Body Painting Law

By | January 4, 2014

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Artists, body painters, and body art enthusiasts are hearing the latest uproar over a restaurant getting banned from the use of body paint on their servers this week. The restaurant chain called Redneck Heaven in Lewisville, Texas, was allowing servers to wear Body Paint on their ABC Night, which meant Anything But Clothing. After continuous complaints by patrons of neighboring family restaurants, no arrests were made since the servers were within their legal right to wear “opaque covering.” Most members of the community aren’t even aware that there is a body paint law in place or how it was derived in the first place.

According to, the local law enforcement needed clarification on the ordinance’s wording to deal with the complaints. The City Councilmen met this week to discuss the guidelines of this opaque cover-up law and voted to re-define the law excluding body paint and tattoos as a form of cover up. The restaurant is now required to obtain a special permit as a Sexually Oriented Business if they would like to continue their popular use of body paint on ABC nights. Did anyone go to this Council meeting and explain how this body paint law was appointed in the first place and why it is not considered a sexually lewd act or indecent exposure?

These rules were defined a few generations ago by a popular model named Sally Rand. She was arrested four times at The World’s Fair in 1933 for indecent exposure while riding a white horse down the streets of Chicago and wearing only makeup that created a nude illusion. She was wearing the new grease paint invented by Max Factor Sr. and founder of Max Factor and Company who painted her to demonstrate his new brand of Hollywood Film Makeup.

Sally Rand gave notice to the idea of “appearing seemingly nude” and fought for immunity in court for her fine art performances. Her performance was even described in the book, The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. She was known for many burlesque dances where she demonstrated a Bubble Dance and wore pasties and sometimes sheer clothing. Since being arrested 6 more times for this, she was cleared of all charges after deeming that “anyone who could find something lewd about the dance as she puts it on has to have a perverted idea of morals.” Her fight to add “seemingly nudeness” to the list of fine arts became nationally known and the law was implemented into many city ordinances as allowing Opaque Coverings in public.

There are many public events nationwide that allow body painting to take place right in the streets and it is the responsibility of the individual to maintain decency during such exhibitions. The fine art of body painting is demonstrated in venues such as Tampa’s famous Art After Dark where the art form is demonstrated live from start to finish. A model would strip down to her pasties and it is completely legal to paint her in front of an audience. Also every year people head south to Fantasy Fest in Key West where festival goers get painted over their completely nude bodies and party for 2 weeks in their birthday suits. Some of you may be more familiar with Mystique who appears in a popular PG-13 family film called X-men and wearing only body paint.

Hopefully some artists in Lewisville, Texas, will speak up and fight for Sally Rand’s contribution to art! Body paint should not be considered the same as tattoos. I have actually been able to completely cover tattoos with body paint. The city Councilmen of Lewisville Texas may be completely ignoring the morals surrounding how these laws were implemented and if they were in my city, I would not stand by and allow them to re-define the ordinance without taking notice to history.

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