Becoming Part Of "The Human Spectrum"

Becoming Part Of "The Human Spectrum"

Getting naked with strangers for art and acceptance

On a cooler October afternoon, five others and myself made our acquaintances while wearing naught but our birthday suits and (eventually) a thick coating of (we hoped) non-toxic paint. The primary reason behind all of us gathering in this exceptionally vulnerable state? We all wanted to be part of something bold, something off the beaten path, and something we all thought might contribute to a greater self esteem and appreciation for our differences. That "something" was "The Human Spectrum."

What precisely is “The Human Spectrum” you might wonder? To put it concisely, the project is an artistic endeavor conceived by South-Florida based photographer Aaron Ansarov during which total strangers willingly (albeit not without some anxiety) eject themselves from their clothing, allow themselves to receive a generously colorful coating of tempera paint, and, last but not least, to be photographed while being posed while water sprays from behind. Yeah, that’s “The Human Spectrum” in a nutshell. However, Aaron’s mission is something far more whimsical and beneficent.

“When everyone is covered in vibrant colors, we can all be the same. The water represents commercial society’s need to wash this color away in order to catalog us again.”

This brief snippet from “The Human Spectrum” webpage indicates that Aaron’s purpose behind the project isn’t strictly about art, although the art is an important component. Following Aaron’s cross country gallivanting in pursuit of adding to the Spectrum, many of the photos will find their way in a gallery, but you also receive a high quality print of the photo you find most awesome.

Want to see my favorite shot Aaron captured of me? Of course you do! In fact, I'm in all of the photos featured, and my female companion is a new friend with whom I posed several times over.

Rather than the material photograph, the project’s most significant reward comes by way of the cathartic experience Aaron provokes, a prompting that focuses our internal lenses onto self esteem deficiencies that plague us. This reflecting pushes us to consider why we feel the way we do, to itemize the factors compelling us to feel this way, and it encourages us to see ourselves as the unique and special little snowflakes that we all are.

Getting naked was the easy part. Not to suggest my own innards weren’t doing cartwheels, and I even questioned my sanity a few times. No, naked was easy, in hindsight. Difficult was remaining silent and keeping my eyes closed for nearly 20 minutes as I was led to prevent the paint from getting into my eyes and mouth. The challenge was trusting others while I was led, positioned, photographed, posed with another person, and photographed some more, all the while remaining silent and not being able to communicate for fear of tasting the paint.

Tasting the paint was unavoidable, I suppose. Also, for days afterwards I sneezed vibrantly chromatic snot and removed equally colorful earwax with Q-tips. Surprised me that I didn’t expel colorful clouds of paint through regular body processes.

Memories surfacing, I remember encountering two participants just outside the privacy tent (where the artsy magic happens). One of the women offered wine to embolden us with liquid courage. The other immediately launched into tattoo complimenting as my clothing came off, and – in the excitement of tattoo discussion – I neglected to wrap up with my towel. In fact, the only time I felt self-conscious at being naked in front of others was in the immediate timeframe before I was actually naked in front of anyone.

Asked what inspired me to be part of “The Human Spectrum,” my response was something along the lines of “to be part of an adventure,” my voice no doubt adopting my best Bilbo Baggins impression. Adventure and body positivity advocacy were my most concise reasons for joining up. Others’ responses ranged from wanting to love their bodies and others interested in a new avenue of artistic expression. In one friend’s case, she didn’t originally know what she was getting into until the drive there: “my friend signed us up, and I trust her.”

Something that still resonates occurred after the event. Inviting us to his hotel for drinks, and to view the photos on a larger screen than his camera provides, Aaron interviewed each of us, encouraging us to share our motivations for participating as well as requesting to hear our stories of how we’ve been made to feel inferior. Stories were shared. Tears were shed. Words of comfort were provided via our host. Perspectives were changed.

Speaking very personally, for days following the event, I felt privileged to have witnessed so many beautiful people spill their emotions and reveal weaknesses. I felt the fly on the wall, an observer to someone’s private catharsis. I was an invited interloper, and were it not for embraces from everyone, as well as ongoing conversations from our group, I’d have believed that I didn’t belong. But I was there, and they’re emotions became mine. Even now, memories of the rawness of the event provoke the growth of a big lump in my throat.

Final thoughts? I loved it. I loved meeting such lovely people. If Aaron and “the Human Spectrum” come ‘round these parts again, I’d sign up with not even the slightest bit of trepidation. The sensory stimuli bombarding a covered, yet still naked, body was incredible. Not feeling any sense of shame or worry was a pleasant turn of events for someone who usually avoids mirrors. Making the acquaintances of such charming people was beyond exquisite. Ultimately, the good vibe I have from the entire experience bordered on that of a spiritual awakening.

Would I do it again? Resoundingly, emphatically and with gusto, yes! The real question isn’t “would” I do it again, but “when will” I do it again. Aaron is already plotting his 2017 “The Human Spectrum” tour, so I merely await word of any Michigan stops along his journey.

Do you want to know more? Just visit “The Human Spectrum” on Facebook, or search for it, along with the name Aaron Ansarov, via Google and decide if Aaron’s project is something in which you’re interested.

Cover Image Credit: Aaron Ansarov

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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