taking on something for yourself as a kind of play, but it’s a very important part of your identity for other people,” he said.

Alex Barendret, director of the World Bodypainting Association, which has held its own festival in Austria since 1998, said some members criticized Bodypainting Day for treating it more as a show than an art form.

The Austrian event, the World Bodypainting Festival, is organized as a competition. Artists submit portfolios and compete to win awards in various categories. Bodypainting Days typically don’t select artists based on their work, but based on why they want to participate. (Bodypainting Day artists, unlike models, were not charged an entry fee.)

Golub said he was repeatedly told his event was a publicity stunt. However, he added that his Day of Body Painting has always been less about exhibiting top-quality work and more about creating a communal artistic environment.

Veronica Eber, 18, who attended this year’s event for the first time, said she had never painted her body before. She attended a body painting day to broaden her skill set before beginning her art studies at Carnegie Mellon University this fall.

Eber said he enjoyed the challenge posed by an unfamiliar canvas. “It’s very difficult because you have to keep in mind the curvature of the human body,” she said.

Using a fine brush, she traced triangles across the torso of first-time model Katherine Stein, 70, at this year’s event. “I thought she was going to be more restrained,” said Stein, who lives in New York and works for an arts group. “It’s been a very body positive experience,” she said.

Once all the models were painted, the colorful group walked to Washington Square Park, passing people eating at outdoor tables and waiting outside a veterinary hospital along the way.

After posing for a group photo in front of a statue of George Washington on horseback, several models climbed to the top of a double-decker bus to Brooklyn, their body art slightly stained from hugs and hours of wear.

Among them was Ms. Barishov, who by then had a pair of hands drawn across her chest in line with her eyes. She, like many models, has attended past editions of Her Body Painting Day, and she said one of her favorite parts of the event is surprising people in a city where many think they’ve seen it all.

“I’m still a little shocked that this is the last time,” she said. “I love being in someone’s ‘only in New York’ moment.”

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