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Bodypainting comes to Greensboro

 whitney@yesweekly.com @YesWeekWhitney

Your body is a blank canvas just waiting to be painted. Reidsville, just north of Greensboro, is home to the team behind Livingbrush, the Guinness World Record breaking, North American champions, Asia championship winning, and five-time World Championship winners for bodypainting.

Scott Fray has been bodypainting with his partner Madelyn Greco since 2002.

“It’s the only art that can behold you as you behold it,” said Fray. “It’s the only art that can leap – that can scream or gesticulate.”

Bodypainting is a temporary form of body art in which a model is completely painted from head to toe. The artwork can be inspired by nature, conceptual images, or be completely abstract.

On August 27, Fray and other bodypainters and bodypainting enthusiasts enjoyed a screening of the bodypainting reality competition show, “Skin Wars” at the Carolina Theatre.

The reality show, hosted by former supermodel Rebecca Romijn, sourced four of its competing teams from the annual Living Art America competition in Atlanta, which Livingbrush won in 2012.

Livingbrush had been in talks with the producers of “Skin Wars” about appearing on the show for the first season, but for now the pair is just continuing to paint and compete offcamera.

Fray’s partner Greco is currently judging the International Bodypainting festival in Daegu, South Korea. Livingbrush won first place during the 2013 festival.

Artist Tiffany Gil of Kaleidoscope Bodyart in Wendell attended the “Skin Wars” screening event with bodyart model Brandy Valentine, who was painted in an ornate Asianinspired style with a red-orange dragon snaking into a pink lotus flower and purple goddess head. Valentine also balanced a giant sparkly and beaded headdress on her crown.

“I’ve been painted about 15 times now,” said Valentine.

The process typically takes about five to six hours for Gil, who also specializes in zombie make-up.

Fray has also painted Valentine, and Living Art America Co-Founder and CEO Ken Goldwasser described her as an ideal model for the art form.

“She has a way of projecting through the body paint that is just uncanny,” said Goldwasser.

Valentine was very animated and warm as she modeled for the audience of about a dozen people before the screening. She demonstrated the kind of moxy and connectivity that an artist looks for in a model.

The “Skin Wars” screenings on Wednesday nights are leading up to a competition presented by Living Art America and ArtsGreensboro as part of the 17DAYS festival next month. The Living Art Greensboro bodypainting competition will be held on Sunday, September 28 at Carolina Theatre.

ArtsGreensboro Deputy Director Eleanor Schaffner-Mosh has been working closely with Living Art America and Livingbrush while planning the competition.

“17DAYS is all about being very inclusive, and energizing our community about the arts,” said Schaffner-Mosh, “Body paint is first of all one of the most ancient arts, but also cutting edge, and we wanted to expose Greensboro to something new and exciting.”

“The level of talent is going to be extremely high,” said Fray.

The competition organizers are expecting 38 participants from 13 different countries and 12 different states. Some of the artists who will compete at Living Arts Greensboro are part of the teams featured on “Skin Wars.”

Fray isn’t surprised by the amount of international participation.

“This has been really huge overseas for a while now,” said Fray. “It’s a little late to be coming to the United States, but we’re happy it’s here.”

Goldwasser has also taken note of the art form’s revival, and watched it move from go-go clubs to the mainstream.

“It’s experiencing a resurgence now in the country like nothing I’ve ever seen” While bodypainting is on the rise, it is far from new. Goldwasser pointed to evidence that self-adornment has been around for thousands of years.

“This taps into something very primal,” said Goldwasser. “People were rubbing berry juices and drawing on their skin long before they were painting the walls of caves. The art of self-adornment has to do with self image – and it asks the question of ‘who am I’.”

The competitors will have six hours to paint their models, beginning at 10am. The public will be invited to view the artists at 2pm as they finish up the last two hours of painting. Typically women make up about 80 percent of the models, but men can be painted as well in order to achieve a particular style.

“Male models have a different energy,” said Goldwaaser. “There is a different projection of energy and it’s remarkable profound when their body is painted.”

The models will not be nude, but bodypainting is still a very mature and sensual art form. According to Goldwasser, the most common misconception about bodypainting is that it is something sleazy or pornographic in nature.

“This is not fantasy-fest, this is not a wet t-shirt contest, this is fine art,” said Goldwasser. “The artists who do this take it very seriously. It’s not necessarily about sex or sexuality although there is an inherent sensuality.”

By bringing bodypainting to 17DAYs, Living Art Greensboro will expose the Triad to an art form that is both ancient and cutting edge.

“I think it’s something out of a lot of people’s comfort zones,” said Schaffner-Mosh. “I think people will be intrigued. To see it in person is just staggering and beautiful.”

“Of all the various art forms I’ve done this is the thing that gets the biggest reaction,” said Fray. “One bodypaint model can hold the attention of 1,000 people.” !

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