Bodypainting Comes Alive In The Triad
The art of bodypainting with clay or other natural pigments has been around in tribal cultures forever. Unlike tattooing, it washes off, and unlike temporary tattoos, the model often wears nothing but a thin layer of artistically applied paint. Recently, the practice was showcased at the North American Bodypainting Championship that took place in Greensboro.
At the Greensboro Cultural Center, three art students clutch fist-sized air brushes, and seem to struggle a bit as they paint small circles or straight lines on large pads of paper directly in front of them. They’re trying to mimic the smooth and steady, relaxed paint spraying technique that’s being demonstrated by Alex Hansen.
Hansen grew up in Brazil, and now lives with his partner in Italy. He flew to Greensboro to compete in the Championship. The stakes are high, but he has found a way to deal with the pressure.
“I enjoy myself,” he says. “I really do; I mean I have to have my music. I have to have a great communication with my model. I have to take a break and dance a little bit. Because you do a lot of mental preparation and physical preparation for the competition but, it’s really when you get there you just let yourself loose and just trust yourself.”
In the world of bodypainting, trust extends in several directions. The models are in a particularly vulnerable position.
“I’ve traveled all over the world actually for this now, and competitive bodypaint modeling is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says model Adelle Lennox.
She flew in from Hawaii the day before competition to get acclimated and to meet with her artist.
“Giving your body to someone from 9am to midnight - because they do painting for six hours then we get judged, then we get photographed, then we’re on stage then we have to entertain people. It is a very long day.”
But Lennox says the work, while exhausting, is also exhilarating, and the payoff goes far beyond the prize money.
Recently retired bodypainter Scott Fray organized the Championship. He calls bodypainting an “incarnational art form.” He’s a five-time, world champion body painter. Fray and his wife Madelyn Greco, live in the Triad, and their work has turned the region into a bodypainting Mecca. Fray is revered for his artistry, and for all of the research and philosophy that underpins much of his work.
Fray and his wife find strength in the ephemeral nature of the art form as well. After weeks of research, and dozens of hours of preparatory painting sessions, and run-throughs, Greco says each of their amazing works of art disappears.
Alex Hansen has reflected on this unique art form and the role it has played in his development as an artist and as a person. And that dedication to the craft paid off at the 2016 National Bodypainting Championship where he took the Third Place prize. Other award winners came to the Triad from India, Italy, and South Korea.
After thirty years of world travel, and now placing in this major competition, Hansen feels like he has finally found his voice as a bodypainting artist.
“I started airbrushing back in 1987 and I was horrible,” he says. “For a year I competed at this club and I never won. Eventually I realized that I have my name. I’ve worked on my brand for so long on my personal self to become who I want to be as an artist, that people say ‘Hey, that’s Alex Hansen.’ They see my work and they know it. And for me that’s most important—that I could inspire people to develop their own thing and remember me, because I did that.”
Hansen’s work is already inspiring body painters all around the world, and, maybe more so than ever, right here in the Triad.