Lafayette artist works to open minds through body painting

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Brittney Pelloquin’s art is meant to disappear.

“It was so hard for me at first,” she says. “Paint, enjoy it for what it is, and then wash it away.”

The Lafayette native, 27, who has a visual arts degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, pursues body painting, an ephemeral art form much like sand and ice sculpture. It’s there and then it’s gone.

Her work is often controversial because, yes, the bodies are mostly nude. Some appear in public as performance art, but exposure is limited, particularly in Louisiana.

Pelloquin says her goal is to open people’s minds to personal identity and for people to embrace who they are as a person.

“They can run around scantily clad in society, but clean and classy art doesn’t go over,” she says.

When she paints a body, it can be head to toe or just certain parts, such as the feet or face. She documents her work through photos. Most of her subjects are female — women have grace, elegant curves and she relates better to them, she says — although some are male.

“Men also want more aggressive subject matter, like Superman,” she says.

Pelloquin is capable of more conventional art — oils and portraits — and paints corporate and couture commissions. But she believes body painting is what she’s supposed to do.

Many private commissions for body art are celebratory — maternity, wedding and engagement-related — while others make more poignant observations, such as mastectomies.

Bodies and personalities, the artist says, are completely different, and subjects must be willing to endure up to seven-hour sessions with breaks. She uses professional-grade, hypoallergenic paint and only the safest tools.

In order not to run afoul of community standards at live events, Pelloquin says some body parts are covered to skirt ordinances against public nudity. Pelloquin is strict with her guidelines and artwork can only be viewed within a certain perimeter.

She says body painting has a beauty of its own and does not put women in a negative light.

“Society puts so much pressure on women,” she says. “They should be comfortable in their own skin.”

A full-time artist, she does installation pieces involving multiple subjects and enters competitions.

She is auditioning for a reality series, “Skin Wars,” to air this year and says she is one of 26 body painting artists under consideration.

“We all know each other, because body painting is such a small subset of artists,” she says. “If we don’t know each other personally, we know the work.”