Artist Coats Nude Pair in Body Paint in Times Square
TIMES SQUARE — They bared it all for Broadway.
Two art models stripped to their birthday suits to be painted by artist Andy Golub in the heart of Times Square Wednesday afternoon.
Golub, who lives and works in Nyack, coated Gianna James, 21, and Ethan Itzkow, 23, in Mehron theatrical make-up, using a brush to swath the pair in bold green, purple, orange and white over the course of three hours, attracting dozens of curious onlookers — most with cameras and cell-phones in-hand.
"I am so excited to do this," James, who lives in Murray Hill and recently graduated the School of Visual Arts, said as Golub painted her back, a cluster of press and civilian photographers circled around them. "It's for the sake of art. It's an exhilarating experience."
Golub, who wore a T-shirt, shorts and driver's cap cocked to one side for the performance, has painted nude models in public for the past six years, he said, a pursuit that briefly landed him in jail in August 2011 when the NYPD charged him with public lewdness and exposure for painting model Marla Mera in Times Square.
The charges were dropped two months later when he and the city's Law Department reached an "informal agreement" that he would only paint at night. He abided by the deal "five or six times," he said, but also contacted the New York Civil Liberties Union for help lifting the restriction.
"The NYCLU and city worked out an agreement," an NYCLU spokesman said in a statement, "in which the NYPD would not interfere with Andy's paintings as long as he does not paint in front of Toys R Us stores and he gives reasonable notice to the Law Department of when and where he plans to paint."
Golub's models must also "wear a G-string until it is necessary for Golub to paint that area," a Law Department official said.
Last month, Golub once again began painting by day, holding unannounced performances in front of the Guggenheim Museum, in Times Square, and near the High Line. Wednesday's performance, Golub said, marked his first publicly-promoted daytime nude painting in New York City in two years.
"I'm not just painting the body," he said in a Tuesday interview with DNAinfo New York. "I'm also relating to the person and feeling their energy and vibe and feeding off of that. The art in many ways becomes interactive and collaborative, and doing it in public means we don't just share that process, but include the public."
Over the course of three hours, tourists, contractors, office workers, doormen, and bike messengers stopped to watch or, in some cases, gawk. The Naked Cowboy wandered over for a look, as did a man dressed as a guitar-toting "Naked Indian." All the while, Golub, James, and Itzkow talked, joked, and answered questions from reporters and onlookers.
"You protesting something?" one man shouted.
"He's making art!" James replied, then turned to another girl in the crowd, who was heard asking, "Are they getting fully naked?"
"Oh yeah," James laughed, "it's happening."
The performance ultimately elicited few outcries. Police, meanwhile, were all but invisible from the scene. Most of those who watched the performance said they were supportive of the endeavor, if a little surprised to come across fully-naked people in the middle New York City.
"God bless 'em, they're free and they're making art," said James Imhoff, 51, a roofing contractor who stopped by while on break from a job on 46th Street.
Nicole, who was visiting with her family from Ohio and gave only her first name, offered a similar opinion. "It's a little unexpected in the heart of Times Square, but kind of cool," she said.
Itzkow, one of the models, could hardly stop smiling throughout the experience.
"The human body is beautiful — it's a beautiful canvas," he said. "Everybody should be proud of what they have. People cover up their bodies or, really, their shame."
But, he added, with a laugh, "You're always nervous before you take your clothes off in public."