Artist Andy Golub hosted his final Bodypainting Day on Sunday, July 23, a decade after the event’s inception. The artistic affair took place in Union Square Park’s North Plaza from 12-4pm.
In 2007, Golub began painting bare bodies on the New York City streets as an act of artistic expression, as well as of sociopolitical consequence.
Golub says he resisted initial characterizations of his artwork as a “stunt.”
“I always thought it was a public statement, a very public statement, but it was also a statement that was made by genuinely just trying to make the best art I can.”
By 2016, Bodypainting Day became an international event with locations in Amsterdam and Brussels, and in 2017, Golub founded the non-profit Human Connection Art. The organization aims to further values of acceptance and community that Golub extends.
Among the attendees at Sunday’s event were seasoned models who had been part of the event since its inception. Initially, in its early days, , there were legal challenges with police arresting models covered in body paint, but landmark lawsuits established body painting as a form of art protected under the First Amendment, allowing it to continue to thrive.
On the other hand, some models and artists were newcomers to the event, excited to be a part of it for the first time. However, their joy was dampened by news that this would be the final Bodypainting Day ever held in New York City.
“One of my friends was doing it and she sent me all the material and I decided to join in the fun as well,” said first time model Alyssa Swartz, as she stood on platform while Golub did some breastwork touch ups.
“I’ve been here probably six or seven of the years,” David Ward, another painted model commented.
“I hope it won’t be the last,” Ward said. “I hope after a hiatus, it comes back. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”
Ward said one of his favorite things is watching the reaction of onlookers. “Some people don't stop. Others when they realize what is going on are like, ‘what?!’ But most people stop and smile,” Ward said.
Another model, Kim Sarosky said she tried to get in last year, but applied too late. “I really wanted to be a part of it,” Sarosky -- who works as a director of pharmaceutical services at Mount Sinai by day -- said.
“I think it is a great medium to express art and show vulnerability. I love it,” Sarosky added. “I’m sad it’s the last year.”
Sarosky was the living canvas for the experienced artist Patrick Lawless, who, during the day, worked as a teacher. With skillful hands and artistic precision, Lawless transformed Sarosky’s body into a mesmerizing masterpiece. On her back, a striking samurai warrior emerged, while her front showcased the graceful elegance of a geisha. The intricate artwork brought together the essence of two distinct worlds, blending them harmoniously on Sarosky’s body.
Lawles said he was using Sarosky’s body to show “the duality of elegance and strength.”
One of the true veterans of all ten years at Bodypainting Day was Kiki Alston, who had been a prominent model throughout the event’s history. Adorned from head to toe in a breathtaking display of body art, Kiki held a staff with poise, gracefully puffing on a pipe, and adorned a stunning headdress. Her captivating presence and dedication to the event made her a standout among the models, leaving a lasting impression on both artists and onlookers alike.
Alston also appeared in some shows when founder [Andy] Golub travelled to Europe to Amsterdam and elsewhere. In fact, after Golub’s tenth and final show in New York, he actually has one more scheduled for the island of Crete. It will mark the tenth event in Europe and bring the grand total of 20 worldwide before the curtain rings down.
“Andy opened up a lot of doors for me and saw my body in a different way,” Alston said. In addition, Alston was a “canvass” for a depiction of the Empire State Building.
“He will always be my paint daddy,” Alston said, referring to Golub. “He’s the only white man to get me naked in the streets,” she added with a hearty laugh.
Caitlin Ronayne, an accomplished individual with a Ph.D. in art, has recently made her way from San Francisco to Crown Heights. As the curator of the esteemed B Dry Goods art gallery, she brings her expertise and passion for the arts to the vibrant community. Despite her recent arrival, Caitlin’s impressive qualifications and experience in the art world have already made a noticeable impact in the local creative scene.
She said was painted in the colors representing Bisexuality Day by artist Niazja Kios, who painted “Blessed” on Caitlin’s body. “I always wanted to be body painted, and now my dream has come true,” Caitlan said.
Michale Fulton, who was also painted by Kios, said it was his fifth Bodypainting Day. Knowing this was the final one, Fulton said it “is kind of bittersweet. But it’s always a fun thing to be a part of.”
When asked why he was ending the event after a ten year run, Golub told Straus News, “It’s time for a change.”
“The event is not a spectacle,” Golub added. “It's a statement about the importance of freedom of expression, the beauty of the human body and using public space to connect with people rather than as an opportunity for advertising. Those are all statements and I feel after ten years, we’ve made our statement.”
Golub acknowledged he is thinking about bigger events for the future. Next year, he said he hopes to turn Bodypainting Day into a three day festival in Coney Island.
“It will be connected to this,” he said, “but it won't be this. It will be a festival.”