Philly paving a way for body painting
The first time I met Lawren Alice, world-acclaimed body artist extraordinaire, I was taking a body art class at the gallery she curated, Gallery ML, in Old City Philadelphia, one of the two galleries in the world devoted exclusively to body painting. She had a sass and way of strutting in that day with an air of expertise, which she very fairly earned being a whopping 13 years my junior. She meandered into the space of the gallery where we were painting our models and was clearly annoyed because, she, like all the rest of us people painters, needed to make a living. She had just worked a tiring 2 hour children’s birthday party, no doubt painting one too many Spidermans and fairy princesses for the day.
I later took some classes with her and substantially grew in my understanding of the art form. Now she also curates at the expanded space of Gallery ML and its sister gallery, Arch Enemy Arts, which made a fiery splash a few years ago into the contemporary Philly art scene. This is where the Philadelphia Magazine photo shoot took place. I was flattered that she asked me to assist her in painting a layout spread for the mag, which entailed painting 10 girls for 2 photos. The models make up the throne and the chaise lounge chair that fitness Philly guru, Lauren Boggi, sits upon with pride.
One of the ways a shoot like this is created is by organizing the layout of the models first. Figuring out what is the area of the body that needs to be painted is important because it cuts down on time and paint. The day was not a glamorous one. The photographers and young production assistants took way too much time helping us organize the assemblage of human furniture. Because of the extra time spent on their part, we had less time to paint. I worked with photographers before whom assumed their roles in the production process were the most important ones. But our painting isn’t secondary in such a shoot, even with the existence of Photoshop. The painter is needed to guide the process, make artistic decisions along the way, create the color scheme, the illusion and the balance of form. all of which cannot be done through a systematic manipulation of a stylus upon a computer face.
I like the end result. By the end of the day Lawren pulled the reins in demanding respect for us painters and by 9pm we were finally out of there. It was a 12 hour gig and after stuffing the $200 check in my pocket for the day’s work, I again realized why we people painters work at those kids’ birthday party gigs. I make what a good therapist makes per hour, $140. Unfortunately there aren’t nearly as many people who want their faces painted as there are neurotics.
Master body painter Craig Tracy wandered the room that day because he happened to be putting up his installation of body painting photo canvases for his show that weekend. He’s the owner of the other body art gallery in the nation in New Orleans. This past year he became a judge on Skin Wars for Season 1. He’s a very cool guy and kept telling me on the side that Lawren needed to be a sergeant like he is with his big model photo shoots. He had just finished his Fiat photo shoot in Italy, which at the time wasn’t yet released. He showed me the images of the shoot on his phone. It later got high acclaim when published. You can see why…