Body Painting in Hopkins

July 20, 2008 at 9:15 pm 2 comments

Body Painting in Hopkins
A Date With Destiny
Review by Andrew Steinhauer

“You can get anything you want at Alice’s restaurant.
You can get anything you want at Alice’s restaurant…excepting Alice.
Walk right in, its around back,
Just a half a mile from the railroad track.”
– lyrics to song Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie, 1966-67

Those expat, graying Baby Boomers, now sixty-something, out there in reader-land can remember in their uninhibited hippie daze the body painting craze of 1967-68-69. In those radical times a major liberalization in social mores took place- the status quo was challenged right, left and center. One manifestation of that loosening of traditional customs occurred in dress –or more precisely lack thereof. Hippies meandering around at music fests (like Woodstock, 1969) scantily clad or butt-naked were a common sight. Ho, hum just another nature lover.

An outgrowth of the new found prevalence of nudity was the fad of ‘body painting’. Body Painting was an art style that substituted the human physique for canvas as a surface to paint on. If memory serves me correct, I participated in a number of Body Painting happenings as a university art student in the late sixties. A different way of interfacing art and social ethos.

For historical accuracy Body Painting was NOT invented by Hippies. Body Painting was widespread thousands of years ago as a form of ritualized ornamentation. Even today the art of Body Painting is practiced in tribal cultures in parts of Africa, off-the-grid Pacific islands, Ingenious tribes in the Amazon Rainforest and Aboriginal tribes in Australia. So it’s nothing really new, more an incorporation of non-Western mores into modern society. The Amazon tribes traditionally use annatto, huito, or wet charcoal to bedeck their bodies.

There was a famous case in 1933 when cosmetic entrepreneur Max Factor had a booth set up at the World’s Fair in Chicago were his exhibited his newest line of make-up by body painting a scantily clad model with them. He was arrested and charged with “casing a public disturbance”.

I haven’t thought much at all about my old Body Painting days 40 years ago until three weeks ago while staying at my pet resort in Hopkins- Kismet Inn- and an unplanned, totally extemporaneous Body Painting party took place. Déjà vu all over again.


The owner /manager Tricia Wipfler is a dedicated, highly prolific painter who runs her lodge similar to a Hippie commune, circa Taos, New Mexico, 1968. She is the catalyst and conductor for artistic events that occur at her lodge. A menagerie of creative types- musicians, spiritualists, painters, carnival freaks, Euro-trash econo-travelers and cultural eccentrics are drawn to the artistic ambiance of Tricia’s lodge.

On June 23rd, the day before the Summer Solstice a group of four North American-Europeans- four women- converged on Kismet (which is the Hindu word for destiny). A yoga instructor/ modern dancer, Jude; Gemma, a tour guide and self proclaimed ‘She Goddess’ from Marin County, California who is currently working in Guatemala; Emily from England, a student knocking around Central America and Janet, a primary school teacher originally from New Jersey, presently residing in Hollywood, Florida.


The communal kitchen/dining area also functions in non-dining hours as Tricia’s painting studio. There are two boxes full of various paints and brushes stored in the corner. The art supplies caught Jude’s eye. She had the itch to paint. No canvas was around, so in honor of the Summer Solstice and the rituals of some tribalist cultures she suggested a Body Painting party. Some say that Summer Solstice gatherings have their source in pre-Christian Irish culture when the Celts honored the Goddess Áine, the Celtic equivalent of Venus (goddess of beauty and love). The girls were already wearing bikinis, so the painting started on all available flesh. They took turns: one was the “canvas” the other the “artist” then they would shift jobs. Beatles music was playing, “We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine….” Brandy and One Barrel were flowing like the mighty Mopan. The painting party moved outside to the beach. The music switched to classic Janice Joplin, “Ball and Chain”, “I said I don’t understand honey, but I wanna chance to try, Try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try.”. Jude became possessed by Joplin’s uninhibited vocals and cast aside her bikini top and bottom for an all over painting. Gemma, Emily, Janet and other ‘canvases’ followed suit.


Elvis started an impassioned Garifuna drum riff. The atmosphere was charged.

There were more ‘canvases’ than painters. Even though I haven’t handled a paint brush in over 25 years I figured painting is like riding a bicycle, once ya learn, ya don’t forget- so I volunteered as a “painter”. A dirty job, but somebody had to do it. If truth be told, those bare buttocks were appealing ‘canvases’. Amazing how fast my painting facility returned and along with that a wave of unabashed nostalgia over those by-gone radical days of the 60s.

Yes, that nostalgia for those days of radicalism and idealism seems quaint to today’s jaded, bottom-line fixated eyes- but it had serious currency back then. The 60s was a time of free-wheeling experimentation and challenging the man. The first decade of the 21st century is the time of money grubbing exploitation and fear of the boogeyman (terrorism).

Back to the Body Painting fete. Much frolicking and posing up on the beach and in the water followed. The designs were curvilinear, biomorphic, organic- inspired by the curves of the canvas. A festive, spontaneous time was had by all.

Body Painting is not a scheduled activity at Kismet Inn- it just happened out of the blue. Though within the creative environs of Kismet anything might transpire. An adventure waiting to happen. Kismet Inn, a unique and special tourist lodge experience. Kismet reservations can be made at 523-7280.

Critic’s note: Artists or artistically orientated resorts that would like coverage, contact reviewer at 664-1590.


Entry filed under: Exhibitions.

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