The Painted Body Locations-how in the world did I get there?

Melissa Weiss Steele Earthen Body photography series in New Mexico 2007

Melissa Weiss Steele Painted Body photography series

Melissa Weiss Steele Painted Body photography series New Mexico 2008

I can’t talk about the Painted Body series locations without bringing in the Earthen Body series first. Over time I will revisit certain pivotal shoots from the Earthen Body series, but for now we shall just share their profound impact on my sense of power, trust and joy.

The Earthen Body series began in Texas after a particularly successful 5 day retreat  Kate Vigneron and I taught at her ranch with women and horses. I had found an incredible bone mask, and took some shots that blew me away-so much so that I hid them for 4 months. My sense of trust in my artistic process and the Universe at large was a little  shaky at that time so I was not sure if the energy that came through the photos was a fluke.

Four months later, on my birthday, I decided to revisit the process at my father’s cabin on The Olympic Peninsula. It is an incredible place, one of 6 cabins grandfathered into the National Forest there. It is perched above the coastal beach, and can only be reached through locked logging roads. I set out barefoot for Seafield Creek, not knowing what I might encounter. As I climbed down a fern covered embankment my Spirits told me, “this is your work.” That second series at the creek also blew me away, and spent the next year taking the photos whenever I could.

Melissa Weiss Steele Earthen Body photography series 2007

Part of why this process was so life-changing was that I uses to carry a lot of fear and anxiety. For me to be naked, alone on the land was HUGE. The other transformational part of the journey was how I was lead to locations. It really was a form of enchantment. I love the Earth; I am a happy pagan- just let me loose  in nature and watch me glow. So I would come upon places that were so beautiful or interesting that I just HAD TO play. And play I did. It got to the point where I would just get in my car and be lead to amazing locations. I learned to trust in my safety, and the wisdom of this guiding force that knew when and where to co-create this incredible ritualistic process.

I took the Earthen Body photos throughout the Pacific coast, The Southwest, and magical magical New Zealand. I never encountered another person during a shoot until New Zealand. I feel like a container, a “field,” was created around the process so I would be left in peace.

So the Painted Body series came directly out of this trust and confidence in the journey and my relationship to the Earth and Unseen Guidance that I was able to step into.

There have been five main locations here in New Mexico where The Painted Body work has been done. Some are graffiti covered tunnels, some arroyos, some mesas and caves. I have taken the photos 27 times myself, once with another. Other than the collaborative shoot I am always alone {earth-plane beings at least}. There are almost 30,000 photos in this series alone.  As you see in the photos above, I have even stood in rushing water to get my images.

So I continue to be open to delightful and sacred places that draw me to this work, and the emergence of The Oracle of Initiation deck- boy have I manifested well!! 

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