It’s not often that a work of art can strike up a chat with its viewer, but onlookers experienced just that at Greensboro’s Corner Bar on a recent Friday evening as five renowned body painters showcased their skills.
“These paintings can engage you soul to soul,” Scott Fray, with his wife Madelyn Greco the reigning world champions of body-painting. “They can converse with you… in a way that no flat piece of canvas could do. There’s a built-in level of excitement and energy.”
When Corner Bar’s owner Kenny Giard saw an event that model Taylor Ridge organized, he reached out with the idea of tying in local arts with the “art” of brewing for Brewfest, part of Triad Craft Brew Week.
Trish Shroyer, sales manager for the Greensboro-based Freedom Beverage Company, partnered with Ridge and Giard.
“I love to save the animals but everybody does politically correct and carbon-copied events,” Shroyer said. “I want to always think outside the box.”
Brewing companies sponsored the body-painters and models and cover fees benefitted Center for Visual Artists, a nonprofit in the Greensboro Cultural Center that supports emerging artists through education, exhibits and outreach.
Learn more about the Center for Visual Artists at greensboroart.org.
Fray said the July 14 event was aimed at inspiring regional interest in “this most living of art forms.”
“People are very surprised that something so different, vibrant and interesting and cutting-edge can happen here in essentially a middle-size town in the South,” Fray said. “The bleeding edge of body-painting is not happening in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles; it is happening in Greensboro, North Carolina.”
Before the event Greco fashioned headpieces representing the five brewing companies, but on Friday night she spent her evening painting an eerie, two-headed creature from Weyerbacher’s Double IPA, the company’s Brunacorn and their sly joker logo on model Brandy Valentine.
Tiffany Beckler, previously a “Skin Wars” competitor, drew inspiration from Moonlight Meadery as she painted an owl on Ridge’s right thigh. Whereas a less seasoned artist might fill considerable surface area with solid black paint, Beckler pulled off a dreamy landscape featuring a wolf’s stoic visage on Ridge’s chest and leafless tree branches reaching toward her collarbones.
“When I started body-painting in 2006, we were underground and… I was grasping at straws to find other people,” Beckler said. “Now we have television shows like ‘Skin Wars’ and ‘Face Off.’ It’s growing.”
Yet, Beckler and Craven both said one of the biggest hurdles for the niche is the hypersexualization and shaming of women’s bodies.
“In America, it’s still very taboo,” Craven said. “There’s a message of, ‘Your body is nasty and dirty and you should always have it covered.’”
“Body painting isn’t pornography,” Beckler added. “A lot of people have the mindset that it’s for sexual satisfaction…[but] when they come watch the process, they have a realization; they see it does take six or seven hours to create, and they appreciate it as an art form more.”
Normalizing the taboo was an obvious theme throughout the night.
In the bar’s gravel parking lot, Mitch Cook, a Corner Bar patron involved with the Center for Visual Artists, settled into his ritual: He plugged in his headphones, cranked Keys N Krates’ “I Just Can’t Deny” and danced as he let his intuition guide his spray can.
Over the course of three hours, as people munched chicken sandwiches from the Cluck Truck, Cook embellished a purple backdrop with playful arcs and polka dots of orange and sky blue with bold, superimposed red and black letters: “CB,” a nod to locals’ nickname for Corner Bar.
To Cook’s right, Brian Lewis, aka JEKS, brought Heretic Brewing Company’s sneering devil logo to life.
To Cook’s left, Jeff Beck, a graphic designer-turned-street artist and co-owner of Urban Grinders coffee shop, drew inspiration from Freedom Beverage’s simple logo: 13 stars representing the United States’ 13 original colonies. Implementing both spray paint and brushes, Beck fashioned graffiti-style letters spelling “beer.” The letters resembled beer glasses — complete with overflowing foam — against a blue, starry background.
Each piece was subsequently displayed at Brewfest, then auctioned.
“Best thing about this [event] is I always like to try to paint with another person…[and] I love painting with JEKS,” Cook said. “He has an old-school background and I’m a new-school kind of guy so I learn a lot of techniques and styles and he learns from me. The synergy is always there. It’s the same with Jeff; he’s doing things that are different from everybody else around here.”