Full Body Painting Conquered Brazilian Carnival: Body Art Gains Momentum
Body painting definitely made a comeback in 2012 Brazilian Carnival, as Rio´s official samba rehearsals are almost over. There are only more two more practices to be held, one today, Saturday February 11th, and one tomorrow, Sunday February 12th. Although the samba-schools hide most of their floats, costumes, tricks, and surprises for the Final Parade, one “fashion look” or “expression” seemed to have consolidated within Brazil´s Carnival: The use of the body painting techniques as “costumes” or visual ornaments.
After almost two months of official rehearsals, what was a novelty in the 90´s, now became a reality to many samba-schools carnival stylists, who now more and more, use this interesting, but very time-consuming technique, to “clothe” some of their Carnival divas. Andrea Martins from Renascer Samba-School, was one of them, which enjoyed tremendous success, in both of the technical rehearsals in Rio´s Sambadrome she participated. She told us during an exclusive video interview, her assistant took five and a half hours to hand paint her “costume and adornment” in her body. During the video interview, which Brazil Carnival Ooah! was able to record, she described the benefits of samba dancing without the “formal carnival clothing”.
She stated that the lack of clothing allowed for “more freedom” in terms of the dance routines she has to go through. “It’s a wonderful experience”, she stated. As we know, some carnival costumes can weigh from 3 kilos (6.6 lbs) all the way to 25 kilos, (55.1 lbs) as an example, the average weight of a Flag-Bearer costume, called “Porta-bandeira” in the Brazilian Carnival terminology.
See the great shot below by carnival photographer Marcello O´Reilly from Academia do Samba site, of Andrea Martins.
Andrea told Brazil Carnival Ooah!, she was a bit shy in the beginning, but later, as she was preparing to enter Rio´s Sambadrome, with all the drum section roaring and the crowd cheering, she calmed down. She also said people in Brazil are already used to bikinis and know the difference between artistic painting and out of context nudity.
Andrea is not a “parachute celebrity”, a common expression in the Carnival and samba community. She already parades for 3 years in the Rio de Janeiro Carnival as a Muse, and was one of the finalists at the 2010 competitive Official Queen of Carnival contest for the Rio de Janeiro State. Andrea is now 34 years old, but definitely looks much younger. She is 5.5” high, has impressive 43 inches of hip size, and is a accomplished samba dancer teacher in Rio. The total cost of each body-paint session amounts for US$ 1,000.00 and the body painting costume-design was inspired by Romero Britto´s art, which is the parade theme for Renascer Samba-School.
Below, another great shot from Marcelo O´Reilly from Academia do Samba, from Andrea Martins, Muse, on the first technical reharsal.
Today in Brazil, there are already a few body- painting artists which are gaining increasingly notoriety. The most famous today, W. Veríssimo, was born in São Paulo State, in a country side city called Franca. He now constantly appears in TV shows and is widely requested to body paint celebrities, actresses, and models for parties, expos, and elegant balls. In his site he states: “Body painting is older than we thought. Studies indicate that they originate from about 2000-4000 BC”. Among his clients, who are as he explains, are “part of the artwork itself”, include many attractive Brazilian women: Angela Bismarchi - former Carnival Queen for Porto da Pedra Samba-School; Sheila Mello – former Carnival Queen for Acadêmicos do Tucuruvi – SP; Quitéria Chagas - former Carnival Queen for Império Serrano Samba-School and Ellen Cardoso - former Carnival Queen for Paraiso do Tuiuti Samba-School ; to mention a few on the Carnival scenario.
Below we see Jéssica Maia, former official Queen of Rio de Janeiro Carnival, in a bopy-paint costume. Her she paraded as a Muse for Paraiso do Tuituti Samba-School, in 2009.
Photo Credit: Roberto Filho /2009
Another very famous artist, who in addition to his other techniques, also hand painted the body of sculptural women in Brazil, was the late Albery Seixas da Cunha, a.k.a. Albery. More experienced and artistically known abroad, Albery born in the Northern State of Pará, is a truly internationally recognized painter, craftsman, printmaker and sculptor. He was probably the first body-painter artist that worked also for Carnival celebrities. Apart from his body-painting works, Albery was an gifted artist: His early oils were made in 1959 in Rio de Janeiro, where he lived until 1970, year he moved to Paris. Albery is still today one of the few contemporary Brazilian artists beyond doubt recognized.
Below we see probably the single carnival celebrity, Angela Bismarchi, which probably had the most number of body painting designs, artworks. She was friends with the late Albery, famous artist and painter in Brazil, who died in 2003.
The late Albery, (who died in April 2003), as stated above, is among the most important artists within Brazilian contemporary art. He knew like very few, just how to merge the right dose Brazilian flora and fauna by harmonizing them to perfection, in shapes and colors. In Rio, Albery shot to fame when he won his first prize in an art gallery, painting the theme-song of "Carolina" by Brazilian composer, song writer and singer Chico Buarque. Albery painted Angela Bismarchi a few times, and not only during Carnival seasons.
Some Carnival purists and experts now and then, say parades would eventually “become very similar to the past parades”, thus, “getting repetitive” on the long run. This is not what I personally observe, due to so many technical introductions at the parades, and especially artistic innovations we see every year, in the Rio and why not, the Sao Paulo Carnival. The “body-painting” costumes-ornaments seem to have gained their momentum and are consolidating their presence in the Brazilian Carnival parades: Great inspiration for a whole new generation of artists.
Even in Sao Paulo Carnival we see body painting art expanding at the parades and rehearsals. Below we see Juliana Salimeni, Diva for Mancha Verde with an elaborate body painting costume, in 2011.
Photo Credit: Assessoria Liga Independente das Escolas de Samba de São Paulo
As the former Holiness Pope John Paul II wrote in his “Letter to the Artists” in 1999, this is an example that all who have purity in their hearts, can find a true expression in their profession, even in these circumstances, where one might judge negative, through a narrow mindset. He stated: “All men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece”.
The former Pope also synthesized: “To all who are passionately dedicated to the search for new “epiphanies” of beauty so that through their creative work as artists they may offer these as gifts to the world.” I could not agree more. Body painting, when expressed within an authentic artistic context such as Carnival, is art as its purest form. No false-moralists could prove me the contrary.