Naked at ArtPrize: Entry raising awareness for mental health


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An ArtPrize entry at The B.O.B. in downtown Grand Rapids is turning many heads, due to its exposed nature.

The artist is a body painter, and her models are nearly nude.

“This gives us an opportunity to put on display all different issues that maybe people feel uncomfortable talking about, but they need to be addressed,” explained artist Kristen Adams, who created Breathing Body Art: Healing Through Art.

While the lack of clothing may shock some, the purpose of the bold display is to desexualize the matter. In fact, the models who volunteered to participate in this time-based entry all have something significant in common: they’ve all experienced trauma.

The impact of anorexia, child sexual abuse, transitioning genders, and other adversities are all on display during the live daylong painting sessions. Model Laura Henderson spent her day as a human canvas, sharing her pain and triumph of learning how to live with bipolar disorder.

“Basically for me, it’s kind of like manic-depressive,” Henderson explained. “Sometimes you just feel like you can do anything, and then you kind of come back down and you can go lower,  where you’re really kind of apathetic towards life.”

Henderson’s emotions were raw as she shared the hardest part of her fight, which has been hurting her loved ones. She says the tears that come with describing her struggle are all part of the disorder, and it’s also why she chose to participate in this entry, exposing what’s on the outside to draw attention to what’s inside.

Adams says that bare-it-all bravery on display has been inspirational to ArtPrize visitors.

“People are coming through here and they’re telling their stories to us and sharing what they’ve gone through,” she said.

Part of their display includes a crisis hotline for anyone struggling with a disorder or other adversity. Adams says the psychiatrist she worked with on developing her entry told her the number of calls they’ve received jumped from 900 per day before the entry debuted to more than 7,000.

“She didn’t know of anything else going on that would have caused that and I told her, ‘Well, I’m happy to take the blame!'” Adams said.

Adams gets input from each model to create art that speaks to them and their own inner battles. It took her roughly eight hours to complete the design that she and Henderson came up with together.

Henderson’s body ended covered by a phoenix, with an arrow through its heart, which held deep meaning for the model.

“If I have an episode or a bad day, or if I just make a wrong choice, then I can start again. Each day is a new chance to enjoy life,” Henderson explained.


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