Bodypainting is an excellent vehicle within which to explore the concept of identity and anonymity. On one hand, bodypainting is obscuring, masking, self-effacing and creates a disguise that occludes the identity of the person beneath the pigment. From another perspective, it is a revealing, exposing, and lays bare hidden elements of the deep self hitherto unseen by others in the exterior world. It can be a method of sharing your soul on your skin, of indicating the vastness of your deep interior landscape right at the edges of your nerve endings. We understand that the skin is the largest organ of the human body. It is the most sensitive, the barrier between the self and the world around us. It is the membrane that separates our concept of self from the world we inhabit. All of our sensory mappings are bordered by this all-encompassing organ which contains the body. What if this organ became a canvas upon which to express the deepest longings of our emotional nature? Our intellectual expressions? Our history and the trajectory of our greatest longings? To create a living artwork on a human being is to create an expression of beauty and art that has the capability to elucidate more than any canvas that any artist has ever used at any other time in history. It brings into the equation the full spectrum of what a human being can transmit into another’s awareness— far more than an inanimate piece of paper or cloth. It is the only form of artwork that can behold YOU as you behold it— that can experience YOU as you experience it. It is the only form of artwork with a Soul.
We find that the people who come under the brush through our auspices, who choose to be models for bodypainting, are often changed by the journey. It can be shamanic, cathartic, transforming on a deep, fundamental level. Being in bodypaint one has the dual experience of being an actor behind a mask, and yet be more exposed for the vibrancy and brilliant display of the designs calculated to attract the eye. One loses one’s sense of identity as it is subsumed into the brush strokes and becomes an animated ambassador of shape, line, color, and tone. All personal particulars are erased in service to a greater artistic vision. No longer bounded by the definitions of one’s race, class, culture or ethnicity, the painted person becomes transcendent of any mundane indicators.
To the individual undergoing the act of being painted it is both revealing and concealing, amplifying and obscuring, enhancing and occulting. It packs the capacity to create a visual expression so electric, so powerful, so impactful that it completely overrides the cumulative expression of identity that each of us carries around from day to day. Your name, race, background and history are gone. All of the qualifying descriptive information about who you think you are does not matter anymore. Instead you have become a living, breathing work of art and those that view your magnificence are not interested in your ordinary human ego, and all of the parameters that define our mundane, pedestrian lives. Being painted elevates one to the realm of archetype. Not unlike icons and devotional statuary, which are idealized representations of the human experience, The painted person becomes an amplified example of the human experience as it is lived from a higher state. A living manifestation of art incarnate.
We have discovered that those who encounter our bodypaintinted creations have a full spectrum of responses. Some are joyfully engaged, while others are confused, apprehensive and disapproving. There is no doubt that the sight of a human being that vaults the boundary of everything that our culture recognizes as anchor points of identity is seen as somehow outside the system. This can be very disturbing to some people. It is almost as if the painted person exists in a bracket of experience that should not be allowed by society. And because the living-art-human is so difficult to categorize or minimize, they exist in a liminal space. Interacting with them is considered daring, perhaps even risky. Other viewers live with a sense expansive and flexible boundaries, and they accept that the world will present them with curiosities that are beyond their ability to quantify. They live with an open heart, and engage the world with a sense of adventure and fresh discovery. These people are delighted by the bodypainting encounter, and find that it brings something magnificent and wondrous into their world, which only amplifies their potential for joy. No matter which end of the continuum from which someone interacts with our bodypainting art, it is powerful and transformative. It is never neutral. One bodypainted person can electrify a group of 1000 people. It is like a radiant current that flows out from a central point, changing the tone of the experience for everyone within the collective.
Every group of people from every culture, originating from every point on the globe has developed this art form independently of one another. From the Ainu of northern Japan to the Australian aborigines, from the Yanomami of Brazil, to the tribes of central Africa, bodypainting is a universal human phenomenon. Emerging from the desire to express oneself, creating one’s identity, and the anonymity of subsuming that identity into the miracle of being a living, walking piece of art. It is an artform that has evolved for tens of thousands of years, and will continue to thrive as a contemporary global movement. As history’s only five-time world champion (having won each of the five World Awards in an unbroken series of victories, across every category), I am proud to be a part of this burgeoning international art movement. And I look forward to contributing towards the creative trajectory of bodypainting‘s next 10,000 years.