My night as a nude body-paint model

Published February 28, 2011 by the St. Petersburg Times

Bend over and spread it, we’re gonna paint every inch. Lift your leg, we’re gonna get that too.

On Feb. 12, I volunteered to be a canvas in MUSE, a body-painting show at ARTpool Gallery and Vintage Boutique in St. Petersburg. We wore nothing but skimpy underwear and bravado.

It started at 9 a.m. sharp on Saturday morning.

At the Aveda Institute, my long blond hair was curled and tussled. I was fluffed with Light Elements Defining Whip and finished with Air Control hairspray. They made me “beachy.”

Things were running late; the painting process is a long one and I was supposed to have been at ARTpool by 10:30 a.m. It was 11:15. I sprinted out of the salon, curls bouncing, and drove to the gallery to meet my artist. Lauren, my model partner, already was one-layer deep.

“Disrobe,” Lauren said. Our artist, Cat Camp, gave me a look that confirmed this was no joke. I did as I was told.

The first cold strokes outlined gray dolphins on my chest. Ribbons of yellow ran down my stomach, hips and thighs. These would later become waves. Lauren had a wreath of orange flower-shapes around her collarbones.

Almost immediately, I was struck by how thorough Cat was. Not a spot was left blank; every crevice and curve was coated. We stretched and flexed to ensure that her work would be all-encompassing.

She painted in layers, building up rich tones of turquoise, blue and green. We were modeled after old-school postcards and airbrushed T-shirts. Cat had been thinking about the fallen St. Petersburg police officers Thomas Baitinger and Jeffrey Yaslowitz. She wanted to create something to honor and feature the city they had died to protect.

It took nearly four hours to get us finished. In that time, we got dolphins in front and sunsets in back. “St. Petersburg,” was drawn on my shoulders, framed by the silhouette of palm trees. “Florida,” was on Lauren’s back. Strokes of blue and white with glittering gold accents waved across our eyes.

The wreath of flower-shapes on Lauren’s chest blossomed into rich hibiscus with strokes of red and yellow, accents of gold. Cat’s steady hand smoothly outlined Lauren’s flowers and my dolphins, creating a deep, three-dimensional effect. Cat worked to our bodies, making sure the natural lines of curves and muscles fit the art.

At 6 p.m., we met the other models for a photo shoot with Marina Williams, the St. Pete maven, fashionista, hipster and networking goddess who runs ARTpool. Her lovely mother gave us bananas, pitying the long hours we’d spent standing still. We stood most of the 14-hour day. Our movement was generally unrestricted, we just had to avoid smudging Cat’s work or soiling patrons.

In front of Marina, we naturally decided to make fiery, sexy poses. Lauren popped her hips and I flexed my abs. There is no half-assing this sort of exhibition. Besides, we were underdressed and cold and needed to turn up the heat.

At 8 p.m. the doors opened and nearly 200 people packed into the roughly 900 square feet of the place. The crowd crammed in around the vintage clothes and pushed out to the walls, nearly knocking down the art. Their warmth filled the room.

Lauren and I were on pedestals. Well, Ikea side tables, really. But we flexed and posed and shot hot glances into every one of the thousand photos taken that night. We were nude but not naked. Painted, we felt covered. We were bubbling along with the din of the room, the butt pinches, the innocent gazing and voyeuristic gawking. Sailing on a cloud of Merlot and high-fives, we rocked them till midnight.

All too soon, it evaporated into the cold of the dark sky. We said goodbye. The paint was washed down the drain as our skin was scrubbed pink and plain.