I dress them with art’

Body painting championships plays with the line between naked and not

Yea, that’s paint.
Photo: Vargas

Demi Moore. 1992. The cover of Vanity Fair. It’s been 18 years and still the image of a naked Moore dressed only in a painted three-piece suit remains one of the magazine’s most iconic images. There’s an is-she-naked/is-she-not allure to the photograph that can’t be captured with either fabric or naked flesh. Body paint lurks playfully somewhere in the middle.

This weekend artists from 25 different countries will do their best to turn skin and paint into something as captivating as that Vanity Fair cover in a competitive body painting throwdown. The North American Body Painting Championships (yea, they have a championship for that; there’s even a trophy) will be held February 12-14 at the Flamingo, and the public is invited to watch as painters put brush to body in the hopes of creating a look that will take home top billing and the accompanying cash prize. Among those in the running is Vargas, the one-name body painter known for interpreting World Cup soccer uniforms on the naked forms of drop-dead-gorgeous women.


North American Body Painting Championship
Flamingo Hotel and Casino
Feb.12-14, 2-5 p.m., $25 per day, $60 weekend pass

Rough job, right?

Well, maybe. “We’re talking a process of eight to 12 hours,” says Vargas of a typical day of painting. With hair, makeup and photography (which Vargas does himself) added to the schedule, turning a model in her birthday suit into a model in a painted football uniform isn’t exactly a light day of arts and crafts.

While Vargas’ 2006 World Cup calendar put him on the map, it didn’t help his team. “I’m from Ecuador. Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but we made it to the finals,” Vargas laughs.

These days he’s preparing to paint the shadows and folds of a new batch of soccer uniforms for the upcoming 2010 World Cup in South Africa, many of which likely will look so real you’ll have to take a second look. “People forget that it’s a body and the first thing they see is art. People say, ‘I thought it was clothes. I didn’t realize the person was nude,’” Vargas says. “That’s the fun part.”

However, the 19-year body painting veteran is quick to stress that working on people requires some special attention.

“They’re giving you their canvas. You have to give some kind of respect and consideration.” Vargas says. “That’s the difference between just putting on paint and dressing them with art. In my case, I dress them with art.”

Photo of Sarah Feldberg

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