Skin City’s June Artist of the Month, Ragen Mendenhall, is a fiercely talented artist. A native Las Vegan, Ragen has consistently proven herself to be an invaluable Skin City team member. She was a winner at the 2010 North American Body Paint Championship in Las Vegas! Most recently, Ragen was the lead artist on a job for the Electric Daisy Carnival that won the top prize in the fest’s “You Are the Headliner” costume contest.
Skin City: Where did you grow up?
Ragen: I was born and raised in Las Vegas ~ which many people find hard to believe… I don’t know why… when people express their shock regarding my origin, I enlighten them with the realization that Vegas IS one of the most popular places to conceive children, so it makes perfect sense. Though some might find the glitz and glamour of my hometown to be somewhat superficial, I always found the drama of Vegas to be a source of inspiration. As a kid I was always awed by the surreal facades on the Vegas Strip, they embodied a fantastic opulence and provided my imagination with fuel. I could visit the Luxor in Egypt, be a medieval damsel, and then be whisked away to the magical land of OZ… all in one night. And, yes… I was raised on shrimp cocktail and many a steak and egg breakfast.
SC: How old were you when you started art, and what got you started?
R: I’ve been creating art for so long, it is truly the breath and voice of my love for life! I’ve always had a gift for drawing and painting and I developed and refined it through high school. I attended the Las Vegas Academy, a magnet school for performing and visual arts, and then received a scholarship to Seattle Art Institute. I don’t ever remember a time in my life when I have not been making art in some fashion or another.
SC: Can you give an example of how Las Vegas inspired your art?
R: I remember one of the most powerful catalysts in shaping my artistic direction was when I saw the Cirque Du Soleil performance of Mystere… The intense dreamlike quality, vivid color and dynamic emotion of the show absolutely captivated me. I casually wondered if I could design costumes, perform or somehow be otherwise involved artistically with the group, but I never pursued my desire to work on the show itself. I think the themes in that particular show did subtly imbue my painting style with its dreamy, otherworldly quality. How fitting that today, I find myself regularly body painting many of the performers from Cirque!
SC: What are your favorite Vegas hotspots and why?
R: As a native Las Vegan, my day-to-day lifestyle doesn’t really involve gambling or perusing the Strip, but I prefer to spend time enjoying the beauty of nature at Red Rock or Mount Charleston. Vegas does tend to spoil one with its 24/7 attitude… and the convenience of buying your groceries at 2:00 am, should you feel like it.
SC: Who are your role models and why?
R: I am certain you would see by looking at my paintings, my reverence for Gustav Klimt. Many have commented on the influence of the “Art Nouveau” style in my work. I’m completely fascinated by the artists in the early 1900’s who celebrated this particular style. They sought to emulate the organic world and the art of the time had a very feminine feeling to it. Also, one particular artist that has greatly influenced me is Susan Seddon Boulet.
SC: What got you started in body painting?
R: I got into body painting a couple of years ago, when Robin, simply an acquaintance of mine at the time, invited me to join her on a body painting “job”. Beyond Halloween, I had no idea there was any sort of professional calling for this, but I quickly realized that there were all sorts of events that required artists to turn people into walking works of art. I began to make my living as a professional body painter, working for Skin City. We are often hired by photographers, or companies looking to advertise, utilizing a beautiful model as a sort of “walking billboard” at events or parties. It is extremely effective, you can’t help but notice a painted person walk into the room!
SC: Can you recall for us a memorable body paint design?
R: I quickly began to understand that body painting was quite a well-celebrated expression, with all sorts of gatherings and competitions around the world. I decided to compete when the North American Body Painting Championship came to Las Vegas in 2010. It was a thrilling experience with artists from all over the globe participating for cash prizes. It was enlightening to feel the excitement from so many creative people who were just as fascinated by this art form as I am. Painting under the theme of “Evolution”, my entry, a body painted firebird, soaring through the galaxy, complete with a meticulously sculpted headdress, was awarded fifth place! [Pictured left.]
SC: Any other interesting stuff about you you’d like to share? R: I would be delighted to share my artwork with you, and I hope you will visit my website: http://www.ragensart.com to see my paintings and other artistic projects! — Thanks for your incredible talent and hard work, Ragen!