We’ve all seen it at birthday parties, festivals, and school events––eccentric butterflies, cuddly kitty cats, and treacherous pirates––children’s faces metamorphosed by the wonderful art of face painting. It should actually be called the art of making joy because nobody does it more joyfully than Alma Magaña.
Alma’s that rare occurrence where everything about her and around her is somehow touched by creative energy. You’ll agree once you’ve read her resume and found she's held two fashion degrees, has designed anything from menswear to lingerie, studied cinema makeup, and patented cosmetic tools. But her real love––what feeds her soul––is the art of body painting.
Face and body painting has been a part of our history for a long time. Once used primarily in the theatre, it became more popular during the 1960s hippie movement when people painted themselves with symbols that showed allegiance to the movement and a protest against the war. It wasn’t until the 80s that face painting really took hold and became a way for kids to enjoy themselves––or for Alma to enjoy herself today.
I met Alma during my day job, which turned out to be her day job too as a film costumer. We did the usual––you know, the "I do this/you do that" chitchat. And then she blew me away with a photograph of her most recent face painting session. That’s when I found, to my utter amazement, that while this petite woman endures the demands of TV production––the long hours, multiple clothing changes, continuity, and actors’ insistent comfort requests––she simultaneously creates and plans her other life as face and body artist. And it all began, she said, with her interaction with kids and the reward she felt as she watched their expressions and little eyes grow big with the pure excitement of being transformed into a fantasy character. But the joy doesn’t stop there––not after you’ve seen what Alma’s art does for us big kids.
With Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) upon us on November 2, Alma has been creating face art that touches not only the recipients of her fine hand, but her soul as well. By transforming bodies and faces into whimsically painted skeletons, she memorializes the death of her own mother who lost her life way too early for both of them. Based in this wonderful Mexican tradition, death is a positive step forward into a higher level of consciousness. Painting one’s face and body into a skeleton is a chance to overcome the fear of death and to embrace the souls of the deceased. Alma only wishes that her mother were here today to see the beautiful work she does. When asked how it makes her feel to do her art, Alma told me she's stimulated by the creative collaboration between the subject, the photographer, and herself. It never feels like work to her, but a creative outlet. She said "it's my element, my zone" and expresses all her art values while bringing happiness to all involved at the same time.
As the world turns out negative events and challenges us daily, I'd say we could all use a little more happiness. Alma Magaña will be painting joy onto the faces of young and old at The 14th Annual Día de los Muertos Festival in Canoga Park on Sunday, November 2 from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Whether you're embracing a personal loss or just wanting to say "boo!" to it all, let Alma lovingly transform you!
Follow Alma on Facebook or on Instagram @RockStarFaceArt.