All this body paint has inspired me to talk about Veruschka and her collaboration with photographer Holger Trulzsch on a series of photographs called Oxydationen.
So who is Verushchka?
Verushchka was a fashion icon in the 60s and 70s. Born in Germany, her family was minor royalty – she’s actually a countess (and her real name is Vera von Lehndorff). Her father was executed for trying to assassinate Adolph Hitler. Pretty crazy! Since the von Lehndorff’s were considered traitors to the Reich, they were sentenced to work in labor camps until the end of WWII.
With the turmoil behind her, Vera studied art in Florence. While there, she was discovered by a photographer. At 6’1″, she’s pretty hard to miss. She had tried to model before, but had some due to her towering height. This is when the persona of Verushchka came into being. As an exotic foreigner, everyone wanted to work with her.
At the age of 20, she was signed with Ford Modeling Agency. You might recognize her from in the famous YSL safari dress.
A true artist at heart, Veruschka left the fashion scene when she felt her artistic idealism was being compromised. Oxydationen was a way for Vera to deconstruct her fashion identity of Veruschka. reaction to this. The series documents her constant questions: who am I? What is my relationship to my surroundings? Is identity real or perceived?
The images were taken from 1970 to 1986 – from locations all around the world. Vera was covered in body paint that obscured her identity and made her blend into her surroundings. Some of the images are clear. Here we seen Vera as a huntress, at one with nature. (Some of these photos may have been taken by Peter Beard . . . see the video at the end of the article)
Some are more abstract: Is she energy itself? What would the personification of electricity be? What about lightening?
My favorites are the obtuse. Where is Vera? Is she even there? How did she do that? Is she a textile? (Hey, this reminds me of Where’s Waldo!) It can become very difficult to find her in some of the photographs. . .
These are the primary images for the Oxydationen series. So amazing . . .
While researching these images, I found article entitled Model Image by Robin Rice that critiqued the exhibition of Vera’s work. A particularly eloquent statement by Rice was noteworthy:
We see Lehndorff in body paint gingerly stalking toward her designated context, then meticulously orienting her limbs so that painted details integrate with the background. She tucks her head to match shadows and, at last, closes her eyes, surrendering to her disappearance into an object.
So you might be wondering – just how did the transformation take place? Well, I certainly did. So I found some videos showing just how the transformations took place. Enjoy!