To Body Paint
or not to Body Paint, that is the question?
by Gary Cole
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At FABAIC 2012 (the world's largest learning opportunity for face and body painters) I was once again asked my personal perspective on body painting as a participant or nonparticipant as a conservative Christian that is very much involved in this industry. This is a theme often asked of me both publicly and privately. I thought I would take the time to put it down in writing once and for all to be published to a formal FAQ to those that seek a conservative's perspective. This isn't an issue of religion but a perspective as a professional, that happens to be conservative in this industry.
No doubt body painting is very mainstream in the face painting world. It is wildly accepted as a creative art form. Just attend any of the major conventions and you will find it actively being done or even instructed. The objective is not to tell people to take part in this art form and it certainly isn't to encourage folks to join in. This is to perhaps open folks minds to an alternative approach. In the end, only you can decide if you wish to participate to not.
Now those that actually know me, know that for being a conservative, I am more open minded than most. For me it is simply an issue of free agency. I'm not nieve and in my opinion certainly not prudish on this topic. If you disagree, then that is your right. I am well traveled and have visited art museums from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Paris, France. You simply cannot go in and see classical art without seeing nudes aplenty. I don't think anyone would challenge the fact that nudes have been part of art for long before any of us have been around. I don't question that the painted body partially or fully nude is noted by most as an art form. The reality is for one it is perceived as brilliant art and to another it is perceived as porn. Some of this comes from where you live in the world, how you were raised, social norms and even your religious background. This might even fluctuate as you mature or start to have older children of your own.
I've been to more face painting conventions than literally anyone I know. With this I have seen more than my share of body painting. Some of these artists are extremely talented. Some of my personal favorite body painters are Pashur, Vargas and Mark Reid. I would challenge that even they have lines in the sand where body painting moves from an art form to eroticism. It might vary by person but there is still a standard. Most conventions even define standards for body painting competitions. In one it is required you paint over a cotton bra and cotton panties on a female. Others require nipple covers and a thong. Another allows a totally uncovered body but that is usually more the standard in Europe. The point is, even in this industry, there are different viewpoints in regards to acceptable body painting standards.
I know some that are extremely comfortable with this life form to the point that mothers might paint their own adult daughters nude, or very close to it and think nothing of it past that of art. If that is their choice then that is their right. Legally, there are even boundaries. I assure you if one painted a minor that was nude and photos were taken at a convention, those photos could very well get them to multiple years behind prison walls and a permanent mark on their record as a child molester even if you are painting your own child. The U.S. law is pretty clear on defining legal boundaries. Every convention that I am aware of demands that the models that are body painted be legal adults (as they should).
So how does this apply to me and my perspective on how I handle this? I personally do not body paint as a practice. I see it from my personal moral standard and my expectations for my own children. I have six children of my own. At the time of this printing I have daughters 31 and 29 and also sons at 26, 21, 17 and 13. While I openly admit that I am far from being the perfect parent I do try to be an example for my children. I also admit that we all are hypocrites at some level as we often don't live up to our own standards. With this said, I try to be the example. How logical is it for me to suggest to my four sons to avoid porn as found in adult men magazines, in movies or on the internet and in the same vain have me as an adult paint the body of a nude 21 year old female model? I see it that if I would feel awkward to do such in the presence of my wife or children then it is simply something I should personally avoid. It is a boundary that I personally do not wish to cross. My suggestion is if you would feel hypocritical to do this form of art in front of your family or your peers outside the face painting world, then you should avoid this art form.
I suppose my whole point in this FAQ is to boldly state that because others body paint or don't body paint, that alone should not be pressure for you. Simply ask yourself what YOUR STANDARD IS and then stick to that standard. When you do this you can be comfortable with the person looking you in the mirror, your peers and your family. Bottom line is you do what your heart truly tells you to do. As for me, I'll abstain.
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