Originally coined “Nude Night,” the Gulfport Merchants Chamber is throwing “Body Beautiful” to recognize all physiques and spread positivity for Art Walk on Friday, July 2 from 5-9 p.m. throughout downtown Gulfport.
The fourth quarterly event is less of a theme, and more of a citywide art project.
“It’s campy, it’s sensuous, it’s just fun,” said Brenda McMahon, GMC Art Committee member and gallery owner. “The idea is, we all have a body – why not celebrate it?”
The night of the event, patrons will see form-filled canvases, body jewelry and sculpture that reflects a more naked ideal.
“I’ve painted a bunch of nudes and there’s not really a place to display them – hotels and restaurants can’t show that type of work,” said Lisa Taylor, a GMC member who pushed for the idea. “I loved the idea of giving people a chance to show art with their bodies.”
In addition to the monthly juried art show, there will be four volunteers painted head to toe with body art strolling the streets, a belly dancer and a “sexy” fire performer at the North End Taphouse.
For those wondering about the colorful torsos guarding several GMC-affiliated businesses, they’re all part of the fun.
“I thought, ‘How can we do art with our bodies?’” Taylor said. “Then came the human canvas idea.”
Julie Haura’s fiercely female paintings will be the face of the event, with Haura the featured artist on Friday and the artist of the month at Brenda McMahon Gallery throughout July.
“Her pieces are so intense yet so sensual,” McMahon said. “It’s very strong work, very emotionally provocative. We’re thrilled to have her.”
Starting with 10 “naked” and blank human busts, the GMC quickly had to cap participation at 20 sculptures.
The artists were given zero guidelines, which resulted in a blend of painted, ceramic, cloth-draped and beaded submissions.
“It just exploded,” Taylor said. “We ended up allowing 22 because we had such a response.”
Taylor herself created a Frida Kahlo-inspired female bust, titled simply “Frida,” and draped in painted linen inspired by Kahlo’s Spanish-style garments.
Taylor, owner of the Red Elephant Yoga and Massage Studio, was inspired by Kahlo’s iconic pieces; like Kahlo, she was creating while fighting off an illness that left her bedridden.
“Some days I feel like I have a lead suit on,” Taylor said, referring to her battle with an autoimmune disease. “I couldn’t think of a more inspiring person to paint while in bed.”
Taylor’s piece will be featured at Gulfport Realty, 2902 Beach Blvd. S., for the month of June.
The busts, with five male frames and the rest female, will be auctioned on the front porch of Stellas, 2914 Beach Blvd. S, at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Eighty percent of the proceeds will go to the artists, with the remainder going into a Gulfport artist grant fund to provide a chosen artist with business skills education.
Gulfport artist Leslee Cramer is donating an additional 10% to a nonprofit close to the heart, Pink Concussions, an organization dedicated to providing care to women and girls who’ve suffered from brain injuries.
Cramer herself moved to Gulfport in 2019 after a severe concussion forced her to retire from her position as a high school ceramics teacher.
Her piece, titled “Bejeweled Pride Goddess,” a collection of ceramic creations melding together “found objects,” will be displayed at Zaiya ArtiZen Market before the auction.
“I’ve done pieces like this in the past, an assemblage of pieces broken apart and put together in a new and interesting way,” Cramer said. “I really found my tribe, and my ability to create here in Gulfport, and I want to showcase that.”
See a complete list of participants and coordinating locations at fb.com/brendamcmahongallery.