Is A Painted Body Naked? – Pt. 2: Painting Clothing On vs. Painting On Clothing – Demi Moore Vanity Fair

By Christopher Agostino

Why is it that if you paint underwear on a naked model she seems to be wearing more clothes than if you paint almost anything on a model wearing underwear?

My beat up cover from Vanity Fair, August, 1992. Demi Moore, body paint by Joanne Gair, photograph by Annie Liebovitz

There’s a slowly growing awareness of bodypainting in American Pop Culture, and I’d mark its beginning with Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair. Prior to that, bodypainting was for hippies, Woodstock and Goldie Hawn. More than just a masterful exhibition of a makeup artist’s ability, that cover broke boundaries.

Goldie Hawn from Laugh-In

This was a naked woman (a celebrity!) on the cover of a mainstream magazine — yet she wasn’t naked. It was a successful fashion image — yet she wasn’t wearing any clothes. Bodyart functioning as conceptual art, playing with perceptions and expectations of the viewer, maybe you can even connect it to what Man Ray did in his famous “bodyart” photograph.

The year before when she was on the cover naked and pregnant, Demi Moore positioned her arm to cover her breasts. This time, the body paint was deemed sufficient covering for this magazine to be displayed on newsstands, which we can take as a significant statement of “no” in regard to the question “is a painted body naked?

As exciting for me as that cover was the little bit on the editor’s page about how long it took — demonstrating the serious approach that can be brought to body painting — and the name of the body painter: Joanne Gair. When did you ever see “body paint by” as a credit line before? She has got to be the closest thing we have to a “famous body painter” in mainstream consciousness, and this public understanding of bodypainting as illusion remains prevalent with her work in the very popular annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Regarding SI, I don’t think that anyone could argue that the painted models there are any more (or less) naked than the models in the real bikinis.

There is also a whole realm of Joanne Gair’s work beyond the painted bathing suits — look for her book “Body Painting”(2006).

I haven’t attempted to paint clothing on anyone since the 80s, my bodyart goals are different. I have though been required at times to paint my art over clothing by clients and convention producers, over a bra or such, and it just doesn’t look right. Maybe because when the women is naked, or just in nipple shields, the paint can better pull off the appearance of being  a costume than if you can see the bra straps telling you that somebody is standing in front of you in their underwear. I’ve come to tell clients that this just doesn’t work right, so if they need real modesty we should have some kind of minimum clothing and work it into the design rather than try to hide it.

A few years back I was hired to do some “sexy” painting on a couple of models for a cd release party in a night club, with nipple covers and enough paint that they wouldn’t seem naked, plus the cd logos thrown in. One of the models showed up and wouldn’t take her bright blue satin underwear off — the client had hired the models and I don’t know what he told her to expect. She explained to me that she didn’t need to take her top off because she had seen photographs when body painters put fake clothing on naked models, so I should be able to make her look naked while she kept her bra on.

These days, there are also all those nifty prosthetic pieces from people such as BodyFX that make disguising the body parts part of the design  — like “starfish boobs” for your topless mermaid. From their website: “BodyFX Prosthetics are new and innovative products that will help you to create artistic and discreet body paints. Instead of painting bra’s, you can use an artistic solution. To overcome the nudity factor, BodyFX Prosthetics can be glued over the whole breasts or just the nipples. Using BodyFX Prosthetics, you will find more clients (and models) are willing to try body-art as a means of entertainment.”

Learn more at my Body Painting Page

To learn more about our programs and performances:  Christopher Agostino

follow me for the face of the day:!/storyfaces

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