Human form as a canvas Body art has a long history and dates back to the earliest times. Whether with permanent marks like tattoos or scars, or temporarydecorations like makeup, clothing, and hairstyles, body art is a way ofsignaling an individual’s place in society, marking a special moment,celebrating a transition in life or simply following a fashion. Whether you look to ancient history, Modernism, or twenty-firstcentury art, you can find examples of adorning the human body orusing the human body as a canvas for artistic expression.
Adorning the Human Form(decorating, embellishing, ornamenting,beautifying) Although ink tattoos are the most popular modern form ofbody art, human beings have been adorning their bodies foraesthetic or ritualistic reasons in some manner or anotherfor thousands of years. Whether it is with the fine strokes of an artist's airbrush orthe precision slices of an expert's scalpel, the world ofhuman body art and body modification is virtually limitless.Anthropologists have discovered that body art is one of thehuman universals that are found in every culture on theplanet.
Ancient Egyptian wooden maskWhen studying body art history,it is striking to notice how thedifferent versions of bothmodern and tribal body art arereflections of the societies thattheir subjects lived within. Bodyart is nearly always heavilyinfluenced by the aesthetic andsocial taboos of the societies thatencourage their use.
Historically,permanent body artwas used to:Correct the humanform into the givenculture's concept ofideal physical beauty.Massai warrior-Kenya
Ndebele woman(Africa) and Myanmar women (Asia)wearing Traditional Neck Rings
Indian tribal cultures also dictate the piercing ofthe nostril.Coming of AgeThe acceptance of suchadornment was considered apart of reaching social maturity.Body art rituals served as a riteof passage.The Apache "Coming of Age" Ceremony, where cornpollen is painted on a young woman.
Identification: tribe members and outsiders can identify eachother by means of their body art.Maori Tattoos
Social status: usually,the bigger the bodymodifications, thehigher on the socialladder someone was.Native American Chief War BodyPaint
Body Art Today In modern society, body art istypically used as: A form of self-expression. A critique of the aesthetic values ofthe larger society. An expression of spirituality orreligion. A fashion statement. A beauty enhancement. A rite of passage of the counterculture and mainstream world alike. Subcultural identification: peopleuse body art to show they belong toa certain subculture (conformism).
Tiwi men in full body design for thefuneral of an important man.Ancient peoples were paintingtheir faces and bodies far beforethe first tattoos or piercings wereinnovated. By some, body paintingis considered the earliest form ofart.Body painting with naturalpigments such as clay existed inmost tribal communities such asthe indigenous people(Aborigines) of Australia.
In India and the Middle East,body painting is known asMehndi. Mehndi is a form ofbody painting that uses dyesmade from Henna. It istypically applied on brides.
Body and face painting today is also used forvarious reasons: Ceremonial, Camouflage during andReligious/Spiritual
Military face painting
A Hindu devotee, his facepainted blue, prepares toembark on a pilgrimage.
Holi, the Indianfestivalof colour
In the modern world,contemporary bodypainting has become anestablished media of fineart during the course ofthe last couple ofdecades.
The New Zealand bodypainter called Joanne Gair(aka Kiwi Jo) is consideredone of the world's leadingbody paint artist. Her artappeared in the SwimsuitIssues from SportsIllustrated from 1999 to2009. One of her mostfamous works is herDisappearing Model:
Maori Tattoos . Social status: usually, the bigger the body modifications, the higher on the social ladder someone was. Native American Chief War Body Paint Body Art Today In modern society, body art is typically used as: A form of self-expression. A critique of the aesthetic values of the larger society. An expression of spirituality or religion. A fashion statement. A .