by Christopher Agostino
Click on this link http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/257729 to be able to download for free the digital version Premiere Issue of SURVIVORS magazine, featuring an extensive article on and images from the Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project founded by Michael D. Colanero. Go to this link: http://www.cafepress.com/BCABPP to see the gallery of bodypaintings and click on each image for additional information and an array of available products to purchase in support of various Breast Cancer causes and foundations.
I only became aware of this project recently as I saw the link to the free Survivor magazine and downloaded it. You have to log into the HP Magcloud site to get the free download, but it is easy enough to do and well worth it. The painted bodies and photographs of the process are beautiful. The final images are a combination of body painting (Keegan Hitchcock is doing some remarkable work as the main artist) and Michael D. Colanero’s digital painting and effects, and the magazine’s exposition on the process involved is valuable information for a bodypainter. But the greater value of the magazine is in the stories of the breast cancer survivors featured in the paintings. If you are a bodypainter or, like me, have cancer survivors among the people you love, get the magazine, check out this wonderful project.
To alter our body through art is to take control of our self-image, and the image we project to the world as well. This is the heart of the project and such an admirable use of body painting. Although I’ve never had the privilege of being involved in a project of this magnitude I’ve talked with the people I’ve painted about how that act affected their feelings about their own bodies. I’ve talked with models about how empowering it can be to be painted, and to be seen painted, and I invite any of you to add to this post your comments about your experience being painted. I also believe that this is an art not meant to be restricted to just the youthful perfect models we all so often paint (including me). We give in too easily to this cultural notion of what is or isn’t beautiful when really we all are, and all of our bodies deserve to be celebrated as art.
About the Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project (BCABPP), from the article in Survivor magazine:
“…this unique and collaborative project is a form of art therapy that affects deep and sometimes profound changes in the participant model, but also reaches out beyond them – touching those that see it. Viewers are moved not only by the art itself, but also the energy projected by each of these inspiring survivors. The Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project: A Fine Art & Photography Essay of Survivors is a project that has been in progress since January of 2009. So far 25 brave breast cancer survivors have come forward to participate. They have come to South Florida from several states around the U.S. and one flew in from Australia – with other interested women in Canada and parts of Europe as well. The project initially started to create a single image but it was instantly obvious that would never be enough. So, the concept evolved into a calendar – 12 images – but that still wasn’t enough! Then the goal was set… a coffee table book with 50 survivor images accompanied by a page each with the individual survivor bio and story. Perfect!
The project will illustrate cancer’s total lack of any mercy or prejudice regarding who and when it strikes. BCABPP hopes to spotlight survivors from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life, and from as far away as we can attract them. It includes survivors of all ages, shapes & sizes during various stages of their process of pre, post or non reconstructive options. All the designs are custom made for each survivor and relate in some way to their character traits, personality, passions, interests or other aspects of their story. All of these are created in a way that also translates to the larger breast cancer experience. Describing a myriad of moods, emotions, thoughts and fears in common to many survivors. Some themes are light, positive and inspiring while others may be a bit deeper, darker and thought provoking – still others single out a specific issue such as early detection, or genetics. All are unique individuals with assorted stories – but with many common threads of high points, low points, hurdles, setbacks and milestones making up the tapestry of survivorship.”
The images in the series are available as fine art prints and framed pieces with 15% of the profits being donated. They are currently on exhibit at UNCOMMON Gallery; 2713 East Commercial Blvd.; Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308. Additional products such as coffee mugs, mousepads, journal books, calendars and greeting cards just to name a few are available at http://www.cafepress.com/BCABPP with 100% of the profits of these products being donated to various Breast Cancer causes and foundations.
You can find the images in a higher resolution here: http://pinterest.com/dorisjelinek/breast-cancer-awareness/
creator / photographer / digital artist Michael D. Colanero www.uncommonstock.net
Lead Body Painter / Make-up Artist Keegan Hitchcock www.bodyartbykeegan.com
Body Painter / Make-up Artist Luci Ungerbuehler www.twofacedart.com
Here is a video about the project from a local PBS station: “The ArtStreet segment was produced by Shirley Ravachi a breast cancer survivor herself as well as a future participant in the project. Four women, all survivors with various circumstances, diagnosis and states of reconstruction come together over two days to participate in the project and be filmed and interviewed for this short PBS segment. Day one was Doris (Releasing the Spell) and Maria (Warrior) while day two was Melissa (Pink Cheshire) and Dawn (Tribute). All the survivors provide short interviews and are covered in behind the scenes images of the body painting process and the actual photo shoots to create the images. Also interviewed are Michael D. Colanero – the project creator, designer, photographer and digital artist, as well as the project Lead Body Painter and creative collaborator Keegan Hitchcock. Lucianne “Luci” Ungerbuehler also painted one of the survivors on day two (Tribute)” (—from the station’s website).
Go to the BCABPP You Tube channel for more videos: www.youtube.com/BCABPP
There is a secondary issue here, one which a number of body artists have been confronting, and in this case it is very unfortunate that the project has achieved more publicity due to being censored on Facebook than because of its merits.
The issue of censorship rises from the continually vexing question of whether a painted body is art, or whether it is naked—vexing to a section of the American public, or, perhaps, vexing to the perceived morals of the American public by the giants that run social media. I had a You Tube video of one of the painted body performances at FABAIC deemed “age-restricted” by You Tube, apparently just based on some viewer clicking a button as they watched it—and when they do that You Tube doesn’t contact you and give you any opportunity to defend the content or make an argument, it’s just an “off with their heads” kind of Royal Decree. If you have not yet yourself run afoul of the censorship process going on within the social media giants, this still concerns you. Here is some information about the BCABPP having images banned on Facebook and a link to their petition about it:
“The images from the BCABPP have been banned on Facebook citing nudity and pornography. Please sign this petition to help us fight the ban and bring Hope and Inspiration back with these beautiful images of Survivors.”
From one of the model/survivors, Jamie Inman, on the experience of being censored on Facebook: “This morning, Facebook deleted a photo of a magazine cover that featured me for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As a full time advocate for breast cancer awareness, I am reliant on social media to help people become educated on the devastating effects of this disease. There was no notification, no inquiry as to the photo’s origins, no polite request to take it down. They simply deleted it, along with 5 of my other photos featuring cancer survivors. In each of these photos, the outlines of our bodies are visible but our breasts are fully covered by body paint. Flesh tones and nipples (which many of us no longer have) are completely and tastefully concealed under the incredible artwork of renowned photographer Michael D. Colanero and body painter Keegan Hitchcock. There are countless Facebook ads that appear unsolicited showing women in sexually suggestive poses far more revealing than my photos. Millions of men appear bare chested on Facebook with no fear of recourse.
As a two time survivor of cancer, I am hurt and offended. As an advocate and speaker, I am determined to speak out against one of the largest human networks in the world standing between people and information that can save lives. Facebook’s entirely irresponsible process of removing content based on unsubstantiated complaints without review is endangering the public health. Facebook is no longer just a fun distraction; it is a source of news and information that hundreds of millions worldwide rely on. With this success comes a responsibility to approach free speech and advocacy for public health in a more cautious and deliberate manner. I want to know how Facebook plans to live up to their responsibility to protect free speech and ensure that an open and informative dialog can take place on their network.”
From a Huffington Post article: ”Colanero was devastated over the images’ removal, and the negative effects being labelled ‘pornographic’ will have on the cancer survivors. In an interview with the Huffington Post, he was quick to note that the figures were inspirational, not obscene and that they were not nude since they were painted….Most of the media attention the Body Painting Project is receiving is centered around the censorship controversy and less about the courage and inspiration of the women themselves. Colanero expressed his frustration of the negativity now associated with the project, and how it has distracted from the plights and accomplishments of the survivors.” www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/03/breast-cancer-body-painti_n_1074725.html?ref=social-life
Two articles of mine on the issue of the acceptance of nudity in body art: is a painted body naked? http://wp.me/p1sRkg-5Q
is a painted body naked ? – Pt.2: Painting Clothing On vs. Painting on Clothing: http://wp.me/p1sRkg-6v
- Make-Up Artist Magazine on BCABPP: makeupmag.com/news/newsID/795/
- Facebook Censorship for BCABPP Challenged (sacredspacestudio.wordpress.com)
- Breast cancer survivors’ body painting art censored by Facebook (osocio.org)
- Pink Light Burlesque: Breast Cancer Survivors Strip Down and Celebrate (healthland.time.com)
- Why Body Painting? – 4: Radical Act – The essential celebration of our humanity / the ultimate modern art (thestorybehindthefaces.com)
- Men Getting Women Naked and Yves Klein – Female Nudity in Art(thestorybehindthefaces.com)
- Body Painting on TV in a Superbowl Ad, a Good Thing, Right? (thestorybehindthefaces.com)
- What really bothers me about this… (thestorybehindthefaces.com)
- The SCAR project: portraits of young breast cancer survivors (boingboing.net)