Jen The Body Painter decided to test out a social experiment of walking around a shopping mall with nothing but body paint on to see how people would react.
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Body painting, or sometimes bodypainting, is a form of body art. Unlike tattoo and other forms of body art, body painting is temporary, painted onto the human skin, and can last several hours or many weeks (in the case of mehndi or “henna tattoos”) about two weeks. Body painting that is limited to the face is known as face painting. Body painting is also referred to as (a form of) “temporary tattoo”; large scale or full-body painting is more commonly referred to as body painting, while smaller or more detailed work can sometimes be referred to as temporary tattoos.
Body painting with clay and other natural pigments existed in most, if not all, tribalist cultures. Often worn during ceremonies, it still survives in this ancient form among the indigenous people of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific islands and parts of Africa. A semi-permanent form of body painting known as Mehndi, using dyes made of henna leaves (hence also known rather erroneously as “henna tattoo”), is practiced in India, especially on brides. Since the late 1990s, Mehndi has become popular amongst young women in the Western world.
Many indigenous peoples of Central and South America paint Jagua Tattoos, or designs with Genipa americana juice on their bodies. Indigenous peoples of South America traditionally use annatto, huito, or wet charcoal to decorate their faces and bodies. Huito is semi-permanent, and it generally takes weeks for this black dye to fade. Body painting is not always large pieces on fully nude bodies, but can involve smaller pieces on displayed areas of otherwise clothed bodies. There has been a revival of body painting in Western society since the 1960s, in part prompted by the liberalization of social mores regarding nudity and often comes in sensationalist or exhibitionist forms.
Even today there is a constant debate about the legitimacy of body painting as an art form. The current modern revival could be said to date back to the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago when Max Factor, Sr. and his model Sally Rand were arrested for causing a public disturbance when he body-painted her with his new make-up formulated for Hollywood films. Body art today evolves to the works more directed towards personal mythologies, as Jana Sterbak, Rebecca Horn, Youri Messen-Jaschin, Jacob Alexander Figueroa or Javier Perez. Body painting is sometimes used as a method of gaining attention in political protests, for instance those by PETA against Burberry.
Body painting led to a minor alternative art movement in the 1950s and 1960s, which involved covering a model in paint and then having the model touch or roll on a canvas or other medium to transfer the paint. French artist Yves Klein is perhaps the most famous for this, with his series of paintings “Anthropometries”. The effect produced by this technique creates an image-transfer from the model’s body to the medium. This includes all the curves of the model’s body (typically female) being reflected in the outline of the image. This technique was not necessarily monotone; multiple colors on different body parts sometimes produced interesting effects.