WATCH: The brave nude world of a body-painting artist: "When people see naked people in public, they're disarmed"

Andy Golub opens up about the transformative power of the bare body when used as a canvas

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published June 1, 2017 6:35PM (EDT)

We may be used to seeing paintings of nude human bodies inside museums, but artist Andy Golub is flipping the script. Golub has created public body-painting events around the globe, using volunteers of all shapes, ages and sizes to promote free expression — and hope. On a recent episode of "Salon Talks" he discussed his June 9 project with Human Connection ArtsBody Notes in Times Square that will incorporate 200 volunteer models sharing messages of positivity and acceptance, their figures serving as canvases.

"When people see naked people in public, they're disarmed," Golub explained. "They're like, 'Why are you doing that? What is that?' On some level they know it. On another level, it contradicts what they expect."

The resulting art is shaped by the experience: "The person has a soul, the person has a spirit, they have an energy," he said. "And I found that their energy was even participating in the making of the art so then it was even more collaborative."

After experimenting with the art form in the studio, Golub realized he wanted to share his work publicly. "It was a transformational process. Even though you're painting on the outside of a person, it reveals more about their inside. It's a unique process," he said.

Instrumental in helping to change New York City's public nudity laws, Golub has generated international attention for his projects.  "The percentage of positive to negative is probably 95 to 5," he said. He accepts the fact that there will be a small crowd of dissenters, saying, "Some people complain, but one of the things that's good about visual things is you can easily look away."

Added Golub: "If someone's really angry about it, they're really angry not about the fact that they have to see it. They're angry about the fact that it exists and anybody can see it." Catch more of his interview on Salon.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Andy Golub Body-painting Free Speech Human Connection Arts New York City Public Nudity Laws Times Square