Archives for category: art

IMG_9039FA few years ago, writer/director Cynthia von Buhler invited us to her immersive theater show Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic, and we had a great time. There was a recreation of an old-time Broadway revue, an investigation of a scandalous celebrity death, and the chance to wander around a beautifully appointed space, mixing with the actors and audience members — sort of like Sleep No More, only instead of having to wear masks, Cynthia let us wear nothing at all from the waist up. Can’t do that at Hamilton!

IMG_8846So when Cynthia let us know she had a new new show opening last week, we were there. This show is called Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini, and it’s based on Cynthia’s graphic novel of the same name, about the death of the famous magician, escape artist, and debunker of phony spiritualist mediums. The mystery to be solved this time is: did Houdini die of natural causes on Halloween 1926, or was he a victim of a plot by the spiritualists…?

IMG_8981It’s all very exciting stuff. Along the way the audience gets to attend seances and have their palms read by mystics with swinging pendulums…

IMG_8755IMG_8741…sip bootleg absinthe cocktails (this is during Prohibition, remember)…

IMG_8736…and watch Houdini prepare for and perform (and teach his lovely new assistant to perform) his famous straitjacket and rope tie and Water Torture Cell escapes.

IMG_8924IMG_8805Minky is the private eye hired by Houdini’s wife, Bess, to find out whether Houdini is cheating on her, only to discover there are bigger games afoot. (Speaking of which, Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, is in the show too. He and Houdini were friends in real life. For a while. Until they were enemies.)

IMG_8970The show takes place not in a Broadway theater but up and down the three floors of a Prohibition Era speakeasy building.

IMG_8838There is a theater on the ground floor…

IMG_8993…but you’re also transported to hotel rooms, hospital rooms, bedrooms, barrooms, and more.

IMG_8873IMG_8887FOh, and? We were — possibly for the first time in our history — not the nakedest people in the room. Seems the spiritualist mediums of the 1920s sometimes did their stuff completely in the nude. (The adulterers, too. Go figure.)

IMG_8975The chance to participate in a show like this in our customary state of undress was a treat, especially since we also got to combine it with 1920s-style garb and decoration.

IMG_8611We didn’t attract too many stares inside the theater (maybe other audience members thought we were part of the cast?), and even when we found ourselves out on the sidewalk, crossing from one of the building’s entrances to another, passersby took our appearance in stride. It all felt free and fabulous.

IMG_8650IMG_8659IMG_8870The show runs until November 10, so if you’re in NYC, by all means check it out. We can’t promise there will be topless audience members there the night you go — but there always can be, if you’re feeling brave enough! Just tell Cynthia hi, from us.

IMG_9045FAnd tell Houdini to watch his back.

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IMG_8324Okay, so it’s now officially Fall. Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. (Thank you, John Keats.) But we’re not quite ready yet to put away the things of summer, Keats or no Keats.

Yes, it’s getting dark earlier, and the mists are a real thing (it’s been overcast and drizzly and gray gray gray), but the temperature still periodically peeks up into the 70s, even tiptoeing toward 80 on occasion, and on one recent Monday afternoon we headed out to one of our favorite little lawns in Central Park for some proper R&R (reading and relaxation).

IMG_7889IMG_7898We were joined by a couple of first-timers —

IMG_7787–and an art photographer who used this marvelous old-style camera to capture the beautiful autumnal light on the grass and the leaves. (And on us.)

IMG_7996We were also joined by a marvelous fashion designer who brought a piece of custom lingerie she made in the classic pulp fiction style of a 1940s film noir femme fatale, so of course we had to try that on.

IMG_8295IMG_8178And then there was time spent petting a total stranger’s adorable dog.

IMG_8342Throughout all this (well, all but the lingerie part) we were blissfully bare from the waist up, drinking in those precious last rays,

IMG_8048…aware that it’s sweater weather now more days than not, and soon will be winter-coat-and-snowboots weather. On days like this, we treasure not just the legal right to go topless but also the waning proximity to the sun that gives us the privilege.

IMG_7785cIMG_7960What will we do in October, November, December? You’ll find us indoors — as always, we have some fun notions for places to go naked when it’s too cold outside. But that’s tomorrow. Today was sun, today was grass, today was nature. We feel fortunate to have had the chance. And perhaps, if the weather cooperates, it might not even be the very last chance of the year.

If you’d like to join us sometime — outdoors or in, this year or next — and you’re a body-positive woman in the New York area, drop us a note: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you and to meet you.

Maybe even in our secret garden.

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IMG_9959Our group’s name notwithstanding, we read all sorts of books, not just pulp fiction. (Not even just fiction.) But when we do read pulp fiction, it’s often from a line called Hard Case Crime, which was founded by a friend of our group who kindly gives us advance peeks into what they’re going to be publishing months and months before anyone else gets to see.

IMG_1708IMG_1765IMG_5166IMG_3593This summer, that meant getting an early look at a first novel called Charlesgate Confidential by film critic Scott Von Doviak. And what a great read it is. An art heist in 1946 leads to a hunt for the missing art in 1986 and then to a series of murders related to the still missing art in the present day, and it’s all woven together in a twisty, satisfying way, all over Boston (even though we read it all over New York).

IMG_4059IMG_7788IMG_1724IMG_7785IMG_7623IMG_7680And we’d offer to lend you one of our ragged, dog-eared copies,

IMG_0074except now we don’t have to because this coming Tuesday the book’s finally being published and you’ll be able to get a copy for yourself!

IMG_9929We don’t generally shill for books, even ones published by our friends, but this one is pretty terrific. Don’t believe us? Here’s what a random guy named Stephen King said about it on Twitter back in June: “Get this book, campers. It’s a fun machine…the white-knuckle kind.”

How did Stephen King get his hands on a copy? Are we saying that Stephen King came to one of our events and stole one of our precious copies of Charlesgate Confidential?? We are so, so, so totally not saying that. Because it wouldn’t be true.

But we do love us some Stephen King too. 🙂

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IMG_6273This past Saturday, five dozen people took all their clothes off in Washington Square Park. Some of our members were among them.

IMG_6041IMG_6147IMG_6135IMG_6055IMG_4250Not only did no one call the cops on this display of naked bodies, but the cops were already there and fully supportive — they were present to make sure everything went smoothly and that none of the naked people were harassed or bothered. And none of us were.

IMG_6131Now, here’s an interesting fact: one day later, if any of us had tried to undress to the exact same extent in the exact same place, we would have gotten stopped, and maybe arrested, by those exact same cops. Does that make any sense to you?

Yes, Saturday was a special day: the 5th annual “New York Bodypainting Day” festival. For five years, artist Andy Golub has brought together fellow artists from all over the country and all over the world to paint nude models on one afternoon in the summer. And yes, there is an exception in the public indecency laws for nudity that occurs in the course of making or exhibiting art. That’s why no one got arrested on Saturday.

But what’s the logic? How can it possibly be the case that sixty fully naked women and men standing in a group is an inoffensive sight one day, but the following day even just one fully naked woman or man — perhaps lying among a bunch of sunbathers such as this group that watched us for hours on Saturday — is offensive enough to be deemed illegal?

IMG_6268The prude who says a breast, a vulva, a penis is always and automatically shameful may be wrong (in our humble opinion), but at least the prude is consistent. The person who says vulvas and penises are fine on Saturday but forbidden every other day is either the strangest Sabbath observer ever or else just a hypocrite.

IMG_6308But — as long as the hypocrites are making the rules, we’ll take such opportunities for freedom as we’re granted. One day each year when we can shed the last little vestiges of our clothes out in the park is better than none.

IMG_6312IMG_6190IMG_6292And this one was better than most. The weather was absolutely perfect (not a hint of rain in the sky), the crowd was supportive (not a complaint heard, at least by our ears), there were a pianist and a xylophonist nearby for musical accompaniment (randomly), and we even were graced with a street fair right outside the park, for when our thirst required fresh-squeezed lemonade to quench it (Andy kindly supplied some snacks as well, including unintentionally appropriate ones).

IMG_6253The art that emerged from this inspiring environment was suitably inspired. Meant to reflect this year’s theme, “Movement,” we saw everything from the literal, with moving flora and fauna–

IMG_6250IMG_6263IMG_6241IMG_6338…to the metaphorical, such as a bit of cubism (which began, remember, as an attempt to show movement on a static canvas — how great to see it attempted on a rippling moving canvas!)

IMG_4240…or the sort of movement that results in social change:

IMG_4258Speaking of which, we’re a bit of a movement ourselves, aren’t we? Sparking social change, making people think differently about what they’ve always assumed. Seeking freedom.

IMG_6326On Saturday we were free. In a way we rarely have the opportunity to be. Could Monday morning be just as free someday?

Yes. Someday. We firmly believe that. With or without paint, with or without clothes, bodies should be free.

IMG_6052IMG_6143IMG_6181If you’d like to join our little movement, drop us a note: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. With your help, we’ve got some brick walls we’d like to bust through together.

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IMG_4834Five years ago, a painter named Andy Golub had a brilliant brainstorm. He’d been painting works of art on the bodies of individual models for some time, and had won some legal battles establishing that he had the right to do so outdoors in New York City. (It’s legal for women to be topless outdoors in New York anywhere a man can; full nudity is generally not legal in public for anyone of any gender. But there’s an exception — women and men can both be naked in public places as part of an artistic exhibition or a play. And being painted as a human canvas is certainly an artistic exhibition.)

IMG_4923So here’s the brilliant brainstorm he had: what if, instead of one painter painting one model in a public place, he brought together fifty painters and fifty models — models of all ages, sizes, races, and genders, painters from all over the country and all over the world? Suddenly, the artist and model would no longer be outnumbered by a confused and judgmental crowd — in one place, for a time, naked would be the norm. Art would be the norm.

IMG_4943And so Bodypainting Day was born. This year is the 5th anniversary, and anyone interested in attending can find the group in Washington Square Park starting around noon on Saturday, July 14. In anticipation of the big day, and maybe to get his painting arm limbered up, Andy met with us this week on our favorite rooftop sundeck and tested out some wonderful new designs.

It’s fun to be a human canvas, and even more fun to watch the process as your friends get turned into living works of art.

IMG_4461IMG_4515IMG_4734IMG_4504IMG_4585IMG_4608IMG_4682IMG_4711IMG_4533IMG_4643IMG_4683IMG_4741IMG_4856And lest you think bodypainting is just for girls…

IMG_4496IMG_4629IMG_4716IMG_4749IMG_4782Turnabout being fair play, at the end one of the painters got painted:

IMG_4887And we even had a spectator or two who remained pristine.

IMG_4656Look like fun? It was. If you’re thinking you might like to try this someday — with or without the paint — we welcome all curious and body-positive women to join us. Just send email to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and tell us a little about yourself. You’ll be under the sun — and who knows, maybe under the brush too — in no time.

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18-02-10-Polar Bear-484A couple of times each year, the non-profit organization Human Connection Arts puts on a big public event that celebrates free expression through nudity. New York’s annual Bodypainting Day in July is the biggest, but there are others peppered throughout the calendar. Last October, for instance, the group fielded a topless float in the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, which seemed pretty bold at the time since October isn’t the most common month for outdoor toplessness.

But it pales in comparison to February. Which was when the group gathered most recently, on a frosty, somewhat rainy Saturday afternoon, with the temperature hovering not too far above freezing, applying bodypaint indoors at a studio near Times Square–

18-02-10-Polar Bear-12518-02-10-Polar Bear-11818-02-10-Polar Bear-225–girding themselves for the arctic winds they might face–

18-02-10-Polar Bear-14618-02-10-Polar Bear-254–and then bravely heading out into the cold to march to the Crossroads of the World, greet astonished tourists,

18-02-10-Polar Bear-32118-02-10-Polar Bear-35518-02-10-Polar Bear-373hobnob with costumed characters,

18-02-10-Polar Bear-522and take photos at the iconic bleachers near the TKTS booth.

18-02-10-Polar Bear-50918-02-10-Polar Bear-496One of our members gamely took part (see if you can spot her in these terrific photos by Daniel Vialet of Leinadmedia), together with some two dozen other participants of all ages, genders, sizes, and shapes. It was an exciting and liberating event, and we’re delighted to have played a small part in it.

18-02-10-Polar Bear-446If you’re inspired by what you see but need a little more mercury in the thermometer before you’d feel comfortable going outdoors in nothing but paint, remember that July isn’t that far off.

Or just paint yourself in the colors of the sun and think warm thoughts…

18-02-10-Polar Bear-264…or do it with a bunch of friends and huddle close. 🙂

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IMG_5567In midtown Manhattan there’s a townhouse dating back to 1875 that’s home to the Society of Illustrators, an organization honoring some of the finest artwork created in the past century. Walk the halls and you’ll see original art by painters such as Norman Rockwell and Robert McGinnis — even a giant portrait of Olivia by Ian Falconer. And if you’d walked to their fourth-floor library one day this past week, you’d have seen us there too, practicing our figure drawing, and our figure modeling, under the guidance of award-winning painter Gregory Manchess.

IMG_5384IMG_5410It was an extraordinary experience, first just absorbing the atmosphere and history of this unique institution and then getting to watch one of the best illustrators in the world create breathtaking portraits of us in seconds, working with nothing more than some newsprint, charcoal and pencils.

IMG_5915IMG_6078IMG_6056IMG_6068IMG_6089Our own work with the same tools was a tiny bit less polished!

IMG_5534But Greg gave us tips and insight and advice and inspiration, and we went home raring to crack out the pencils again and get back to the drawing board.

IMG_5429IMG_5404IMG_5322Kudos to the Society for having us. Interestingly, down on the third floor while we were on the fourth, another nude sketch event, held weekly and open to the public for a $20 ticket price, was going on, and that room was packed to the rafters. Aside from the two models, it looked like nearly everyone in that room was male, while of course in our room nearly everyone was female (and no tickets were being sold). We make no comment on the why or wherefore, we simply present this interesting fact for whatever it’s worth.

IMG_5737-SweaterIMG_5237Kudos also to the Society’s charming Hungarian bartender, who kept the evening well lubricated with wine and spirits, and to Baked by Melissa and Sprinkles Cupcakes for supplying mini- and maxi-sized treats, respectively. Nothing loosens the drawing hand and concentrates the attention quite like the combination of red velvet and rosé.

IMG_5550Of course we also had books on hand — what is a book club, or a library, without them?

IMG_5815But most of the time our hands were empty, or next to it.

IMG_5781Would you like to join us the next time we cook up a once-in-a-lifetime experience like this one? If you’re a body-positive woman in the vicinity of New York City, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and maybe someday soon you’ll have the chance to get naked with a skeleton too. 🙂

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