Body painting session with unexpected visitors

Last Tuesday’s circumstances were rare for The Netherlands in mid-October: while it was a warm day, the autumn colors appeared already on many trees. I therefore decided to make a body painting in the forest near my hometown Doetinchem.

Because I am aware that there are very sensitive souls who can’t endure the sight of naked skin, I searched for a place where the colors are strong, yet that is far from the public road.

When the model Sarah and I arrived at the right place, we saw a woman sitting with some little children beside her about 40m (120 ft) from us. They were all turned away from us to the opposite direction, so we began to make the painting. Within 20 minutes, suddenly two police officers appeared next to us. They said that the woman called them because she (and the children) were very startled from our body-painting and had to flee!

The police officers didn’t accept my explanation and claimed that we are violating the honorable nature of passersby, and disrupting public order. It was ridiculous that this happened in an almost empty forest, on the basis of a single phone call. I pointed out to these officers that Spencer Tunick photographed hundreds of naked people in the middle of Amsterdam, without anyone being “damaged” by this. I myself even gave a body painting demonstration in the city center of Doetinchem five years ago, without any problem.

I could choose to argue endlessly and risk a fine, or leave and try to complete my work before sunset. Of course I chose the second option. We searched for another place, far from any envious eyes, but what we found was far from ideal. Because of the lack of time until sunset, and a much less appropriate location, the body painting was not completed. The results of what we did manage to achieve can be seen here: Body painted autumn leaves. Two Dutch newspapers covered this body painting project and the police intervention (De Gelderlander twice, Algemeen Dagblad), and so did a national TV broadcaster (Hart van Nederland).

I’m currently consulting with the legal advisor of my artists’ association about the follow-up.

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