The body is the temple of our soul, and our consciousness.
A dynamic dreamer, and artist: Oliver Halsman Rosenberg.
CARAVANA Freethinkers 2021 Edition features a dynamic dreamer, and artist: Oliver Halsman Rosenberg.
From installations across the world to miniature paintings, Oliver’s pieces tantalize and elevate the senses through his blending of science, spirituality, and philosophical theorems into his artwork. His artistic lineage as well is so beautifully represented through his own unique expressions and creative mediums- in a way that boldly represents his own spirit, feelings, and the lens through which he sees the world to transmute into art.
This lineage extends back to legendary photographer Philippe Halsman, Oliver’s grandfather, a renowned photographer who shot the likes of Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and collaborated 37 years with Salvador Dalí. His mother Irene Halsman is a seasoned proficient in her creative mediums, as well.
While perhaps there’s room to ponder if creativity is hereditary, there’s no doubt in how talented Oliver is as he’s revealed to us over the years. He takes his own place in the great hall amongst other artists that have dared to put their heart and soul on display through their creations.
A wandering spirit by nature, Oliver has explored realms of all mediums of creative expression, and we highlight this feature on his adventures of body painting and photography across the world. He transforms the already intimate exchange between painter and painted, into an organic interaction involving emotions, trust, and the timeless sense of connection that art inspires within us all.
What called you to explore the realm of body painting? As a child, I would look through old copies of National Geographic magazine and felt a connection with photos of tribes and rituals from around the world. I wondered why my American culture had nothing similar. In summer camp, I’d go to the creek and rub small stones on large stones, turning the stone dust into a paste and marking up my face and body.
I remember leaving my first Burning Man in 2001 and thinking just because I was leaving BRC, did not mean that the experience had to end; from that point on, I drew marks on my body when I would leave for nocturnal adventures. People wanted me to mark them up, and I began my Bodyglyph chapter. It started as “Brainwash removal Makeup therapy” at the 2002 Burn, and then turned into the “Perpetual Epiphany Galactic Travel Agency” experience at the 2011 Burn.
As I traveled the world in my nomadic journey, these glyphs were offerings and meditations on impermanence. Eventually, I worked with photographers who wanted to document my work, and then I decided to honor my photographic legacy and do photoshoots on my own. I print the negatives in the analog color darkroom and make one-of-a-kind solarized prints. I want to create images that remind people about our archaic legacy and the tribal memories buried in our DNA.
What kinds of social constructs have you had to navigate through, being that many tend to be sensitive to the experience of their skin used as a canvas? I can’t say that there have been many barriers. When I spend my summers in Mykonos, I meet people from all over the world, and it’s beautiful to see how people connect with having their bodies marked. Before galleries existed, artists painted on caves, and before caves, people were painting on each other’s bodies. The body is the temple of the soul, and our consciousness, and I feel that body art is a way of honoring the vessel.
What elements of inspiration do you draw from when painting people? Is it something universal or do you simply create the design at the moment, based around your impression of the person or something that you notice in them? I think I was a zen monk in a past life. The calligraphy is there without any training. I simply let the intelligence of the universe run through my hand and make the designs. In a vivid sense, I am an observer of the process, often amazed by the designs that come out of my hand. The glyphs come from a place of “no-mind,” but this no-mind place is very attuned to others’ energy, so the designs tend to vary from one person to another. I never repeat the same pattern ever. Once I finish with one person I can’t even remember what I just did.
I love to connect with people, and silence is the best: to drop into silent awareness of the touch of the brush on the skin can be a very transcendental experience, though some people prefer to talk.
Because your art is so interactive and organic, do you have moments of ever being depleted from so much interaction during the process or is that interaction one of the things you love most about it? When I am painting for 13 hours straight, I can notice the body is tired, but in a way, I’m channeling so much energy that I am being filled in proportion to how much I am giving. I love to connect with people, and silence is the best: to drop into silent awareness of the touch of the brush on the skin can be a very transcendental experience, though some people prefer to talk. People feel very open and in a very short period of time, we can often have deeply meaningful and spiritual/philosophical discussions. Everyone is different. I have no expectations when I sit down with someone. It’s just a practice of being present.
The body is the temple of the soul, our consciousness, and I feel that body art is a way of honoring the vessel.
While a lot of your work revolves around being with people, how have you adapted to COVID-19 regulations and maintained your creative practice? Covid 19 has been an interesting opportunity. My public body art practice is limited to begin with (only a few select places throughout the year), and because I haven’t been able to travel my nude bodyglyph photoshoots in nature have also been challenging. So I decided to explore some new creative processes by photographing a color series indoors and running the images through an Artificial Intelligence Machine Learning program and making NFTs out of the results.
I have gone full crypto bodyglyph during this COVID period, exploring processes I never would have had the chance to if I were still wandering barefoot around India or Mexico. Covid has been such a wonderful moment to find gratitude and allow ourselves to be decomposed and reborn, but I do look forward to getting back to engaging with the synergistic magic that happens when two strangers meet with nothing but a brush between them.