Saturday, June 15, 2013

NaBloPoMo: Thoughts on Impermanent Art

My daughter got her first body painting today, and I suspect that it won't be her last.  My son was slow to agree to the face-painting rage, but even he agreed last summer, and has been transformed a few times since then.

The artist who painted N's arm today is just that: an artist.  She's not just someone who paints faces in the same way that everyone else paints faces.  People become her living canvases.  Not all sparkly butterflies are the same.   (This piece, for example, is just astounding.)

Watching her, I found myself thinking about how selfless her work was.  How painting people with impermanent paint, children especially (who are bound to wipe it off or sweat it off or do who knows what to the paint before it all comes off in one soapy rinse), is art that doesn't last.  My friend C, who happened to be there with us, and who does elaborate cake decoration for fun, said that she'd discussed this with the artist, and they both like this impermanent approach to filling the world with beauty that becomes, in some way, consumed, and then vanishes.

Given our penchant for putting artwork in museums or behind glass in private collections or in any other number of protected spaces, or even putting things on the internet (where they never really go away, even if we delete them), this is so interesting to me.  So much beautiful cake, gone in a matter of minutes, destroyed the moment we slice into it.  So many breathtaking faces (and other body parts), returned to their natural state at the next shower.

Have you ever had your face (or any other body part) painted with temporary body paint?  (I'm not counting tattoos here).  Have you ever eaten a really beautiful cake or an artistically presented meal?  How do you feel about impermanent art?
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  1. I love impermanent art. I think it helps focus our attention on the present, on the power and beauty of the moment, and how important it is to live in that moment.

    I like the idea of body painting for similar reasons to why I like fashion: it transforms, playfully, without being permanent. I think it's healthy to experiment with change, and with an different image, without necessarily committing to that image or transformation for all time.

    My most memorable examples of impermanent art:

    1) our wedding cake, designed and baked by my mother and mother in law. We were married on a paddle-wheeler, and they re-created the boat as a cake.

    2) the experience, at age 15, of making a mask, wearing it, and discovering a completely different character through it, one that only lived behind the mask

    3) All my favourite live music experiences

    4) sitting on the beach at age 22 or so, after graduating with my first degree, and tracing patterns in the sand for hours.

  2. What a beautiful butterfly.

    Body art is such a challenge for some children, when they're faced with letting go sooner than they want to. I'm always surprised that my kids don't mind washing it off; but then, maybe they're happy to see that their real selves are still there underneath.

    Sand sculptures. I saw some amazing ones in State College at the annual festival of arts, and it always amazed me that someone would put so many hours of work into something that was so transient.

  3. I've never thought about it that way, to be honest. I really do love impermanent art in the ways you describe. To some degree flowers/floral arrangements and even gardens can fit here, obviously food of any kind, elaborate wrapping of gifts, hair styles/fashion...
    The idea of beauty simply for beauty's sake is magical, and like torthuil said, the fact that it won't last forever makes you stop and pay attention, more so than a painting you know will be in the museum any time you visit.

  4. As a crafter I loved your post. My hubby is a part time actor and LOVES doing face/theatrical makeup that is truly and art. I have my face done for holidays or parties with kids too.


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