Andy Golub

Street Artist

"I learn about people through the art that I paint on them. There’s a strength I know that I’m giving to them when I paint, by how I paint them, and I’m very confident in that. At the end of the day, this is free artistic expression."

Art As Air first came in contact with Andy Golub’s work at his 2014 NYC Body Painting Day, and we were moved to do an Artitorial about it then. Body Painting Days, along with his other spontaneous “pop-up” painting events challenge all of the mundane rules and regulations regarding the mix of art and public nudity. Andy, along with several of his models, was arrested in 2011, and successfully fought to change those laws. As a result, NYC has finally acknowledged that public nudity is legal if it's part of an artistic expression. Andy’s recent 2015 Body Painting Day was a media and human event that served to show how much his philosophy and practices are beginning to resonate, and we were moved to dub it the “Woodstock of art.”

"The art sort of takes its own journey and I follow that. People very often say ‘this is what I want to do, and how do I figure out how to get there?’ But I think with art or music, it’s like an inspiration, so you don’t really think about where you want to go, you just see what you want to do. So one day I said I’d like to paint on walls, and I started painting on walls. Then said I want to paint on different objects like tables and mannequins and cars, and then one day I said I want to paint on people. I sort of stopped there with people to a large extent because people are alive and they have an energy and I’m reacting to it. I’m able to sort of almost tap into something a little deeper and more personal. I think of my body paintings as, in one sense, collaborative pieces with the model that I’m painting, and if you ask them they’ll say the same thing. I also think the body painting is interpretive art. I think it’s interpreting from my point of view the energy and spirit of the person. One person once said that all art is autobiographical, and my art is autobiographical when I paint on a canvas or do a drawing because there’s no one there but me. But when I’m painting on a person, to sort of objectify them and to not pay attention to them as a human being, is to miss out on all of this energy and all of this information. I feel it’s very easy for me to connect with them and to read them, and they inspire things. In some sense it might seem kind of magical or mystical, what I’m saying, but in another sense it’s very simple. When you talk to people, some you connect with. Some people, when you talk with them you look at them more directly, some you tell more jokes to, some people you’re more colorful with. It’s very easy for me to see somebody and say this person I want to have be complicated, or this person I want to just do something simple or a big smile, or something that’s a little intense.

The level of information that we’re getting on what’s the right body, what’s the wrong body, what we’re supposed to be attracted to, how we’re supposed to feel about ourselves, is so deep and so pervasive that we’re all sort of very unhealthy in these different various levels of not accepting ourselves for who we are. I think that girls or guys who have what people would look at and say are perfect bodies, believe me, all have the same anxieties that everyone else has because they’re focused on their imperfections. If you think about it and say ‘oh this person is perfect,’ it’s not a good description. We all have flaws. You shouldn’t be trying to reach for perfection; you should just be the good things that you are. It’s not about being anything, it’s about being yourself.

Since I’m doing all the painting it seems like it’s not a collaborative piece. But it is a collaborative piece because I’m feeding off of their energy, I’m talking to them, they’re reacting and talking to me and there’s a lot of trust. It’s very very positive. Here I’m painting big girls, and I think there are people who can misunderstand the idea of painting big girls; like I’m trying to making a social statement about being big. The truth is, if there’s any statement I’m making, it’s just to accept everybody for who they are, and they could just as well be old or young.

For Body Painting Day, we are having 100 fully nude models, male, female, old and young, as old as mid- 70’s and everyone is over 18. We have models who have volunteered to be painted. One is a woman in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy, another woman who has breast cancer and had both breasts removed. Another is a woman with diabetes and has an insulin tube in her body, and another is a man who had cancer and is dealing with health issues. The thing that’s really amazing is how much we identify ourselves with our body and how much we walk around in the clothes that we’re wearing and think that people don’t really see what we actually look like. We have this illusion when we look in the mirror and we go ‘ok now I look good and nobody’s going to really know what’s really underneath here.’ The truth is; everybody really knows what you look like.

We live with these illusions that we’re representing ourselves in a way that’s different than we actually are.

There’s a lot more respect when you paint a wall. You paint a wall and you do a really nice job, people say ‘that guy can paint.’ Street art, you get credibility. When you paint on a body it gets washed off that night, and when you paint a mural it lasts for a very long time. So it’s very opposite in that sense, and I think it’s sort of good to have a balance between the two.

I like murals and the power of the big space, but I tell you there’s a power to this. There’s a strength I know that I’m giving to them when I paint by how I paint, and I’m very confident with that.

We live in a time where there’s a lot of people, because of social media, there’s a very high disconnect. I find that a lot of kids in schools, they don’t communicate directly with people. This is the complete opposite side of that. The level of human connection that’s going on here multiplies upon itself. The artist connects with the model, but then connects with the public, connects with the people taking the photographs. People don’t realize how complex and sophisticated the energy is here.

If you can only exist when you’re flawless, then you’re just a representation of yourself. So here we exist for a little while, and it’s good. I leave it at that and I don’t go much deeper. I try to basically talk with my brush as much as I possibly can.”

Click For 2015 Body Painting Day Highlights