A green smiling monster with one eye and a corset with pink polka dot stockings are just a couple of the designs that were painted on human canvases at an event called “Embodiment” at Native Lounge.
Turning local bodies into canvases for artists by using paints and props, “Embodiment” was held every Thursday at 8 p.m. for a month ending last week. The live exhibit went through four different themes that artists were expected to represent through their art. The first and seconds shows, “Urban” and “Surf,” followed by “Student Art” and a surprise “Finale.”
“Embodiment” was coordinated by Native Lounge nightclub managers, Tyrone Galgano and Johnny Kenny who have been employed by Native since December.
There was fast-paced club music mixed by a disk jockey. Very few were underdressed except for maybe the artists who had their own “blue room” room in the back and decorations included ceiling lanterns and strobe lights.
“This is an event you would see in big cities,” Galgano said. “It’s very different for San Luis Obispo.”
Each show drew anywhere from 200 to 400 people. This is the second year “Embodiment” has appeared at Native, but the first year strictly featured tattoo artists. Last year’s themes included “Day of the Dead” and “Big Top Circus.”
Artists this year spanned from big name locals to college students of all ages. For “Surf,” Eric Soderquist, author of the California Surf Project painted two models together. He made wings out of surfboards which joined the two of them. Other local professional artists included Jeff Claassen, from San Luis Obispo’s Claassen gallery and artists from Forever Stoked, Chris Pedersen and Charlie Clingman’s local art company.
Megan Whitney, a Cal Poly graduate, works at Forever Stoked. Her first week painting she used a lot of bubbles for “Surf” and coming back for the last week she wanted more of a feminine theme for Valentine’s day. Describing her model as a fairy, she used flowers and feathers for her designs.
“It’s fun as an artist to work on a different canvas,” Whitney said. “With dimensions, it becomes a moving canvas … almost like a sculpture, where your design takes on a 3D appearance.”
Cliff Elbl, an art student at Cuesta college chose to do an abstract graphic of a bear from a book that he recalls seeing.
“I thought I was going to paint a woman so I came prepared to do a beautiful swan, but I got a body builder,” Elbl said. “A the last minute I changed my idea by going more masculine and doing a bear. I put cute little paws on his hands though.”
Other artwork included a skull and tongue on the back, a sunset on the stomach and morbid looking white faces that spanned over the shoulder and down the hips. Two artists worked with traditional Japanese art, one of which had a Komodo dragon wrapping around the model’s body.
Sara Fox, a Cuesta college student, used a Japanese umbrella as a prop on the runway. Models are dressed in bikinis or underwear and have the option of going topless with pasties.
“I was nervous about the no clothes part, but everyone else was too, so I figured if I was going to do it I might as well go all out,” Fox said.
Paints used on the models include India ink, body paint and acrylic. Some models are painted for up to six hours for a show that lasts no more than 30 min. The venue, Native Lounge, consists of three stages, inside and outside that act as posing breaks on the runway.
Jamie Evans, a wine and viticulture senior at Cal Poly, participated in an event called Fashion Sessions, a runway show for local designers, boutiques and salons held at Native Lounge in the Fall. She was called to join the Embodiment crew and has since participated in all three events so far.
“I love that you can use your body to give art a personality,” Evans said.
For the “Student Art” show, most of the models were very comfortable even though for many it was their first time getting painted. Eric Martin, a 2007 Cal Poly graduate who also participated in Fashion Sessions said this was his first Embodiment show.
“I’m extremely ticklish,” Martin said. “You just have to hit me in the right spots. Otherwise it feels really good … kind of like a spa treatment.”
Martin commented that acting as a human canvas is a great way for local talent to get exposure. Before the show began, Martin’s paint among other models began to fade because of sweating and moving around.
Not only was sweat an issue, but during the “Surf” event, weather posed a problem with the outdoor runway.
“During the show it started to rain lightly,” Galgano said. “Surprisingly little paint was lost. It was almost perfect. Right at the end of the show it started pouring.”
With over 100 models showing up at open-casting in January, only 40 were called back to be in the shows for ensuing weeks. The parameters range from being at least 18 to showing an ability to present yourself well, according to Galgano.
“They are given no compensation, but do get full access to photos and the event,” Galgano said.
Many models were sought out by the managers and others heard about the event through friends or posters.
Logan Hunt, a general engineering senior at Cal Poly explains how his group of friends created something called “Classy Thursdays” where they would dress nice and go to Native Lounge in the evenings.
“We started doing them for fun in the summer and the managers liked it so much, they started official Classy Thursdays at the club,” Hunt said.
Hunt says that’s how he got involved with Embodiment, why he modeled twice for the shows and why the events were held on Thursdays. Hunt discussed how he felt like a tribal warrior with the artwork that consumed his body during Surf week. He did a yoga handstand on stage where he balanced his legs on his arms. He wanted to do a full handstand for the student art show, but was only successfully 80 percent of the time when practicing and didn’t want the other 20 percent to result on stage.
Hunts main reasons for participating in Embodiment include the free champagne offered to models 21 and over, and getting to walk around in his underwear.
“It’s pretty standard because I walk around in my underwear all the time when I’m at home so this time it was just in front of a group of people,” Hunt said. “I’m not going to shower for three weeks because it’s awesome. I’ve got some Axe body spray so it’ll be fine.”
Some new faces showed up to audition for the “Student Art” show. They gathered in the lounge and began to strip down when the host informed them not to be upset if they didn’t get picked. Hunt commented that everyone in the room would be chosen after a quick scan.
San Luis Obispo Beauty College did the hair and makeup for the models. Evelyn Kinner, a beautician from the school, is participating this year.
“I look at the piece and try to enunciate whatever interesting thought is behind it,” Kinner said. “If it’s hard, I spike it up and if it’s soft, I use soft makeup. (Embodiment) empowers our love of our body through art and abstract thought.”
Aside from the modeling, art and makeup, there was a live dance performance put on by Suzy Miller each week. As a freelance choreographer, Miller puts together a dance routine with local dancers to start off the night.
“Where I go for work is more G-rated normally,” Miller said about her choreography. “We have to work really quick which is daunting but also exciting.”
Trying to get the crowd involved, with short skirts and whips, one of her dancers in the performance was holding a cardboard book with the title “how to fuck like a man.”
“The artwork is creative in a whole different way transforming the human body,” Miller said. “There’s adult sensibility with a different humor and different style.”