From NYC Bodypainting Day in July to the painted “desnudas” in Times Square and the No Pants Subway Ride, the city is not prudish when it comes to more . . . free-spirited events.
On Saturday, a parade of colorfully painted nude people flocked to Times Square, turning the heads of tourists and workers, and freezing their butts off in the name of art.
Organizers and artists of the Polar Bear Paint (a nod to various polar bear plunges) slathered 25 volunteer models in paint and followed them out to the iconic red stairs in Times Square in 40-degree weather, according to organizer Andy Golub.
If you’re thinking they’re crazy, you haven’t been following the city’s love of all things naked. Although state penal law criminalizes “exposure” in public, the law exempts “any person entertaining or performing in a play, exhibition, show or entertainment.”
Golub has taken it upon himself to make sure these rights are exercised.
The Polar Bear Paint is part of Golub’s Human Connection Arts nonprofit, which has held 11 outdoor nude painting events around the city and the world, including in Brussels, Berlin, Amsterdam and San Francisco.
Six artists, including Golub himself, painted whimsical designs on the volunteer models. The artworks were different depending on each model’s shape, but were all centered around “movement” as a theme, Golub said.
“What we’re doing is a movement of embracing all people, which is very different than what you see now as people hold on to their ideologies and attack others’ ideologies,” he said. “And art is usually painted on something that doesn’t move. When the artists paint, the movement lends the art toward abstraction.”
Onlookers usually gawk at Golub’s events, but he hopes it becomes less of a shocking display and encourages unity and kindness among people instead.
“It seems on one level what we’re doing is frivolous because it’s colorful and fun and people like being looked at, it’s true — that’s an element of it — but I’ve always felt we were serving people individually but also society as a whole,” he said.
The Polar Bear Paint, coined by Golub’s wife, is his way of doing more of what he loves.
Golub started his nude painting movement in 2009 when he painted a man and woman in underwear and later others fully naked.
The NYPD used to disperse Golub and his models when they gathered in Times Square and other public spots. But after several legal fights with the help of civil rights lawyers, Bodypainting Day became an annual event in July that includes a group portrait, a march through the street, a ride on a double-decker bus and an after-party.
“I think our models are pretty dedicated . . . and I knew they’d be willing to do this in the dead of winter,” he said about his newest project.