Archives for category: bodypainting

It’s wintry and wet out now, and in the days leading up to the election there have been eruptions of hatred and violence and cruelty. It’s hard to remember sometimes that this year has had good times in it too. It’s important to take a moment to remember warmer, happier days, outdoors and in.

Sweater2The summer will come again.

IMG_7105IMG_5590IMG_4499IMG_2386IMG_1205In the meantime, go out and vote, goddamn it.

IMG_4470For any color hat other than red.

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IMG_7732There we were on the sidelines, waiting for the Ultimate Freedom Concert to begin in Times Square, arguing the way bookish folk do: did the adjective “Ultimate” modify “Freedom” or “Concert”? Was it a concert celebrating the ultimate freedom, or was it the ultimate concert celebrating freedom?

It was a way to kill some time as the men inside the enclosure paced and noon turned to 1pm and 1 inched toward 2. One of the men, a sober, even severe, fellow in a charcoal gray t-shirt, held a microphone but didn’t speak into it. Drums stood in one corner, not being played. Yoga instructors balanced tentatively on one foot, then the other. Everyone was holding fire.

The man was a singer and activist calling himself Ton Dou, who’s been traveling around the country for the last several years, trying to persuade people that nudity isn’t anything to be ashamed or frightened of, and governments that it shouldn’t be illegal. Nudity, he believes, can be non-sexual and healthy and beautiful. And somehow he’d convinced New York City to let him hold a concert in Times Square fully nude himself, with anyone attending free to go fully nude as well.

But here we were, an hour and a half after the announced start time, and everyone was still fully dressed.

Was it cold feet? Literally, yes: going nude means going barefoot, and on this autumnal day the pavement was chilly. But maybe metaphorically as well. Ton Dou had the courage of his convictions, and he’d gathered perhaps two dozen men of varying ages and sizes and complexions to join him, but aside from one brave yoga instructor, no women. When Ton finally gave the signal and the clothes came off,

IMG_7727IMG_7720IMG_7744IMG_7754IMG_7724…it was surely the most penises Times Square has ever seen at one time, and all without a police whistle blowing or anyone getting carted off to jail. And that’s wonderful. We agree that nudity isn’t shameful or dangerous and that it shouldn’t be illegal. And yet — with the one brave exception, it was an all-male demonstration. Not even our cadre of body-positive women felt like stepping behind the protective fence and disrobing surrounded by twenty or thirty naked men and several thousand iPhone-wielding spectators. (One of the photographers at the event, a woman representing ClothesFree.com, who gladly goes nude in her own site’s videos, chose to stay clothed at this event. Several of our members who said they were curious and might attend changed their minds when they arrived and saw the gender imbalance.)

It’s interesting to note that this hasn’t been a problem when Human Connection Arts has held bodypainting events in Times Square — those have had a fairly equal mix of women and men from the start, and everyone felt comfortable. (Those also had paint, of course, which may not do much to hide one’s naked body, but does help disguise one’s face, which can be a consideration if you’re going to be naked in front of thousands of onlookers in one of the most public places on Earth.)

RandAIMG_8447IMG_8290So was the Ultimate Freedom Concert a failure? Not at all. It served its purpose: it showed that people can be naked, and can see other people naked, without any catastrophic consequences. People walking through Times Square to celebrate Brazilian Day got to see their share of, uh, brazilians. We overheard conversations between spectators and participants that suggested honest curiosity and supportive dialogue. (“What is this?” was the most common question, followed by “Is it legal?” and “Doesn’t your penis get cold?”) Some faces in the crowd seemed downright bored by the sight, and if that isn’t a victory, we don’t know what is.

IMG_7717But not being a failure doesn’t mean it was a success. A gathering that women don’t feel comfortable participating in — even if that wasn’t the organizers’ intent — might be a step in the direction of freedom, but the ultimate freedom it is not.

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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. šŸ™‚

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IMG_9106Are we better known for reading traditional words-on-paper books than comic books and graphic novels? Probably. But since our group’s founding we’ve always had some comics in the mix too, and our comics-loving members are passionate indeed on the subject. So it’s maybe a bit surprising that until now we’ve never taken the time to visit Comic Con.

UPG-Comic Con_10062017_Gary Jean-Juste1 (15)Except for one thing — in New York, Comic Con comes in October, and October is usually too cold for outdoor toplessness. But not this year! This year it was 83 degrees on the con’s opening day, so several of us made our way to the lawn nearest to the convention center to get into our best cosplay gear.

IMG_8541IMG_8695The convention center itself has rules against toplessness, and we didn’t especially feel like fighting them (even though we would’ve been in the right), but there’s certainly nothing to stop a half dozen women dressed as superheroes, unicorns, anime characters, or some unholy combination of all three from leaving their tops off to better enjoy the breeze off the Hudson River.

IMG_8817IMG_8791IMG_8961One of our cosplayers drew her inspiration from Dark Phoenix…

IMG_9025FFP-Comic Con_10062017_Gary Jean-Juste1 (5)SKB-Comic Con_10062017_Gary Jean-Juste1 (1)…while others drew theirs from realms unknown.

IMG_8655(There was a brief moment when one of us was almost going to go for a topless rendition of Joy from Pixar’sĀ Inside Out, but that somehow felt wrong and modifications were made.)

IMG_8864There is something doubly liberating about being half naked and half costumed — it’s twice the chance to show you’re not afraid or ashamed of who you are.

IMG_8763Now we’re wondering whether it’ll be this warm, still, when Halloween rolls around?

Maybe. Maybe. We’re thinking about what we might do. And if you think you might enjoy being part of it…? Drop us a note: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. All women are welcome, whether you’re already comfortable topless in the great outdoors or you’re nervous about your first time.

Remember: you can always wear a mask. šŸ™‚

IMG_9034BBM-Comic Con_10062017_Gary Jean-Juste2 (4)[NOTE: Special thanks to photographer Gary Jean-Juste for some of these terrific pictures!]

 

IMG_1625For the fourth time in four years, a group of more than 100 artists and models congregated in a public place in New York City — this time, it was in Washington Square Park — to demonstrate that art can take many forms, that the human body can also take many forms, that that the human body is nothing to be ashamed of, and that a naked human body can be an aesthetic object, not only or always a sexual one.

IMG_1559IMG_1650IMG_1743The artists came from all over the United States and all over the world — Japan, Russia, Latvia. Texas. Brooklyn. The models came in all sizes, shapes, ages, races, genders.

IMG_1648IMG_1679IMG_1774IMG_1513The theme this year was a broad one — just one word,Ā Humanity. Nothing that would constrain an artist unduly, but a wonderful jumping-off point for art meant to celebrate what we have in common and our capacity for kindness, thoughtfulness, and decency.

Yes, decency — though five dozen naked bodies were uncovered in a public place, in front of thousands of passers-by, it was decency, not indecency, that was on display.

IMG_1688While some in the crowd showed confusion at first, by far the most common reaction was a smile. Some people we spoke to expressed wonder that an event like this was permitted, but they were overwhelmingly enthusiastic and supportive. A few expressed interest in coming back as models or painters next summer. And they’ll be welcomed gladly.

IMG_1622Some of our members made appearances under the paint–

IMG_1728–while for other models this was their first time standing nude in front of strangers.

IMG_1549IMG_1666IMG_1827And because this was an artistic exhibition, nude meant nude, not just topless — the ordinary restrictions on public nudity don’t apply when you’re creating art. Which meant that thousands of people got to see that a vulva or penis is just a body part like a nose or an elbow, not something you need to shield your eyes from.

(Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s awfully rare to see a penis presented in public in anything other than a hostile way, as an act of aggression or an attempt to provoke shock, fear or disgust. How wonderful to see penises in their natural state, just there between a man’s legs, doing no harm to anyone, and not meant to do any harm.)

IMG_1805IMG_1653IMG_1821IMG_1834IMG_1641Vaginas, of course, by their nature, are harder to display and to paint, but we proudly salute all our sisters and their marvelous multicolored labia.

IMG_1721IMG_1697IMG_1800But the focus wasn’t on any body part — it was on the totality of the human canvas and what art can be birthed from and upon it. We remain in awe of some of the gorgeous creations we saw, including the ones we saw on our own bodies.

IMG_1668IMG_1664And for all those of you who supported the event, or came to it, or participated in it — thank you.

We appreciate, and gratefully salute, your humanity.

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