Nude model Zoe West was wrongfully arrested during a body-painting session… (Lea Sophie )
It wasn't nudity, it was art. A nude model who was arrested last summer after taking off her clothes in the middle of Times Square as part of a body-painting art project has reached a $15,000 settlement with the city, her attorney said Tuesday.
Zoe West, 22, said she was wrongfully arrested last summer by an overzealous New York City Police Department. She said the officers spent a lot of time closely watching as West's face, breasts and torso and legs were covered in body paint by artist Andy Golub. They arrested her about 15 or 20 minutes after she took off her panties to enhance the paint application process, she said.
Her attorney, noted civil rights attorney Ron Kuby, pursued a false-arrest claim against the city, arguing that West and Golub -- who specializes in body painting -- were protected under the law.
"Artistic nudity is completely legal in New York City," Kuby told the Los Angeles Times. "That is to say, as long as your nudity is part of a play, performance, exhibition or show, it’s completely legal."
Kuby said he has been doing legal battle with the city over this issue for years, and has prevailed. He said he even contacted the city in advance to tell them about Golub's art project to head off a potential legal confrontation.
In the end, Kuby said, the city had no choice but to write a check.
"They just threw up their hands," Kuby said.
New York City's Law Department did not respond to a request for comment.
West said she was surprised to be arrested on that hot summer's day in August 2011. After all, NYPD offices had been standing by watching Golub paint her body for hours. Their inaction, combined with Kuby's history of legal success in this arena, allowed her to focus on Golub's direction, she said.
"I hadn’t had a bra on through pretty much the whole session," she told the Los Angeles Times. "Then I took my [bottoms] off. Within 15 or 20 minutes, I was arrested."
West's Model Mayhem account includes a picture of her in the back of a police van looking a little like a Na'vi from Pandora. (Note: There is some mild nudity at her account, so proceed accordingly.)
West said she doesn't think there was anything salacious about the art project. In fact, she doesn't do erotic modeling, "only tasteful, artfully done nude work."
West says she's going to invest her check from the city and, despite winning, she's not sure she'd be willing to do it all over again.
"I'd work with Andy again in a less public situation," she said, adding that she didn't enjoy being arrested, and hauled into the police station as countless officers looked on. She was even frisked.
"I would not mind skipping that whole part," she said.
We had to ask West: What about tourists traipsing through Times Square? Or parents who don't want to have to explain the eye-popping scenario to their 6-year-old? What if they're offended by such nudity?
"I’ve seen billboards in Time Square that are way more highly sexualized than what I was doing," she said. "Nudity or not, sex is such an advertised thing in this city, you couldn’t really possibly use that as a reasonable excuse against me."
And, finally, is this body-painting really art?
"Art is subjective," she said. Anyone and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It is art. It’s expressing creativity in a unique and interesting way."
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