Humans can be distinguished from the rest of
nature by the constant redecoration of their bodies. In many cultures the naked
skin is seen as less desirable than skin that has been manipulated, which
exhibits humanity and membership.
The art of body decoration by pigment, tattoo or piercing the skin, dates back to ancient Egypt. By 2000 B.C., tattooing had spread to Asia, where in several cultures, including Japanese, the ability to draw tattoos was considered a divine gift. It didn't take long for the art to find its way to what we now know as Western Europe. Before 1000 A.D., body decoration was used as another way to express family pride through "modern" tribal symbols and family crests or logos.
And despite the contemporary western belief that the body is perfect as is, we are still constantly changing it: browning our skin in the sun or coloring it with makeup, and dying, bleaching or removing hair. The seemingly most innocent gestures for taking care of our bodies very often hide a persistence and disguised tendency to strictly follow norms, re-clothing our bodies in a veil of civilization.
With this body of work, I want audience members to embrace the idea of body decoration, taking it to outrageous levels of expression in their own minds. By crossing the lines between photography and painting, one is able to mentally leap into a fantasy, to let it become part of the physical world.
Immersed in a shade of blue or dissolving into the environment like a chameleon, bodies cloaked in paint aspire to display no race or gender. Each figure functions purely as a framework or screen, a canvas for inspiration. Without discrimination or judgment based on skin tone or gender, models are free from preconceptions based on physical appearance.
My inspiration for Colors of the Spirit came in the summer of 1999. After researching the art of body painting for several months, I painted six individuals on nine separate occasions. Sessions have required anywhere from three to eight hours of painting before photography could begin. Previously using Tempera paint was a challenge, but since I have found Createx, a fabric paint, to be more physically and artistically flexible. This experience has been extremely rewarding for me, and I hope to continue the steady development of this vision.
Thank you to my mother for her time and effort; to Justin for his inspiration; to Shianna, Stacy, Erik, Lauren, Andy and Tony for their trust, patience and enthusiasm; to the Bills for the use of their digital and color darkrooms; and to all of my friends, family and professors for their encouragement.