“Speed” is a body painting by Craig Tracy, who will be one of the judges for the Body Fine Art Competition at The Springs in Los Angeles May 16.
By Michelle Mills, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Long Beach resident David Gilmore is painting when he answers the phone. An artist, he has created murals for clients like Mariah Carey, Beyonce and the Discovery Science Center, among many others.
Today, he is simply refreshing a room in his home, but his mind is on a more intriguing art form: body painting.
“There are so many people body painting now that some of it starts to look the same,” Gilmore said. “What I hope distinguishes mine is that I translate my own artwork onto a body and I don’t believe that my own personal artwork that’s on canvas or on walls looks like other people’s work, so I try to keep a seamless integration of that.”
Gilmore will be showing off his talents at the first ever Body Fine Art Competition, at The Springs in Los Angeles on Saturday. Artists, like Dewayne Flowers, Cheryl Ann Lipstreau and Wiser Oner, will create their entries on-site with photographers documenting their work. There will be a panel of judges critiquing the pieces as well as music, dance performances and more.
The event was created by Nicolette Spear of Venice Beach. She is a painter and sculptor and did the body painting for Z LaLa’s music video “Sweet Dreams.”
“Most of the body painters that I know started out painting on a canvas and then moved to body painting through fascination with the human figure or just being exposed to it in some way,” said Spear, who started body painting three years ago when she answered a Craigslist ad by a man who was seeking someone to paint the human muscular system on his body for his Halloween costume. It took her eight hours; by the time she finished, she was hooked.
“For those that think that body painting might be racy, it is the human figure and I think there’s something inherently beautiful and fascinating about the human figure. Body painting is one of the oldest art forms to have existed. And artists have been fascinated by the human figure for as long as we can remember.”
Spear became interested in body painting competitions, such as the one held during the World Body Painting Festival in the Carinthia region of Austria. She researched to see if there were any similar events locally, but was unable to find anything. So she contacted the World Body Painting Association, which was happy to help her start one.
An open call for artists was launched and the judges looked over the images submitted, selecting the finalists who will compete. During the event, the artists’ work will be judged with a focus on technique and concept.
“Having a really solid concept that’s interesting and different is super important, equally important as technique,” Spear said. “The biggest challenge with body painting is that your canvas is live, so it’s living, breathing and has needs; it needs to eat and use the bathroom.”
The alcohol-based paint used by airbrush artists lasts best on the human body, Gilmore said, as brush paints are usually water-activated and will liquefy when the model perspires. To combat this, artists use “spot applications” of alcohol or fixatives to keep their designs in place.
Gilmore became enamored with body painting in the late ’80s after seeing the now-iconic 1983 photograph of artist Keith Haring holding a jar of paint and a paintbrush while eyeing his subject, dancer Bill T. Jones, wearing white designs all over his body. Gilmore was fascinated with the idea of “movable” art, as well as the challenge of completing a painting within a set period of time, but it wasn’t until 1996 that he tried it for himself.
Gilmore’s partner was a patient canvas for him as he created his art piece with cheap makeup and greasepaint. The end results were pleasing, but lacking a good camera or computer, the artist was at a standstill so he didn’t try it again for 13 years. His next attempt was so successful that he has gone on to work on projects with MAC Cosmetics and has been profiled in several magazines.
“The body painting, when I started it six years ago, I figured it was going to be something quiet and on the side and maybe one day I would put out a book, but it started quickly,” Gilmore said. “The only regret I have in my life is that I shelved it 19 years ago. I should have kept going with it. But these things happen.”
Unlike Gilmore’s first experience with the medium, there will be professional photographers capturing the artists’ creations during the Body Fine Art Competition.
There also will be prints featuring the work of the artists and photographers at the competition for purchase. Obviously the images will not include the pieces created during the event, but fans can relive the fun later through photographs from the show that will be on exhibit at Exact Science Gallery in Los Angeles from June 5 to July 5.
“Body painting is a temporary art form,” Spear said. “It’s like a sand mandala; you spend all this time creating this image and then it goes down the drain with the shower water, so the photography is a real intrinsic part of it.”