As I stood in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York City, all I could see in every direction were artists, models, and swarms of photographers. Today, though, was so much more than an average flashy New York event. The artists, you see, were not pulling out regular cans and tubes of paint, and the models were not donning fancy clothes—on the contrary, the streets were filled with people taking their clothes off. Today, in the middle of the bustling city, was the annual BodyPainting Day NYC, and for the first time ever, I was ready to join the fun.

I stood in line for body-painting artist Yvett Darcie, who asked me “Give me three words to describe yourself.” I was nervous to remove my clothes and allow myself to be vulnerable enough to let my body be a canvas for her creativity. The thought of being 60 years old and naked in the streets of New York City with my aging body made me hesitate, but I also wondered how this experience might change and empower me. Over the past year, I have learned that change never happens in the comfort zone, so I looked at Yvett and answered “A Warrior Goddess” as I started to remove my clothes.

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BodyPainting Day NYC was created by Andy Golub, and when I first read about it on the FaceBook group for ‘Young Naturists & Nudists America,’ I was intrigued. Over the past year, I’d been having positive and enlightening first-time nude experiences by going to a nude beach, a naked yoga class, and splashing out my 2016 New Year at a Polar Bare Plunge, but this was a whole new level of courageous for me. At the other events, everyone was nude together, and our collective nervousness and confidence gave us all a sense of camaraderie and strength. This time, I would be nude, but most of the onlookers would be dressed and taking photos.

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Right from the start, though, my fears evaporated as I made friends and started to see Yvett’s amazing design start to take shape on my skin. In the end, the entire painting process lasted a little over 4 hours, broken up into 30-minute sessions with short breaks in between.

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During this time, I smiled for the hundreds of cameras and chatted it up with people on the street. Everyone seemed just as curious and intrigued by this artistic event as I had been. This expression of art and the wild and wonderful designs the artists created were bringing out a child-like wonder and playfulness in everyone who stopped by. There were no feelings of judgment or negativity in the air. Instead, there was an air of vulnerability and trust among all the participants and specators, not just the artists and models. Everyone seemed enthusiastic and connected.

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I laugh now when I remember how worried I was beforehand about the crowds of observers or my body image. This year, the BodyPainting Day’s theme was ‘Inner Beauty,’ and the spirit of that theme suffused not only the artists and models, but also all of New York City that afternoon. In the end, the day was not about individual bodies: It was a celebration of art, togetherness, and the beauty of creativity and bravery.

Sandrabw

 

Photographer: April Anderson at Art As Air