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Step off the edge 

Embodiment takes viewers out of their comfort zone

click to enlarge FIT TO BE TIED :  A model at last year’s Embodiment series at Native Lounge features body paint, feathers, piercings, ribbon, and a teeny, tiny bikini. The new series runs four consecutive Thursdays beginning Jan. 28. - PHOTOS BY RICHARD FUSILLO
  • PHOTOS BY RICHARD FUSILLO
  • FIT TO BE TIED : A model at last year’s Embodiment series at Native Lounge features body paint, feathers, piercings, ribbon, and a teeny, tiny bikini. The new series runs four consecutive Thursdays beginning Jan. 28.
I like the idea of nearly naked, beautiful people being used as canvases for edgy, contemporary artists to temporarily display their work.

It’s all so ephemeral! Here today, gone tomorrow.

So at 9 p.m. this Thursday, Jan. 28 when the models start strutting down the runway at Native Lounge and you’re one of the select few to be there, you’re going to have an experience that photographs like the awesome ones Richard Fusillo took at last year’s event can only hint at.

Over the next four Thursdays, SLO’s little slice of trendoid heaven will host the kind of event usually reserved for flavor-of-the-week urban hotspots. You see, Native Lounge has cut a little niche for itself, creating the kind of place for people who want to see and be seen.

Usually this highfalutin’ stuff makes me want to puke, what with the preening and the fawning. Give me a dirty dive bar any day. But after attending Native’s Hair Wars, which pitted local hair salons against one another, I’ve been singing a different tune. Energized, irreverent, spectacular—that’s what I witnessed, so I’m coming back for more. I decide to call Native owner Sean Faries for the lowdown on Embodiment.

click to enlarge BODY AS CANVAS :  An artist paints a model before sending him down the runway, at last year’s Embodiment. - PHOTO BY RICHARD FUSILLO
  • PHOTO BY RICHARD FUSILLO
  • BODY AS CANVAS : An artist paints a model before sending him down the runway, at last year’s Embodiment.
“When we did this event last year, we had to beg, borrow, and deal to get artists and models to participate,” explains Sean via cell phone—he’s in Vegas to do stuff that stays in Vegas, like going to see Garth Brooks!?! Oops! Now everyone knows. Sorry, Sean “I § Garth” Faries.

“When we put out the word we were doing it again, people started coming to us,” continues Sean. “We cast 150 people before the first show!”

Not only has participation blossomed, but suddenly sponsors are lining up to catch this bullet train to awesomeville. 1800 Tequila, for instance, thinks Embodiment is perfect for its Essential Artists custom bottle series. You see, last year 1800 released a series of limited edition bottles—one artist a month for 12 months.

click to enlarge SWING OUT, SISTER :  There’s no other event like Embodiment, which brings together artists, models, choreographers, and crowds to experience an ephemeral art event. - PHOTO BY RICHARD FUSILLO
  • PHOTO BY RICHARD FUSILLO
  • SWING OUT, SISTER : There’s no other event like Embodiment, which brings together artists, models, choreographers, and crowds to experience an ephemeral art event.
“When 1800 heard about what we’re doing, they wanted to do a tie-in,” says Sean. “If you come into the lounge, you’ll see we have all 12 winners from last year on display. 1800 said they’d take special consideration of our top artist’s submission and maybe do a limited edition custom-made bottle. We got BlackHorse Espresso and Bakery to donate coffee to the models and artists in the morning before the events when they start working—it can take four to six hours to decorate each model—and High Street Deli is donating sandwiches. Moondoggies is donating their old commercial space for the artists to do their work. The SLO Beauty College is doing all the models’ hair and makeup.”

One of the artists for this Thursday is Jeff Claassen, who owns and is the principal artist at the Claassen Gallery (785 Marsh St., SLO). He was a guest artist for one night at last year’s event.

“So why are you doing it, Jeff?” I ask.

“It’s fun,” he gushes. “You don’t get this opportunity too often, to paint on beautiful ladies.”

- EXPERIENCE IT!:  Embodiment begins this Thursday, Jan. 28 at Native Lounge and continues Feb. 4, 11, and 18. Cocktail hour runs from 8 to 9 p.m., with “The Show” running from 9 to about 10:15 p.m. Tickets are $10 presale (at the venue) or $15 at the door. To reserve a table and bottle service for your group, email tyrone@nativelounge.com or call 709-1205. -
  • EXPERIENCE IT!: Embodiment begins this Thursday, Jan. 28 at Native Lounge and continues Feb. 4, 11, and 18. Cocktail hour runs from 8 to 9 p.m., with “The Show” running from 9 to about 10:15 p.m. Tickets are $10 presale (at the venue) or $15 at the door. To reserve a table and bottle service for your group, email tyrone@nativelounge.com or call 709-1205.
“What if they give you a male model?” I query.

“I’ll probably skip a male model,” admits Jeff, hiding his freak flag under what sounded like a faint whiff of homophobia.

“So, do you know what you’re going to do, or do you need to survey the ‘canvas’ to get inspiration?” asks I.

    “I’m pretty spontaneous with it,” he claims. “I kind of make it up as I go, same as a regular painting. I’m kind of held back by what I can use on her skin. People last year found that acrylic tends to crack on human skin. I actually found an edible spray used for cake decoration, and last year I used it with stencils and it came out pretty good. I’ll probably spray it on freehand this time and finish with India ink.”

“But India ink isn’t edible! You’re not going to be able to clean up the model the ‘fun’ way if you use that,” I say, to which Jeff says nothing, knowing better than I when to shut the hell up.

Glen Starkey takes a beating and keeps on bleating. Contact him at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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