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Inset: Living Canvas

A new kind of new modeling

 by Chelsea Kent
 published on Thursday, February 2, 2006


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Let me just start by saying that, even for a pretty daring person, my Friday night was quite the adventure. I arrived with a friend at The Paper Heart gallery off 7th Avenue and Grand Avenue in Phoenix with the preconceived notion that the night would be relatively short and definitely painless.

I was planning to meet artist Mark Greenawalt, a local body painter, who looks oddly like a mix between Tom Petty and Dwight Yoakam, and his model in order to shoot a picture for this story.

I could have never imagined that within a few minutes of arriving I would agree to fill in as his model for the night. I soon found myself sitting topless on a stool in front of a group of strangers, or art enthusiasts, as I prefer to think of them.

In searching for a way out I met a few interesting women who all had the same "I would but I know too many of the guys here" excuse. It was obvious that I had to either volunteer myself or risk not getting the shot. So I sat back in a plush lounge chair, enjoyed the local bands playing and awaited my soon-to-be-exposed destiny.

As I sat there thinking about what I was about to do, I was surprised that my only real worries were that I might not get a good self-portrait afterwards and the fact that the room was so cold. Greenawalt gave me the signal that it was time to begin and I fled to the bathroom to do my undressing in private. Armed with only a zip up jacket I marched back into the public room and took my seat on a stool functioning as an easel.

With a quick unzip I became a canvas.

I could feel all eyes on me and I hoped he would quickly cover me with the first layer of paint. My hopes turned to prayers with the first spray from his paint gun -- the feeling of cold wet paint spraying out of an airbrush gun in an already cold room wasn't one I wanted to last forever. But after the first layer of white paint, my skin was completely covered and the only thing I had left to worry about were the goose bumps left behind.

Through the inevitable small talk we made, Greenawalt decided to turn me into sheet music. I have to admit I was relieved -- especially after seeing photographs of some of his previous work. I was happy I would not be turned into the Queen of Hearts or another of his wilder designs. Don't get me wrong, playing Texas hold'em poker with my grandma is a blast, but strip poker isn't my thing.

After several hours and what felt like a thousand brush strokes, the composition was finally complete. I had been turned into a human canvas, covered in twisting sheet music. It was an experience that I will never forget and definitely one that won't be happening again. But hey, at least it ended on a positive note -- pun intended.

-- Chelsea Kent



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