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Body Art Guild prepares for First Friday art show in downtown Johnson City

Jennifer Sprouse • Oct 1, 2012 at 8:50 AM

Art can be displayed in many ways, but that’s especially true when the art itself is made, or in this case painted, by using different people’s bodies as the canvases.

Members of the Body Art Guild, formed by Ren Allen a few years back, met at Nelson Fine Art Center, 345 E. Main St., Wednesday night for what they called an “undress rehearsal” to prepare for their upcoming body art show this week during First Friday festivities.

Figuring out the show’s last-minute details, such as placement, sound system questions and then, of course, practice on the live models, were critical to the rehearsal night.

“It’s a lot about just the last minute organization,” Allen said. “We can take concepts and ideas and practice on models or on each other to make sure that the day of the show we’re not surprised. We actually have eight artists, six of which will be representing full body paint, and then we have two artists that couldn’t make the whole day, so they’ll be coming to paint in the evening and they will paint demonstration style during the show.”

Allen explained that despite some hesitation to attend the show due to nudity, the models in this show are covered up, and not just in paint, as female models will wear tube tops and boy-cut stretch underwear and males will wear bottoms that fully cover. She explained the models’ nude undergarments will blend in with their live piece throughout the daylong painting process.

“They are covered, so it’s a family-friendly event,” Allen said. “It would be about like if you went to a beach. They look more covered than at the beach because the paint gives the illusion of coverage.”

As for the paints, she said all paints used are non-toxic and are made specifically for the skin.

The models did bare some skin Wednesday so their artists could make sure the paints, their plans and also the placement of their pieces would work for the show.

Allen said the models will be standing the majority of the time while being painted, and that at least half of their crew will be at Nelson’s painting away most of the day Friday for anyone wanting to come by to see the progression of the pieces.

“The art looks very different when it’s in progress. It can look really messy and unfinished and crazy, and then it all comes together,” she said. “The models are very popular that night because a lot of people haven’t been able to witness this art form up close in person before and so to get to come in and see it ... up close, it’s really exciting. We try to keep their artists with them so that people can ask questions about the concept, the design.”

Jonathan Bowers, a makeup artist by trade, will try his hand at modeling for the show, something he said will be a new experience for him, but he’s happy to take part in the creative process.

“I’m excited, not so much nervous,” he said. “I got to see, sort of, the piece that my artist is working on and it looks like it’s going to be very fun and interesting.”

Bowers said while body art and body painting has been around for a while, it’s not an art form the public gets to see a lot of on a regular basis.

“You don’t get to see art, per se, live on a person. You can always enjoy art on a wall or a sculpture, but it’s different when you’re putting that on someone,” he said. “I think it’s a neat concept.”

According the Allen, the theme for the upcoming show is inspired by Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

“It’s pretty much whatever inspires the artists,” she said. “The themes exist to encourage creativity, not to limit them.”

The body art show will run from 7 p.m. to around 9-9:30 and will have cheeses, chocolates and wine catered by Earth Fare. Also, the entire art gallery will be body art themed, with fine art photography of the body paintings, projection art and other human body art pieces on display.

The body art inspired exhibit will run through all of October at Nelson Fine Art Center.

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