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Lost In The Woods

Body artist Orly Faya paints people into landscapes to highlight our universal connection, writes Lou Neitunz.


So Orly, how would describe your first impressions of Bali?

I was about three years old the first time I went to Bali and have returned with family and alone over the years. I have always loved the island. It gives me a sense of warmth, ease and flow. I feel very drawn to the place and hope one day to visit to paint, focussing on the element of water.

Growing up – who would you say were your strongest influences and why?

My parents and siblings; I come from a very close family. My mother is a particularly strong role model for me, in her courageous choices throughout her life. I was always supported to follow my dreams, and so I have. My father also taught me my most valuable values, like during my early babysitting career he told me to leave the place better then how I had found it. I think I try to apply this value to the world.


Was your family or home artistically charged?

Yes and no. My mother always painted and created, wrote and cooked with a lot of passion and creativity. I was always encouraged to draw and paint, perhaps because it was one of the few activities that would capture me into silence and stillness. I was and still am a very active person, with wings that help me fly. With five kids under nine years old in my family, we had to be creative to entertain ourselves and were always playing theatrical games – and although I always loved to paint, creativity has not always been my central focus. My last few years of high school were very academically focused and I studied Law and Psychology and ended with a BA in Anthropology, after which I continued on my path, travelling and rediscovering my love and necessity for art in my life.

How did you first find yourself painting bodies?

I saw an image of a dear friend of mine completely body painted and was blown away by the possibilities. I commented on that image and the woman who painted my friend just encouraged me to give body painting a try! So I did and I have been in love with this practice ever since … and the way I work has changed considerably in the past six years.

When did you first realize this is what you wanted to do?

These outcomes have all been organically realized. I act and feel and make choices. If something has not felt right i.e. not brought me joy, I have not continued to do it – this is the way I am. I cannot do something that is not aligned with my heart. This has been a very challenging aspect of my life but has led me to doing what I love!


What’s your biggest challenge in doing what you do?

I have been following my heart since as long as I can remember, and that means I travel a lot. I have been travelling now for 14 years. I established my life and my work around travelling, so much so that now I go back home to rest. Though it was much easier in the early days, now the logistics of healthy living are made challenging on the road. Maintaining my dietary needs, yoga, and getting a good night’s sleep are all basic things that are much harder whilst travelling. This is definitely the biggest challenge lately.

Any other collaborations or locations you would still like to capture?

There is much, much more to come. I am currently in Costa Rica collaborating with an Iboga Yoga Retreat in the forest of the Pacific side and will head to connect with the Bri Bri people after that on the Caribbean side. After this I head back to Peru and back to Australia for about nine months before my US tour begins next July. For three months I will be painting the towns of Boulder, Colorado, Arizona and the East Coast and New York regions. By November I will already be in Zambia with a Women’s Healing Retreat and hopefully connecting and collaborating with the Kassena people of a little town called Tiébélé in Burkino Faso and their amazing painted houses. Such collaboration would essentially end in an exhibition fundraiser with partial profits returning direct to their community. Every day I am grateful for the endless opportunities that present themselves with my work painting people into the world.


Your work also aims to support Indigenous cultures – can you tell us more about the Emerging Earth People Project?

Emerging Earth People is a series of creative collaborations between myself, various international film makers and indigenous peoples from around the world. The first five creations were born from the people of Australia, and collaborations have now extended to the people of the Andes, with collaborations in Zambia on the horizon. Through the vehicle of collaboration, we learn about one another and about ourselves and via the medium of film, we capture the significance of the ‘journey’ to connect with one another for the shared cause – our Earth. A journey to produce images and film media that reflect the direct connection between people and their lands, and stimulate cellular memory of human origins, elevating consciousness to awakened states. The aim of showing these processes via film is to hone in on the trials and tribulations of cultural collaboration, to help us all understand the need for anthropological awareness when working with people in the world. This project is needing supporters and collaborators so please get in touch if you are interested in joining the movement!