The Gaia Project: We Were Painted Naked

April 7, 2015 in Guatemala, North America, Travelogue


So, we were painted… naked.

Sounds like it would be a long story, doesn’t it? Only it wasn’t. It just, kind of, happened. 

San Marcos is a weird place. Stuff just happens here that doesn’t in other places. Like 30 people showing up for dinner, and random music evenings with strangers, and people coating themselves with chocolate, inside and out, for therapeutic purposes. There are a lot of hippie hugs in the streets. Long ones. So when my neighbour, Ginou, said, “Hey, you guys wanna see the naked picture Orly painted of Wolfgang and me?” It wasn’t that weird.

This is the picture:


Wow! Right?

On the spot we hired Orly. She wasn’t looking for more work. Actually, she was looking to rest for the two days she had left in San Marcos, but she graciously agreed to make a tangible memory for us, and with us, of our favourite lake in the world.

Now, I love to be naked. I’m naked rather a lot, actually, but not outside the house, and not in the garden at midday, and not with strangers, to be sure. So, that was a little weird. We warned the teenagers. They opted to disappear for the day, who can blame them. We warned my parents, who were living just up the hill from us; they gave our garden a wide berth too. Not so much, the rest of the community.

Orly is a fantastic artist. She carefully picked the spot and scoped out the best angles, positioned us carefully, used stones as markers for our feet so that we wouldn’t lose our places, and then started to paint.

“This will take three or four hours,” she told us, “You can help me by holding the pose as much as you can. If you feel sick or like you’re going to pass out, tell me, and we’ll take a break.” 

“Do people get sick and pass out?? Is that a thing?” I asked her, feeling great.

She laughed, “Oh yes, being painted into the world is a very powerful thing. You’ll feel the earth’s energy. People have all sorts of unusual reactions. I’ve painted people who get faint, some who’ve passed out, one who shook uncontrollably. It affects people. It’s okay, we just go with it.”

I noticed The Man carefully not roll his eyes. He is not a hippie, “Well if I pass out or throw up it’s because I’ve had the flu the past two days,” he noted dryly.



And it was, in fact, a very hard day. He was recovering from sick, and unbeknownst to me, I was coming down with it. We both fought nausea, dizziness and the long hours in the sun. Parts of me were sunburnt that never have been. Or perhaps, Orly was right, and it was the strong pull of the world as we merged with it through her artful hands.

The best part of this community is the openness of doors.

People come and go through our yard in a continual stream of friendship. Friends, strangers, locals, foreigners. All are welcome and all appear. Word had, apparently, gotten around that we were being painted into the lago, and so folks came to check it out.

  • Hana Lucia hovered offering water and snacks.
  • Brad and Kyla waded over from Del Lago to check out the kids’ tree forts and to have a look at Orly in action. Brad squatted down, head cocked sideways and peered at us against the background, trying to get us to disappear into the lake and sky like Orly intended. “COOL!” he pronounced, giving two thumbs up.
  • Wolfgang, fresh from his own painting session came down to sympathize with our sore muscles and building heat exhaustion, offering cool drinks.

I stood there, wearing my smallest bikini bottoms and nothing else, thinking: “Well, THIS is a culturally broadening experience… hello friends… and these are my Avatar blue boobies.” 


If four hours seems like a long time to stand naked in one’s garden and be painted, let me assure you that it is.

It is nothing, however, like the time Orly puts into post production. As the sun began to dip towards the edge of the bamboo she started looking over her shoulder and gauging just the right moment for the light. She snapped pictures as hard and fast as she could so she’d have as much as possible to work with. “Don’t move, just a few more minutes, everything looks great, and we’re about to lose the light!” She encouraged us as she flitted, like the magical fairy she is, between paint palette and camera lens, tweaking colours as the light changed.

And then we were done.

It was almost two months between being under the spell of Orly’s magic painting wand and the presentation of the results, and more than 15 hours of post production effort, on two continents for her. The magic, is in the doing, as my friend Justin says.

This is the result:


I can’t tell you how special it is to us to have a picture, painted, as if by magic, by someone as delightful as Orly, in one of the few places that feel like home to us. No matter where we live for the rest of our lives a piece of this place will travel with us. I love that.

You know what else is cool?

We’re going to be in an exhibition! In Australia!

Orly is having the first exhibition of her work at the Burrinja Cultural Centre May 8-June 7 with an opening on May 9, in Upwey, Victoria, Australia (near Melbourne). I wish we could pop over and attend the opening and surprise her in support of her work!! Friends who live nearby, PLEASE attend, and hug her hard on our behalf, won’t you? Instead, we contributed to her Indiegogo campaign, in addition to commissioning her to do our piece. Perhaps if you fall in love with her, and with her art, the way we have, you’ll support her too. She’s worth far more than every penny.