On a recent snowy March afternoon in New Jersey, I found myself lugging body paint supplies & a precarious tray full of take-out coffee up a seemingly-endless twisting flight of fire escape stairs. I tried to ignore the shaking of the skinny slats of iron under my feet – which definitely did not seem strong enough to hold the weight of me and my suitcase full of body paints and brushes. The falling snow blurring my vision and making the metal beneath my feet cold and slippery wasn’t helping either! My partner in crime on this blustery day was the one and only Andy Golub – which made this journey seem worth the effort!
Andy famously took on the New York City justice system to fight for the right to body paint nude models in public.
I knew of Andy and had briefly met him once before. So when I was asked to travel to New York for a promo event for my TV show Skin Wars, I jumped at the opportunity to reach out to Andy and see if he might be interested in collaborating on a body paint project together while I was in town. I offered to pay for the models if he could hook everything up. He was super friendly and accommodating and found a couple of lovely young ladies and a photographer to work with us. The photographer’s studio was on the fourth floor of the warehouse building we were currently climbing, and I was beginning to feel as if I was rescuing a princess in a tower. By the time we reached the door, we were panting but smiling, and our knocks were greeted with friendly hugs from Tom Mac the photographer. The two models Tori Long & Caitlin Michele were waiting in the warmth of the heated studio and just so happened to be jonesing for coffee, so my instinct to pick up cups of Joe for everyone were right on target.
Andy’s style of painting reminds me a lot of the work of the artist Keith Haring. I’ve heard Andy and others refer to it as painting “soul on skin”. The body painter responds to the models body shape, coloring and mood, mixed with how the artist is currently feeling, to create an impromptu abstract narration of the energy in the room. It is expressionistic and almost spiritual. Personally, I very rarely just let myself go like that while body painting. I mostly work for clients where logos and sketches are mapped out ahead of time. Even in my own fine art body paint I research and sketch and plan almost every detail out before I begin. However, I decided that if I was going to paint with Andy Golub then I wanted to experiment and experience his style of painting and see how it felt.
After introductions and set up, Andy and I briefly pow-wowed about how to approach this painting together. Should we each take one model and work on her individually? Should we paint the front of one and the back of the other? We agreed to just really go for it and paint together on both models, switching bodies whenever the impulse struck us. Andy told me before we began that I was welcome to paint over anything he did and also not to be offended if he painted over my work and I agreed. He told me later that he actually rarely collaborates like this, but we were both pretty amazed by how smooth and organic it all felt. It was such a fun task to tackle together and neither one of us got too attached to what we were creating or what it “should” look like, but just stayed open and responsive and flowed with the rhythm of the experience. It was really liberating for me to participate in this kind of bodypainting. Everything felt just perfect. Unfortunately, as can often happen when body painting, a few hours in one of the models was perhaps locking her knees or even had a touch of the flu coming on and suddenly felt nauseous and dizzy. After bathroom breaks and sips of water and placing her head between her knees, we were still worried about her. She was a real trooper however and did not want to throw away all the work we had done without getting pictures to document it. The solution we came up with was to lay them both down on their backs and put their feet up to help her feel better but also allow us to finish painting them. After our finishing touches the photographer decided to continue the photo shoot on the ground so the models would be more comfortable. This actually turned out to be really fortuitous and Tom was able to get some very interesting and unique photos.
By the end of the photo shoot everybody was feeling better and we were all really pleased with what we had accomplished.
Getting to know Andy was a real treat. I learned he is a truly inspired artist, a loving family man as well as a body paint provocateur and activist. He is also a real gentleman who graciously picked me up and dropped me off in his car that day – a real blessing when traveling in New York with a heavy bag! The commute from New York to New Jersey and back gave us lots of time to chat and get to know each other and made the day extra meaningful.
Fellow Skin Wars judge Craig Tracy and I will both be joining Andy for the New York City Body Painting Day celebration. It is an event that Craig and Andy conceived of three years ago, and it is growing every year.
See you in New York on Body Painting Day!