Bodies of Work

The medium is rare for the Body Ball's artists.

Body Ball Metropolis, 2325 Elm Street in the Flats 10 p.m. Friday, April 25. $10; call 216-671-1160.
Painted ladies take over Metropolis Friday.
Painted ladies take over Metropolis Friday.

Unless you're a character in one of Thomas Harris's grody Hannibal Lecter books, or really into tattoos, skin isn't a canvas for exorcising creative impulses. But the 10 artists participating in the Body Ball will put their brushes to human hides, all in the name of art.

"My paintings are done with makeup, so this is a pretty familiar medium," explains Dott Schneider, one of the artists who will be at Metropolis Friday. "I don't see [skin] as any different than paper or any other canvas type."

Body Ball producer Tommy Viets hit upon the idea after seeing similar events in cities like New York and Chicago. "They do it as a competition; we're doing it as an exhibition, just giving artists a chance to show off their work," says Viets, the mastermind behind many of Cleveland's fetish events, including the Organ Grinder's Ball and Dungeon & Divas. No doubt, the pierced-genitals crowd will fit in well here too. "Cleveland has a great underground environment that appreciates this kind of thing," Viets says. In addition to body art, there'll be music (Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival and DJ Gozinya) as well as a "fashion" show of barely dressed models, strutting the catwalk in their new skin.

For some of the Body Ball's artists, the novel medium will also carry a message: Schneider's work, for example, will represent the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland. She will incorporate the group's message -- "Express Yourself, Protect Yourself" -- on her two models, though she isn't sure how just yet. "I want to paint them together -- not as separate entities -- so that it's a cohesive idea," she says. "They'll have to stick together [all night]."

There are restrictions -- "Models must be in thongs, and nipples must be covered by body paint," reads the Body Ball Participant Agreement Form -- but the artists get full control over their designs, subjects, and techniques. "I don't know if there's more freedom here [than with a typical canvas], but you can get wilder," Schneider says.

"This is fun," says Kurt Heubeck, an airbrush artist with a background in commercial art. "This isn't like tattooing, where you're grinding into somebody's skin. With airbrushing, you just whip it across, and there's your stroke."

The artists will create their works at stations throughout the club, in plain view of the crowds. It's a notion that Heubeck finds unnerving. "It's always intimidating, working in front of people," he says. "You don't know who's standing behind you, [judging] your work."

But for the artists involved, the Body Ball is a rare, inviting art project. "This is a unique opportunity," Schneider says. "I'm looking forward to working with a full body. It's something I really can't pass up."

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