- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

THIBODAUX, La. (AP) - For some artists, painting on canvas, walls or glass is the best way to express their art.

But for Thibodaux resident Gus Lopez, his body is the best surface he can use.

It all started when he was a student at Thibodaux High School. Instead of wearing a team jersey or t-shirt, Lopez decided to paint his high school’s colors on his body in the shape of a jersey.

Now, he uses his body as a platform for paint and photography.

“It’s not easy to paint myself, it’s time consuming,” Lopez told the Courier and Daily Comet. “But I just love to express myself on the human body because it’s 3-dimensional.”

Lopez’s body has showcased tuxedos, flags, leaves and hand prints.

He’s also wrapped himself in Christmas lights while standing in the middle of the swamp for a piece he calls, “swamplights.”

For the past year, the Central Mexico native has devoted himself to body painting, an art form he can’t even imagine pursuing back in his native country.

“I often think about what if I were in Mexico right now. Would I be doing this,” Lopez said.

While the 21-year-old Purple Penguin employee has lived in Thibodaux since he was eight, he lived his earlier years in Apozol, a city in the North-Central Mexico state of Zacatecas.

For him, the bayous of Lafourche Parish were a completely different world.

“I came here in the third grade with no knowledge of English,” he recalled. “I thought I was going to a city or something, not a whole different lifestyle.”

But the swamps, sugar cane fields and seafood of South Louisiana are part of what inspires him to create art.

“Where else can you find sugar canes but in southern Louisiana,” Lopez said.

Body painting is certainly his first love, but that’s not the only art form he’s dabbled with.

In fact, he said he’s most skilled with the color pencil but doesn’t draw with it that often because it’s time consuming.

Body painting is no quick task either as a single sitting can take as little as two hours or as much as seven hours depending on what Lopez is painting.

He uses paint brushes or his hands to distribute acrylic paint across the body.

For parts of his body that are harder to reach, like his back, Lopez enlists a friend to paint those areas while his six-year-old sister sometimes takes photos of the final product.

“It’s really difficult to paint on myself because it takes longer and it would be easier to paint on others,” Lopez said. But he simply can’t afford to pay people to paint on them.

Additionally, people have to be comfortable enough with their bodies as some pieces require full or partial nudity.

Still, he hopes to express his art on a body other than his own someday.

“One single person can be a million things. I can paint you into a tiger right now and next week you can be a flamingo or a rose or a ballerina,” Lopez said.

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Information from: The Courier, https://www.houmatoday.com


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