A festival puts Albuquerque on the forefront of the flesh-painting movement
Mark Reid lost his girlfriend when he started body painting three years ago. "She didn't like the fact that I was painting another naked woman, and yadda yadda yadda," he says.
Reid, who started working in oils at age 10, has rejected the canvas. He's able to make his living painting people and as an instructor in the art. In 2004, he was the first American to win the International Face and Body Art Convention in Orlando, Fla.
"Let me see this butt cheek, please," he instructs Susan, the model for his exhibition last week.
He's painting blue jeans on Susan, who requested her last name not be printed. Clothes are some of his favorite subjects to paint on people, and many passersby in UNM's Student Union Building do a double take when they realize Susan's pants aren't fabric, but water-based makeup meticulously applied. Standing before us is not a woman in her underwear and T-shirt. Rather, Susan's in what looks like her favorite pair of worn jeans, complete with details like rivets, pockets, creases, a compact in her back pocket, a tear in the knee.
"I've painted some women totally naked—no G-string, no pasties, nothing. I've painted clothes on them and taken them out in the middle of a busy street and photographed them. And nobody notices. It is just the coolest thing," Reid says.
When Susan first agreed to be painted in the window of Sachs on Central, she had to think hard about getting nearly nude in public. "What do I think about myself physically?" she asked herself. "Do I think of myself as someone who is fit and physically attractive?"
Reid paints women of all body types, though there's no shortage of curvy, large-breasted women in his portfolio. If he's not in a competition, where everything is planned in advance, he tailors each image to the body of the person he's working on. Nine times out of 10, he says, he doesn't know what he's going to paint until he sees his living canvas.
After the show, an audience member comes up and asks Reid if he's ever considered painting horses.
"You got a white horse?" Reid asks. "Let's do it."
Painting people requires something extra from the artist, Reid and Susan say. It can take between three and nine hours to complete a piece, for one thing. Conventional artists don't have to worry about whether their media is comfortable, or whether the canvas is ticklish, needs to change position or has accidentally smudged detail on the painting. "You can't put your paints down and come back and finish it tomorrow," Reid notes.
Every three months, Reid has gotten together with face painter Pam Trent at the Factory on 5th and put on body painting exhibitions. Drinking wine one night, Reid says, they decided to put on what he claims is the first U.S. body painting competition in the states. Trent up and bought the domain name (www.newmexicobodypaintingfestival.com) right then and there. The festival will feature classes, a body painting jam, a competition of 30 selected artists and a market. All of the women will wear G-strings and pasties, since the event's in a public venue. "If we didn't do it, someone else was going to, and I'd have been kicking myself," Reid says.