While most days you’d get arrested if you walked fully nude down the sidewalk at 47th Street and Second Avenue in New York City — topless is fine, for all genders; bottomless is not, for any — there is an exception.
Once a year, for the past three, Andy Golub has organized a mass bodypainting festival, gathering a hundred models of all sizes, shapes, ages, races, and genders to pose fully nude in the street and act as human canvases for dozens of talented artists flown in from all over the country and all over the world.
This year it threatened to rain — but despite all the gloomy forecasts, not a drop was felt, and the proceedings came off without a hitch. Several members of our august bookclub were there (even though it was still July, hee hee):
…all of us filled with boundless energy (you need it, to stand stock still in one place for four hours while an artist turns your body pink and gold) and utterly devoid of self-consciousness or reproach. This was a place of acceptance, of kindness, of generosity and fellow-feeling, all of which went splendidly with this year’s theme of “Inner Beauty.”
And the spirit of the day extended to the crowd that came to watch, which included the usual mix of the curious and the photographically inclined, but also just pedestrians who happened upon the event and stayed to watch, parents with toddlers in tow or on their shoulders, and senior citizens who asked with mischievous grins if they could pose for a picture with us. One little girl shielded her eyes as she walked past, until her mom told her it was okay to look. Another tugged mom over to watch Sailor Moon come to life.
Two high school girls (age, sheepishly confessed: 16) had finagled press passes and were in seventh heaven interviewing the naked men. But it wasn’t necessary to be sheepish — everyone was happy to talk with them.
Which is really the point. We’re all just human beings; we all have bodies. There is nothing shameful about them. A chin, an elbow, a breast, a penis. No one is harmed by seeing these things, with or without paint affixed. But if paint gives us an excuse to be naked one day a year — and yields such beautiful artistic results to boot — we’re beyond delighted to embrace it.