A local firefighter-turned-artist will bring her unique bodypainting style to the Basel scene this week. Shannon Defreitas slathers in-your-face pigments all over the bare bodies of models, who then pose for art photos that seriously pop. You can check her out at The Art Place Wynwoood and a couple other venues this week, where she'll show you how it's done live.
As a matter of fact, Basel week will mark the one year anniversary of Defreitas' newfound hobby; the idea was first spontaneously set in motion at an Art Basel event last year.
"I've always been into painting," said Defreitas, "but last year at Basel, while some of my stuff was being shown in a gallery, I was inspired on the spot. I thought, 'You know what, I just kinda wanna put art on your body.'"
Defreitas put a huge canvas down on the ground, picked out a few songs for the DJ to play, and began a spontaneous live painting show- of both canvas and friend.
"Then my friend lay down on the canvas, and the wet paint was pressing her painted body onto the canvas, sort of like this 3D art. The whole thing was really cool and so in-the-moment. All of a sudden 300 people were watching and taking pictures."
Since the spontaneous "a-ha!" moment at Basel, Defreitas continued exploring her new method. About six months later, a local photographer, Carlos Ramos (AKA Miami Fever), approached her at Eden nightclub and said he would love to collaborate with her by taking pictures of the painted models.
"We did a photo shoot together, and it came out incredible, so we kept doing it," Defreitas said. "The best part about it is, the models absolutely love it. Carlos loves it. I love it. We all feel like little kids. It's just so joyful and there is such a positive, fun energy that comes with each shoot."
Defreitas explained that the artistic release is crucial for her line of work as a firefighter.
"When I first started as a firefighter, I was young and it was adrenaline rush. But this kind of work takes its toll on your psyche and your soul," she said. "I needed to find a healthy outlet, and I started painting as a form of therapy. It's such a breath of fresh air."
Nowadays, Defreitas is hard at work on her latest goal: a fashion show (the fashion not being clothes, but the styles of body paint, duh) that would double as a fundraiser for The Gift of Life, an organization that fosters organ donation. Defreitas explained that, in her other life as a firefighter, she is constantly confronted with the loss of lives -- often, lives that could have been saved by an organ transplant.
"The most difficult thing about being a firefighter is losing a life that could have been saved. Also, my father is a kidney and pancreas donor recipient. He was literally on his deathbed before the transplant. It's something that I have come to feel very strongly about. There's just not very much awareness out there, and it's such a shame."
Defreitas feels that her art celebrates the human body and "the gift of life", so to speak, and wants to use it as an avenue to shed light on the cause.
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"I feel a strong marriage between my line of work, my artistic expression, and this cause that I feel passionate about," she said. "It's a wonderful feeling."
Amen, sister. For the time being, you can check out Defreitas' live work during Art Basel. Her schedule is as follows:
Thursday starting at 7 p.m. at Solar Intoxication, 3301 NE 1st Ave., Suite 103, Midtown.
Friday (all day/night, Saturday (day), Sunday (all day/night) at The Art Place Wynwood's Wynwood Warehouse Project, 450 NW 27th St., Wynwood.
Saturday (starting at 9 p.m.) at The Hoxton, 1111 SW 1st Ave., Brickell.