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Arts & Life

Painter Creates Animals With Her Body

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Chynna Lockett
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Finger painting is a messy art form usually reserved for kids. But one South Dakota artist has developed a life-sized version. She paints her body to create images of animals.

Abstract animal paintings of all sizes are scattered though Christie Sandvik’s house. But this self-taught artist doesn’t use paint brushes.

“I do body prints. I’ve been doing it for about 15 years now. Which is kind of cool because I have a really unique style of art work that I’ve been able to develop.”

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Credit Chynna Lockett

Sandvik uses her body as her brush. She paints herself and presses the color against a surface.

While Sandvik didn’t train as an artist, her background is in science.

“I have a bachelor’s in ocean engineering with minors in microbiology and geology and geophysics. And then a master’s in atmospheric and environmental science.”

Sandvik still does scientific freelance work but spends most of her time on art. She started making body prints in college. She says her work has evolved.

“I’ll do body prints and I’ll actually make life sized screens out of them because I’ve painted myself so many times—200 times before I started making the screens”

For some of her work, Sandvik only hides parts of her body like her face or hands. Others include her whole body posed in different positions. She says it’s important not to smudge the paint so the prints keep her shape. After she makes a print…

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Credit Chynna Lockett

“I photograph them, and then I set them to the size that I want them to be. And then I can shrink them. I can print things at any size. My biggest screen is eight and a half by five and a half feet. So, I can screen my whole body.”

She finishes the transformation, turning the shapes into animals with her hands.

Today, Sandvik is making a life size image of a buffalo.

“This is a whole body. It actually took me four years to figure out that the bison was going to be back and my stomach would be up as opposed to having my legs and arm forward.”

Sandvik says a big part of these pieces is figuring out how to bend and twist her body in to shapes that can look like parts of an animal. She started the image of the buffalo by lying down with her arms and legs behind her. Her body makes up the animal’s head, back and legs. She finished the piece using her hands to paint in the detail.

“It’s a challenge figuring how I’m going to hide my body into certain animals and shapes.”

The image is printed on a large screen stretched over wood and suspended a few inches above the ground. Photo chemicals help control how the paint is transferred.

“The clear area of the screen, the paint’s going to go through it. And the area that has the photo emulsion that’s been exposed to the sun prevents the paint from going through.”

She lays the screen over a canvas and uses a squeegee to push a thick layer of white paint around. Once it’s covered, she lifts the screen revealing the buffalo.

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Credit Chynna Lockett

Sandvik says there aren’t many artists in the world who make prints like this. She says as a self-taught artist, she’s been able to develop a unique style.

“So everything’s just experimental art. And I’m like ‘I’m going to learn to screen print. In fact, I’m going to make a screen the size of my body.’ And every screen print artist that you run into like ‘you can’t do that.’ Watch, just watch.”

Sandvik is opening her Rapid City home to the public for an art sale in November 5th.