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Living art

Living art

Melinda Green

Local artist heals the spirit with body painting

It’s exciting to experience a great piece of art. It’s life-changing to become one.

For Dublin-area artist Lynn Hetherington Becker, the human body presents a special artistic opportunity that challenges creativity and technique, a way to connect the physical being with movement and color in an exceptional way. With body painting, as well as with other media, she has found a way to spread joy and connection, and to touch lives.

Becker has been artistic as long as she can remember. As a teenager, she had visions of studying fashion design, but life—as it often does—had a different path in store. For years, she nourished her artistic spirit occasionally by creating art for friends, but it was after a divorce that she found a new commitment to her creativity.

“I needed supplemental income, so I started face painting, and that really took off,” she recalled. From there, she began experimenting with body art and henna art and discovered a new passion.

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“I love painting on canvases—I love painting on all surfaces—but there’s something about body art that I really connect with. Painting on a flat canvas, you can create any subject you want. But when you’re painting on a living, breathing, moving ‘canvas,’ there’s so much more to where you place the paint, how you place the paint, what happens when the ‘canvas’ is moving. It’s a different type of paint, a different way of blending. Certain colors of paint look better on certain skin tones. I think it’s more challenging, and in some ways, I can be even more expressive.

“And it’s brief, because they’re going to go and wash it off. There’s something about that that’s tragic, but also so special. You can get a photograph, but the art is gone.”

In other parts of the country, body painting is common in art and advertising, but Becker notes that the popularity hasn’t reached Columbus yet. “I’m hoping it catches on here,” she said. “It’s a really creative way to showcase painting.”

Her designs are freehand, her tools brushes, and sponges. Her human canvases relish the unique, interactive experience of becoming a living work of art.

“Body art is a different, more intimate, way of connecting with a client,” Becker continued. A lot of times, if you’re doing full-body art on an adult, they’re naked. I don’t really ‘see’ body parts while I’m painting, but I’m cognizant of the fact that the client is vulnerable. The process can take six to eight hours. And for them, it’s an uplifting process, connecting with the art.”

Becker is a full-time day-care provider and often uses body painting (from the waist up) as a special treat. Children become robots, superheroes, or enchanted creatures for a fleeting moment. “It’s a challenge, painting a tiny person who can hardly sit still, but it’s a fun, magical memory for the kids, and their parents can enjoy the pictures forever.”

A friend sent her an article about a West Coast artist who created henna “crowns” for women experiencing hair loss during chemotherapy, and the idea resonated with Becker. She started offering them, free of charge, “as a way to give back, to give a moment of peace in that rough time.” She works symbols meaningful to the client into the design, and the result is an empowering and inspiring respite from the often devastating effects of cancer treatment.

Her custom henna art (as well as body art) encompasses all parts of the body, including baby bumps.

“Moms carrying their babies is such a mysterious, amazing process, and I love being part of that,” she said, noting that the artwork strengthens the bond between parents and unborn child.

But her commitment to spread healing and joy extends beyond humans. She paints and sells custom portraits of dogs and has partnered with RESCUEDohio to help several long-term shelter residents: a bright, whimsical portrait on canvas attracts attention on social media and in marketing materials, and is presented as a gift to the family when the dog leaves for its forever home.

Recently, Becker re-connected with her love of fashion design, collaborating with seamster James Duff to create a paisley-and-swirl painted, leather-masked, COVID-era plague doctor that is simultaneously modern and archaic, beautiful and menacing, capturing the dichotomies that define this year. Other collaborative efforts are in the works, but no matter how many different directions Becker’s future holds, she’ll definitely be turning heads and putting joy in hearts all over town.

Find Lynn Hetherington Becker on Instagram (l.hetheringtonstudio) and Facebook (L.HetheringtonStudioFaceandBodyArt)

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