“Why was Bodypainter at Artopia a Big Deal?”
It may have gone unnoticed that one of the 25 artists at Artopia in Denver, Colorado this weekend was a bodypainter. I mean there were several artists who were painting mannequins also. So when one of the 3 white mannequins turned out to be a real person a few people were surprised, or freaked out a little that “it moved” or “blinked.”
The actual difference was that a bodypainter was considered a real artist. Often we are seen as shady, or reserved for painting shot girls in night clubs. Most people’s experience is limited to face painting at fairs or children’s parties. In the past few years bodypainting has really gained momentum nationally. First was the X-Men and the blue bodypainted Mystique. Then came Face Off, the first reality competition special effects show which showcased bodypainting as one of the challenges. HBO saw how well people responded and created Naked Vegas two years ago, the first full bodypainting show that several of my friends were on. Then last year I was on Skin Wars, by GSN, the first reality competition bodypainting show, which will be running a second season this year.
Bodypainting is often used in shows locally as entertainment, like adult face and bodypainting, something fun for the kids, but not necessarily seen as “art.” Those of us in the profession have been fighting to change this, by painting our hearts and souls onto the models who love what we do. In the past three years the number of artists has easily tripled. I don’t personally know what it is but most face painters have no problem saying that they are $100 or more an hour for a child’s party. It has been my experience that we bodypainters have had to struggle with asking what we are worth. Fortunately we help elevate and support each other when events try to get us “for free.” The world hasn’t quite figured out what we are to them, and sometimes when we struggle to define ourselves, it really doesn’t help the situation.
There seems to be at least two separate social worlds. One is the bodypainting world, where there are classes and competitions. In this world we know who are big powerhouse names, those who have been on tv, and we watch for teachers on FABAtv.(Face & Body Art) Then there is this other world who has never really seen much bodypainting at all other than in the movies, and face painting at the neighbor’s child birthday party. So when a credible and established Art extravaganza like Westword’s Artopia, bridges those worlds, and calls a bodypainter an “Artist” and not just a bodypainter, it validates not just me but every fellow artist in my profession.
We are artists to begin with! When we become bodypainters, there is a tendency to stop saying we are artists. Most artists say they are artists and then people inquire what kind, sculptor, illustrator, mixed media, AND bodypainter… There is also the follow up question, “so do you also do any real art? I mean like on canvas?” a Human canvas is a real canvas, the photos can be printed like any other art on a giclee print. They can be hung in galleries and look as amazing as any of the subjects that win awards with photography. Only with a normal piece of art you can only get one print, but a living canvas you can not only get hundreds of photos, but video, performance… it’s expressive diversity is endless. Then it is washed off. The digital captures make it timeless.
Bodypainting is an Art. Bodypainters are Artists. This weekend’s Artopia helped to validate that, not only for myself, but for all bodypainters in Denver. That is why you may not have known it was a big deal. A big thank you goes out to Westword and Guerilla Garden for the opportunity and acknowledgement that bodypainters are also artists.
Mythica von Griffyn
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