Long ago, when men had no paper to paint on, they used their own bodies as canvases. It is no wonder then, that many consider Body Painting to be one of the most ancient forms of art.
Body Painting returned to vogue half a century ago when in the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago, Max Factor brought a model who was dressed only on body paint (actually his new make up line that he'd formulated for Hollywood films). Today, Body Painting is a well respected and recognised art form, represented by artists like Guido Daniele of Milan, Jana Sterbak, Rebecca Horn, Youri Messen-Jaschin and Javier Perez.
Unlike tattooing and other forms of body art, body painting is temporary, painted onto the human skin, and lasts for only several hours, or at most (in the case of Mehndi or henna) a couple of weeks. Body painting that is limited to the face is known as face painting.
Tribal Body Art
Most tribal cultures have a tradition of body painting in some form or the other. Indigenous people of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific islands, India and parts of Africa paint their bodies for a variety of reasons. For those who live in forests, body paint becomes excellent camouflage. Many tribal warriors paint themselves to look intimidating. For others it is purely a form of adornment.
Tribals usually use clay, ochre and other natural pigments to paint their bodies. In India, Middle East and Africa, henna is used to create semi permanent patterns on different parts of the body. Since the late 1990s, Mehndi has become popular amongst young women in the Western world.
Modern Body Art
Ever since the Flower Power movement in the sixties, body painting has acquired a new legitimacy in the West. Increasing liberal views on nudity have also helped.
Today, there are many events – soccer matches, rave parties, beach festivals to name some, where body painting is de rigeur. There are also several international Body Painting festivals that bring together professional body painters as well as keen amateurs. The World Bodypainting Festival in Seeboden in Austria is the biggest amongst these.
Face painting is also used effectively by military forces worldwide as camouflage.
Did You Know?
- The human body averages 1.8 square meters of skin – which means body painters have a large canvas to paint on!
- Reviews of Body Paint Products
- Guido Daniele's Website
All Photographs are used with the kind permission of Guido Daniele, from his website