Tattoo You: The Body As Canvas

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As we’ve reported here before, fashion trends and healthy body image do not always go hand in hand. The number of times I’ve heard girls complain about what they can/can’t wear because of unattractive hips, thighs, boobs, whathaveyou is enough to make me want to buy them all Freud dolls or Susie Orbach’s new book, just to shut them up. Which is why this new trend, as a celebration of fashion and body gloriously in sync, is so pleasing. Please take your front row seats for the Body Art Fashion Show.

This season, skin is in, and not in a buffed, scrubbed, tanned to perfection kind of way. As tattoos become more mainstream (and even easily removable, it would seem), body art is a beautiful and powerful way to make a fashion statement. Like a more grown-up and arguably sexier version of the childhood face paint days (just check out this bodypaint Sports Illustrated shoot for affirmation of the latter), body art has a transformative, slightly magical quality about it. And whilst it was once the preserve of kiddie birthdays, it has taken on a more adult edge, with airbrush artists offering their services for the pre-clubbing party crowd.

Where henna body art was every ’90s scenester’s favorite form of dress up and the World Body Painting Festival brought body art to a niche market, things have taken a more artistic turn of late: This year, artist Meredith Ostrom still managed to shock the media by using her body to paint on canvas rather than as a canvas; a process that is reminiscent of Yves Klein‘s work, in which he got models covered in paint to make imprints on the canvas.

So what’s the sociological meaning behind this trend? Body art, in all its forms of body celebration and mutilation, has often been interpreted as a way to explore social taboos and to define and test the mental and physical boundaries of the body. With distorted virtual bodies everywhere and as many of us experiment with a disembodied version of ourselves online it’s not such a surprise that we want to be reminded of our corporeal reality. Body art gives us an opportunity to reflect on the socialized body — how our bodies have been changed and shaped by the world we live in — and find creative ways to play with the body as it is imagined, and as a physical presence.

And if you needed further convincing, these stunning photos from the Bullets 4 Peace fashion show in Hollywood last year attest to just how much is possible when you’ve got imagination and a lot of paint.