Greta Dorshorst loves fall, and on Tuesday an artist painted a tree twisting around her left calf and up her leg to help the freshman appreciate her body as much as she does the season.
"I'm super nervous about my body," Dorshorst said, before stripping down to skivvies in the busy University Center.
To help young men and women find beauty in their own skin and dismiss conventional images of beauty portrayed by mass media, the Student Involvement Network of the UC joined the National Organization for Women Foundation in "Love Your Body Day."
The group brought together volunteers, such as Dorshorst, and painters, such as T.J. Gould, to create live and unique displays of beauty.
Gould, an art major, has painted murals, pet portraits and landscapes. She has painted on the human body before, too. Shortly before noon, she traced the outline of a tree up Dorshorst's leg, and she said she appreciates the unconventional canvas, as well as the way it leads its own life.
"It's a live canvas, and then your work of art gets to walk around for the day," Gould said.
Adrianne Donald, associate director of student involvement at the UC, said UM has hosted the event for at least a few years, and it fits perfectly with the mission of the Student Involvement Network, a student activities board. The network promotes learning, leadership, diversity and fun.
"So an event like this makes complete sense within their values," Donald said.
The message of the day, she said, is that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and they can be healthy in all shapes and sizes, too.
A white board behind the women asked and answered this question: "What does beauty mean to you?"
"Elegantly simple and honest." "A state of mind." "Radiance." "Kindness."
The first three volunteers to be painted were women, but men are also besieged by images that offer unrealistic expectations of the human form in commercials and print advertisements, Donald said. She didn't believe any men participated in the event this year, but said one man joined last year.
"Body image is very real for men, just as much as it is for women," she said.
Women are more prone to talk about the issues, though, and the three who stepped up first for body art shared their reasons for being involved.
Lily Stefani has grown to love her body, but she has struggled with different features at different times of her life. When she was younger, she worried about her breasts, and later, she had to learn to embrace her stomach.
Seeing other women empowered by showing their bodies helped her overcome her own discomfort, so she wanted to do the same. An artist painted a red flower on her belly, and around it the words, "My kindness is beautiful."
Sophie Hewey hasn't always been comfortable being a shorter person with a thicker frame, but she's much less comfortable with the skewed perceptions of beauty that society presents. At the UC, she stepped onto the stage to accept body art and break stereotypes.
"If you're going to get naked for a cause, loving your body is a good one," Hewey said.