Seen At 11: Should Body Painting Be Considered Art Or Public Nudity?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — From cable television to magazine covers, even on the streets of New York City, public nudity is seemingly everywhere — or is it?

One 15-year-old visiting from North Carolina was thrilled to have his picture taken with a bikini clad model in Times Square.

Except, as CBS2’s Maurice DuBois reported, that’s not really a bikini she’s wearing.

“I’m half-naked,” explained model Nicole Medino.

The only thing that’s actually standing between the teen and Medino is a thin layer of body paint.

“He’s going to remember it for a long time,” said Medino.

Body painting is certainly nothing new.

“It’s as old as humanity, from ritualistic rights of passage, tribalism,” said David Terry, with New York Foundation for the Arts.

But what is new, according to Terry, is the growing popularity of the art form and how people are using it.

“It’s a way to express one’s body,” he said.

Which was never more evident than at last week’s Body Painting Day on the East Side, DuBois reported.

Hundreds — including renowned body painting artist Craig Tracy — gathered to paint and to be painted.

“I never found the perfect art form until body painting,” Tracy said.

Tracy said his specialty is using the human body to create incredible illusions.

So, are these models nude? Or not?

“There’s naked, there’s clothed and then there’s this thing in between called painted,” Tracy said.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton isn’t a fan.

“It drives me crazy when you go through Times Square and you see the naked people covered in body paint,” said Bratton.

But the police commissioner admits, it’s perfectly legal.

“We have researched that top to bottom, we cannot find any law that allows us to interfere with that freedom of expression reflective through art form,” he said.

“There is an exhibitionist’s end of this and then there is a fine art end of this,” said Ken Goldwasser.

Goldwasser’s organization, Living Art America, hopes to elevate that finer aspect of this art because he says body painting is less about being naked and more about the art being alive.

“The paint becomes a second skin,” he said.

Back at the Crossroads of the World, some people said it’s one thing to view it as art in a gallery and another on the street.

“It’s supposed to be a family place to be,” said one mom.

“I personally don’t think it’s appropriate,” said another woman.

While others love the exposure.

“I think it’s great,” one mom said.

“If you have it, paint it,” said another.

Artists say a full body paint generally takes anywhere between 8 and 12 hours and they actually use waterproof makeup.

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