The Kinetic Art of Face Painting — Pt.1: Sending Art off into the World

by Christopher Agostino

 This is the distinctive difference of painting faces as an art, isn’t it, that the art we create moves and is alive—and, once painted, the art we create has a life of its own. Unlike a Calder mobile or other kinetic sculptures, the work of art we create is on an independent, conscious life form who then puts the art into motion following their own determinations. Once painted, we have no control over the art we have created and it just goes off into the world to have its own adventure. Face painting is a kinetic art, an art that moves, with a will of its own.

The thought that my art goes on to its own adventures is a significant part of what keeps face painting exciting for me. As the commercial opportunities of artistic body painting begin to expand in the U.S. I have continued to focus primarily on painting faces because of the greater numbers of people it gives me a chance to transform. A painted body has quite an impact, but not as great, I think, as the dozens or hundreds of faces we can paint at a an event—and, of course, we are giving so many more people the experience being art, kinetic art, as they move through the event. I particularly appreciate painting like this at large public events, and have constructed my Transformations Facepainting company with this type of event in mind, because it affords the greatest opportunity to send a multitude of faces off into the world, leading to the surprising discoveries by passersby of painted people in everyday settings  (like the woman in the previous post telling me of looking for our faces throughout the village of Southampton), and remarkable juxtapositions like in my favorite “face in the Crowd” photo of the man in a face from Papua New Guinea eating potato chips on the roof of the Port Authority Bus Terminal with New York City in the background


Alice and John at his reception

This past Sunday I was able to send one piece of my day’s kinetic art on a mission. I was painting at the Darwin Dayfestivities of the Long Island Ethical Humanist Society. As a woman sat down to be painted she asked for something appropriate to going to an art gallery, where she was heading to next, and after a few questions we realized  she was going to the opening reception of an exhibit by my friend and mentor, John Fink.

In Professor Fink's class I worked with the same themes that inspire my face and body designs

I had started the day disappointed that my gig prevented me from attending his reception and here came a serendipitous opportunity to be there at least in spirit. Alice was enthusiastic about being a human greeting card and I did a design based on cave paintings, like the work I had been doing in the last ceramics class I took with Professor Fink. Check at John Fink’s very playful sculptures, ceramics and constructions:

To learn more about our programs and performances:

When I first started using cultural sources for face designs I recognized that they stand out in modern settings in a way that draws the attention of spectators and enhances the effectiveness of the transformation

Painting adults also draws more attention to the art, because it is more surprising to see a painted adult than to see a painted child

Another way in which a painted face is a kinetic art, as the movement of the face brings the design itself to life...more on this in a future post

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