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Body painting - Titbits
1144    Dibyendu Banerjee    17/09/2019   

Body painting is a type of painting, where a human body is used instead of a canvas or any other material. Unlike tattoos, body painting is temporary, which lasts several hours or sometimes up to a few weeks. Though it seems to be a new concept, the origin of body painting dates back before the dawn of civilization and nearly to the beginning of mankind on the planet. It is considered by many scholars that, body painting is the most ancient form of art and the prehistoric people from Africa, South America and Australia used to decorate their bodies with colourful paints, made from the natural pigments from plants, fruits and clay, typically in red, blue, yellow, green and white.

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The modern revival of body painting can be traced back to the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, which caused a public disturbance when Max Factor Sr painted the naked body of his model Sally Rand with his new makeup material formulated for the Hollywood films and the police arrested both of them.

body painting

Even though there is a constant debate about the legitimacy of body painting as an art form, there has been a revival of body painting in the Western society since the 1960s, partly prompted by the movement of liberalization relating to the social taboos like nudity and often comes in the form of exhibitionism. The movement got further momentum with the emergence of the of the hippie movement in United States, which accepted sexuality, psychodelia and nudity as their way of life.

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However, body painting was not very popular among the public, until the Vanity Fair magazine cover of the August 1992 issue created a stir, which featured alluring Hollywood actor Demi Moore in a striking outfit created entirely from body paint. By that time, the public was more tolerant of artistic license and while the cover caused a stir, it was a positive one. Gradually, body painting became a widely accepted art form, complete with the worldwide competitions.

body painting

Body painting does not necessarily mean fully nude female or male body painting, as it can be done in a small area of the skin, hands or face. However, it is not an easy task to get the full body painted, as the painter usually takes hours together to complete the job. Before the onset of the painting session, hair should be removed from all over the body. For the male participants the things are more tough, as they are to take care of their beard, hands and wild chest or back hair. Apart from that, the skin should be clean and free from deodorant, oil, any type of lotion or tanning products.

body painting
body painting

Today, annual body painting festivals, conventions and competitions are held across the world, especially in different cities in Europe, North America and Australia, bringing together the professional body painters and keen amateurs, along with the participants and thousands of visitors.

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Some reputed artists like Danny Setiawan paint reproductions of famous classic art works on people. Many professional face and body painters maneuver their trade for magazine publishers as well as the television and entertainment sectors.

body painting
Sunflower after van Gogh, by Danny Setiawan in body painting
body painting
Starry night after van Gogh, by Danny Setiawan in body painting

In modern times, body painting is also used as excellent tools for gaining public attention in social and political protests and is often found at PETA demonstrations in various anti-animal cruelty campaigns. It is also used as a very famous tool for advertising allegiance in sport gatherings.

body painting
Frozen in Nazi Massacre Merfest of NC Merfolk
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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