DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt



Filed under: Body Art — Tags: , , — fred @ 20:02
Sinew 16

Sinew 16, 1992, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt

One of my reasons for starting this blog was to give a new life to some work from my extensive and diverse back catalog.  So let’s get started.

In the early 90’s I was working towards a fresh approach in my art.  I’d done abstract painting, figurative drawing, experimental film, and performance art.  To me it was all just my artwork, but others saw these as completely separate fields.  I was looking for ways to integrate all of it.  Thematically, the art that inspired me was mostly either religious art or erotic art, or the art associated with magical philosophies like alchemy or tantra.  I wanted to integrate the subject matter as well.  Since the late 1980’s I’d been experimenting with approaches to art associated with prehistoric and “primitive” cultures, as these seemed to reflect a conception of artistic creation as a central experience in a unified magical world-view.

In 1989 I attended an all-night experiential performance piece called Journey to Lila by famed Bay Area provocateur Frank Moore, at Franklin Furnace in New York.  I’ll save a fuller description of that night for another post, but the essential is that it was not so much a “performance” as most of us would imagine it, but an initiatory journey, in which the audience was gently but persistently opened to new and mind-liberating experiences.  Frank’s work showed me that, even in the modern world, magical transformation could be the method, not just the subject matter, of art.

I had previously played a little with body painting, but now I was inspired to develop it as an art form.  I started asking people I knew if they wanted to get painted.  One of the early volunteers, seen in these pictures from January, 1992, was my friend Ed.

Sinew 17, 1992. Bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt.

Sinew 17, 1992, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt

In those days I was using liquid tempera poster paint.  It’s very cheap and non-toxic.  The experience of being painted with it is slimy, cold wetness, followed, as it dries and flakes, by a tight, scaly and itchy sensation all over the skin.  It isn’t exactly pleasurable, but it proved to be effective in inspiring those who experienced it to feel thoroughly transformed.

Sinew 18, 1992.  Bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt.

Sinew 18, 1992, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt

The backdrop was a roll of white seamless paper I’d previously used as a dropcloth for earlier bodypainting sessions.  The vertical part of the seamless had been painted by Jen, another artist friend and bodypaint participant, with the same tempera poster paint we used on the bodies.

I never designed or preconceived these paintings.  They were just spontaneous happenings.  But painting on someone is a collaborative process that is unavoidably affected by the quality of the moment and the interaction of painter and paintee.  The brush flows around the hills and valleys of the body, and thus something emerges that reveals both form and underlying energy.

Sinew 23, 1992.  Bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt.

Sinew 23, 1992, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt

Sinew 26, 1992. Body paint and photo by Fred Hatt.

Sinew 26, 1992, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt

Bodypainting took on a life of its own for me.  Whenever I would show this work (in the 90’s it was usually as a slide show), someone would come up to me and volunteer to be painted.  So of course this became a major part of my work and grew many unforeseen branches over the years.

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