100 Creatives

Houston Creatives 2015: Vonetta Berry, Body Painter

After the birth of her first child Vonetta Berry, like a lot of women, wasn't feeling all that great about how her body looked. Kate Middleton aside, most women find themselves looking far different after a pregnancy than they did before it. In fact, some studies show that body image postpartum is actually lower than that achieved when heavily pregnant. 

Berry began exploring body painting as a way to explore a more positive self image as well as grow creatively. She creates fantastical patterns on her subjects, temporarily altering nearly everything about the way they look. She finds the impact it can have on the way we see ourselves to be soothing and fun. As part of the team at ABC Body Art she and other artists encourage people to become their own masterpieces. 

What she does: Berry's company offers a wide range of body paint services. Her most notable work are largely fantastical. She particularly enjoys using body paint to blend subjects into background. ABC Body Art also does promotional work, large events and even facepainting for children. 

Another hot service and keeping within Berry's origin story is maternity painting, where women's full abdomens are decorated with paint and photographed. Houston Press used them when we shot a cover for a story involving the care female veterans receive from the Veteran's Administration while pregnant. 

Why she likes it: "I love the way that body painting can alter people's perception of themselves as well as what they thought was reality. For example, we had a client who wanted a pink ribbon painted around her. She was very nervous because she had never done a nude shoot, but when we finished, she was very pleased! It works the same when we paint clothes or a superhero suit on a model. They usually forget that they are semi-nude."

What inspires her: Berry is influenced by art masters like Chuck Close, Rene Magritte and John Biggers. She loves the hyper-realistic style of Chuck Close and his ability to adapt and continue to create after he was paralyzed in 1988 by a catastrophic spinal artery collapse. She admires the surrealistic style of Magritte, who she fell in love with on a school trip to the Menil Collection. She discovered Biggers while at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, not while I was here in Houston, and became a fan of his work.

"It speaks to me about my heritage as a Houstonian as well as an African American and ultimately as a human," says Berry. "It transcends the separation and is just about struggles and triumphs."

Berry's mentor in body art is Craig Tracy, an artist out of New Orleans who has guided her and encouraged her work for years.

If not this, then what: "I trained to be a children's book illustrator or animator. I would have loved to have gone into either field however, at the time I returned to Houston, those fields were not as plentiful in the job market. I really love illustration because I see words in images anyway and I enjoy creating them for others to see."

If not here, then where: Berry wouldn't mind returning to Chicago. She has many friends and contacts there from her time in school. She'd also like to try her hand in Los Angeles at some point. More and more people out that way are finding her work and it's encouraging her to see how the west coast could handle her style.

What's next: "In May we will be a part of Comicpalooza at the George R. Brown Convention Center. We will paint live models throughout the weekend and will top off the event with May 24th at the Cosplayers Ball. This will be a bodyart infused cosplay event to benefit Center for Hearing and Speech."