The Peacock and the Sun Goddess BodyStory was an experiment for a class presentation at the Face and Body Art International Convention in 2012 (FABAIC). For my class on storytelling I tried out a new idea (newfor me - see below) of taking the methods I use for telling a story via facepainting onto a painted body — using a fully painted body in choreographed movements to accompany my narrative. I had done this with several performers and much assistance to perform the story Li Chi Slays the Dragon as part of our Bodies Alive! production at FABAIC 2008, but that felt more like a theatre piece and this was meant to stay closer to the stylistic quality of storytelling.
The Peacock and the Sun Goddess BodyStory was conceived and presented as a live performance. As the concept seems well designed for video I took the fotos and video we’d made as documentation and created this video in iMovie. (The wonderful music is Indian Fever by David Starfire, which I found on the album “Six Degrees Free Indian Music Sampler” on Amazon. The model was a non-professional, so I’ll withhold her name) The next step in the video experiment will be to create a BodyStory design specifically for video, and explore what is possible without the design limitations inherent in a live performance.
See the BodyStories Page to learn more about other BodyStory projects, including “Is This the First Story?” based on an 18,000 year old cave painting.
To be clear, nothing in art is ever truly new—especially in an art form as ancient as bodypainting. In saying that these experiments feel “new for me” I’m not saying that I’ve invented something here. Aboriginal Australian bodypainting may go back 40,000 years in a continuous line and in some cases, particularly in the context of ritual initiations, their bodyart tells complex mythological tales (to name just one precedent). Nothing is new.
I am honored to say I have been nominated for an award by the Society of Unique Artists. I’m one of 5 finalists in the category of Unique Painting, and the winner will be announced at the Unique Art Awards event on September 29 in New York. Upon my nomination I was asked to submit a portfolio for the judges’ consideration, which I am posting here, including this short video artist statement:
“The show was called “Before Cave Walls… The Story on Our Skin”. … About 25–30 of us sat mesmerized as he started with a lecture/demo on the human history of self-transformation through mask and body art, calling up volunteer after volunteer to be painted as he talked. Then he wove several stories in, some traditional and some in a folktale mode that he and his kids had created – and he used us as his canvas to show characters like jaguar, snake and lizard, and settings like tropical island and African savannah.”
Liz also talked about how the volunteers I painted during the program wore their new faces into the evenings events, for which I am especially appreciative — a mask-maker always hopes that the wearer will bring the mask to life like that. When Willa Brigham took the stage to MC that night’s Oracle Awards presentation in the very unusual looking Picasso/Nuba face, I’m sure many folk in the audience wondered what was going on, why were these people on stage with their faces painted in such strange ways? There were several hundred people in the audience, only a hand full of which were at my afternoon program, so most of them had no context for the painted faces they saw on stage. That uncertainty about what to make of a painted face is intrinsic to the art of transformation. Part of the power and function of the mask is to introduce a sense of mystery about the transient nature of form, to make us wonder what else is possible. Continue reading →
At the museum, a minor kerfuffle. I had particularly wanted to see the current exhibit “The Collections: 6,000 Years of Art“, displayed in an old-fashioned cabinet style, with lots of unlabeled stuff side by side in jammed glass cabinets. Towards the end I saw a piece of painted pottery from ancient Greece depicting Heracles Continue reading →
The tale “Mataora and Niwareka in the Underworld” especially caught my attention, as it offers a folkloric explanation for the origins of moko, the traditional facial tattooing of the Maori. In brief: a warrior chief named Mataora meets some beautiful women who come up from the Underworld. They tell him that the designs he has painted on his face are not true moko because they can be wiped off. He falls in love with Niwareka, winds up following her back down to the Underworld and meets her father, who is busy tattooing a young man’s face with a fine bone chisel. Mataroa sees that the process is excruciatingly painful but the man doesn’t cry out. Ue-tonga, the father, then tattoos Matarao’s face with “the intricate patterns, twirls and swirls” that make a warrior “look both frightening and beautiful.” Mataroa understands he must bear the pain bravely to receive the true moko, and afterwards he brings the tattoo tradition (and Niwareka) back up to the Overworld.
I’m fascinated by the idea in this tale that the Maori first painted their faces with the moko patterns before they used tattoo, Continue reading →