Trina Merry

“Painting on the body creates a special connection to a person that other visual art forms have trouble accomplishing; it’s a distinctly human experience.”

“I am a conceptual artist and often I am inspired by the bodies themselves—by what they can and can’t do.” By matching the painted body to and incorporating it into a physical landscape, Trina Merry blurs the line of reality for both the viewer and the subject.

Merry studied with Robert Wilson at the Watermill Center, Craig Tracy (Craig Tracy Gallery, Skin Wars) and received her Bachelor’s from Azusa Pacific University.  She is bi-coastal, living in both New York City and San Francisco.  Please get in touch if you have any questions.

curriculum vitae

When and how did you begin body painting?

Trina Merry has been body painting since 2006. !She went to film school, worked in various departments on film and tv sets and then discovered bodypaint thanks a rock cabaret show with The Dresden Dolls (Amanda Palmer, TED Talk, and Brian Vigilone, Violent Femmes) and Australian band The Red Paintings. Merry was asked to stand on stage and get body painted and cites that as a direction-shifting experience. !At the time of changing mediums, Merry was exhibiting in several West Coast and International galleries, doing up to 9 exhibitions a month. !

About the Artist:

Trina Merry has primarily explored self-identity, body image, and consumerism in her work. The majority of her work contains a living person and her work utilizes many mediums including: performance art, painting, video, sculpture and installation. She often challenges perspective and creates work from a single (subjective) perspective point creating op art illusions. Her work is ephemeral and connects to ancient historic art practices. !Where Did She Study? Merry has her film degree from Azusa Pacific University. Experimental Video, Sculpture, Painting, Photography and Installation were a part of her studies. She studied with Robert Wilson at the Watermill Center, interned for Icon Productions and did an apprenticeship with Craig Tracy. !She is the recipient of the Belle Foundation Grant and won 1st place (best in the world) for Fine Art Installations (World Bodypaint Festival 2014).

Notable Work:

Notable installation work includes the Getty, ESMoA, San Jose Museum of Art, California Academy of Sciences, and the Seven Modern Wonders of the World (UNESCO).

Why include Bodypaint in your work? Why not just stick to traditional painting and sculpture?:

Painting on the body creates a special connection to a person that other visual art forms have trouble accomplishing; it’s a distinctly human experience. Bodypaint is an ancient art form and the use of ochre on the skin dates back 425,000 years. This work has a heart beat and a breath, it is dynamically alive. I love thefreedom of working in multiple mediums to express myself and the ephemeral nature of the work forces focus and reflects the reality of existence!

Are you trying to be shocking or create a spectacle?

That’s not very interesting to me. In fact we often joke that I am like a paint ninja and am as discreet as possible when painting in public. Somepeople think my work isshocking or a bit of a spectacle, but many people have said that about performance art over the last century. If the work is shocking it is because people have not fully embraced the fine art nude in contemporary art. The work resonates with viewers and is raw, intimate and vulnerable.!

Have you been arrested or had trouble with the cops?

I have not been arrested and basically feel that being arrested for making art is ridiculous. Despite my sincerest efforts to be non-confrontational and discreet, I have nearly been arrested or confronted by cops and security guards several times all over the world because they simply don’t know how to respond to an art form that is outside normal expected activity. Ultimately my work is protected by the First Amendment and Fair Use Act in the US and have been lucky with my guerrilla style works in other countries. !
What kind of paint do you use and how do you remove it?

I use water-based bodypaint applied with a brush and/or airbrush. It is easily removed with soap and water. !!What does it feel like to get bodypainted? “Personally, it is an exercise in releasing control and trusting someone else. There is a distinct intimacy that’s difficult to describe- I haven’t had any other human experience that compares to it. Being painted with a brush is relaxing- like getting a massage or spa treatment. Being painting with an airbrush either feels refreshing or jolting depending on the air pressure and the part of the body being painted.”

Is this a sexual experience?:

“I don’t look at Michaelangelo’s “David” and wonder if that is a sexual experience just because it is a fine art nude. None of my work is poignantly erotic so I find this to be an interesting response to my work and indicative of the viewer projecting their own fantasies, fears or issues onto the fine art nude figure.”

Are you a nudist?:

“No in fact I’m pretty modest in real life, as are many of my models, but we want to express a raw, vulnerable human experience in our work. !While I may touch on various conceptual issues, my work is not activism, it is art.”

Where do you find your models?

I get 3-15 model requests daily and have created an application system for volunteer and commission requests. for more information.

What is the biggest challenge with your work?:

It is ephemeral so by nature it is not meant to last and it is very difficult technically to paint on a person well. I often make work additionally challenging by sculpting together multiple bodies, camouflaging hard lined architecture onto a curvy soft fleshed body, or creating work from a single perspective point.

What famous artists have influenced you?:

Several Italian renaissance and baroque sculptors, Op Art Painters, Performance artists, the Tableau Vivant Photography of the early 19th century and lately a whole lot of James Brown.

What projects are you currently working on?:

I am working on a few series and preparing to exhibit. I am exploring the dialogue between indigenous bodypaint and my contemporary work, exploring ways to exhibit my work in 3-D and continuing to delve into examinations of American Consumerism and Body Image..