“If you can manipulate clay and end up with art, you can manipulate yourself in it as well. It has to do with using the body as a tool, an object to manipulate.” —Bruce Nauman
In body prints or casts, artists use the human figure like a stamp, creating an impression or mold of the body that becomes a work of art. The practice of body casting is centuries-old, beginning as a manner of producing death masks that commemorate and honor the deceased. In the 1960s, this practice became popular among artists like Bruce Nauman and Alina Szapocznikow who were interested in how the body could function as an artistic medium. During this time, Yves Klein held his first “Anthropometry” performance in Paris. Nude models covered themselves in blue paint—the artist referred to them as “human paintbrushes”—and imprinted their bodies on giant pieces of paper in front of an audience. At the height of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, David Hammons began producing powerful works that utilized his face and body as a printing surface to reflect the politics of race and gender in America.