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HighProfile - Naked Bunch

Nov 27, 2018 08:53PM ● By Dan McCarthy
LA-based Paul Roustan is one of the world’s leading body painters, brandishing a style that’s a mishmash of pop-culture reference, traditional fine art technique, and contemporary commentary that winds up on the naked forms of male and female models the world over.

As winner of the North American Body Painting Championship, Roustan, an alum of the Rhode Island School of Design and the Art Institute of Chicago, has brought his conceptually based body painting work around the world and has been seen everywhere from GQ and Playboy, to the Chicago Sun-Times, as well as galleries and private collections across the country.

On November 3, Roustan returns to the East Coast for the 10th anniversary of The Preservation Framer, a North Attleboro gallery where he says he had his most successful art shows, clients, and print sales during his New England days.

“They were group shows, but I would have the most work up, and those showings were always pitched as ‘adult-only,’ given the nature of the work,” says Roustan. “The people who would come in would be blown away from the full nude body painting happening at the shows, as well as the art on display that was something different for such a conservative town.”

Roustan has chosen to display one of his more popular recent series, Sharks are People Too, combining humor and metaphor, involving women intricately painted and staged in different settings of water wearing custom-fabricated shark heads.

“These gorgeous, powerful, and intimidating creatures have to deal with a lot of daily struggle throughout their lives. When you think about it, the same is true for sharks too,” Roustan wrote in a statement in advance of the show. Humor aside, Roustan says the current prescience of women empowerment and producing pieces that mirror his perspective on the #MeToo movement is what this show and much of his work are about.

Roustan says he feels like there’s a lot of anti-establishment art with the sole purpose of challenging and calling out what’s happening in society, and that’s great. But it’s not all politics for Roustan, who steers clear of the tit-for-tat public acrimony that marks our combative political times. Instead, the artist says, “I’m trying to focus on good energy, positive nostalgia, and interesting personalities and ideas and experiences of the models, and my work is my way of doing that. My class of work isn’t vulgar or pornographic…and I look for things that are fun, relevant to my opinions, and celebrate the narratives of the people I’m painting.”

He cites a series he did featuring variations of broken and shattered glass on a model who had a broken childhood and has since grown into a strong, defiant woman. His casting of the model as a large piece of splintering glass struck a chord with him he carries to this day, especially in this post-Kavanaugh climate. “Here was this strong woman, survivor from a tough upbringing, wise and old beyond her years at the time when I met her, who stands so strong when you meet her in real life,” he says.

Ultimately, this return to his former showcase home is a return to glory for the artist. For those interested in his work, he says, the show is a callback to “my most successful New England art shows, where people can unwind and see the art come to life in person.”

For more artwork and future shows, visit @ROUSTAN on IG or BODYPAINTER.COM.