By Ula Ilnytzky
New York City's streets are Trina Merry's studio, and the naked body is her canvas.
She creates remarkable images that seamlessly camouflage her mostly nude models into New York City's skyline, blending them into the details of the Empire State Building, the Manhattan Bridge, Central Park and other famous landmarks.
The art form, preserved in photographs, is the result of a meticulous process that relies on models who must hold their pose perfectly still for hours and of New York City's relatively liberal laws that have no problem with a woman standing topless in the middle of a busy street.
Merry says she came up with the idea for the series after moving to New York from the San Francisco area this year.
"I wanted to engage the city and understand it and make some observations," Merry said. "So instead of a person right in front of the Empire State building or the Statue of Liberty, they're softly in the background, and you've got more of a reflective view of the person within the landscape."
This past week, the 33-year-old artist put her model in the middle of a Brooklyn street, deftly blending her into the Manhattan Bridge and surrounding streetscape with smooth brush strokes.
"It feels great to be painted," says model Jessica Mellow, who wore only a bikini bottom and running shoes. "You feel the transformation process. The brush itself, it's really soft. It feels more like a massage."
But the city as a body-painting studio comes with its hazards.
Merry carefully checked weather forecasts to make sure there was no chance of rain. She had to repaint a portion of her model after a van in the background moved. And she had to deal with the constant distraction of pedestrians and even cab drivers who slowed down to gawk, snap pictures and ask questions — their faces a mix of shock, intrigue and anything-goes resignation.
"That's so very New York," says passer-by Celeste Hernandez. "You cannot be surprised by anything."
Associated Press writers Rachelle Blidner and Joseph Frederick contributed to this report.