Five years after his death, Atlanta painter Paul Chelko's love of edgy art, the human form and empowerment of women continued to inspire the artists and models involved in Saturday night's third annual Bodies as a Work of Art charitable fundraiser. Bigger than ever, the annual benefit for the Chelko Foundation, co-chaired by veteran Atlanta fundraiser Carey Carter and long-time Chelko friend Sara Wolf Mixon, was held this year at the Pilots Country Club airplane hangar at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport. Band Romeo Spike and vocalist Thomas Barnette provided the entertainment as aerialists descended, spinning from the ceiling and painted areolas slinked down the catwalk. Former Atlanta Brave John Rocker was even spotted in the crowd, in attendance, presumably, as a show of support for his girlfriend who was modeling in the show.
This year, world championship body paint artists Scott Fray and Madelyn Greco took home both the evening's top prize of $1,000 and the audience favorite award as well (for the first time this year, attendees could vote for their favorite concept via their smart phones) for their stunning, cape-draped concept.
Thanking his many clients and co-workers in the crowd from Carter Barnes Hair Artisans, Carey Carter said: "Usually I never make notes but I have something important to say this year. We're here together tonight to educate and protect our future, our youth. Thank you all for your dedication to that mission." After a slight pause before the runway show began, Carter kept the audience entertained with his impromptu tribute to Andy Williams as he crooned a few quick bars of "Moon River."
Fresh from her final air shift at Dave FM, Mara Davis returned for the third year as the evening's emcee. "I'm Mara Davis, just Mara Davis now," she cracked to the crowd. "I'm a free woman. Are you ready to see some naked bodies?!" For the record, the crowd answered in the affirmative.
Privately, before the show, Davis reflected to us on her final day on air at Dave FM Saturday closing out an 18-year run on the airwaves. "It was freeing," she said. "It was a long time coming. We've known this was coming for a while and the anxiety of that leading up to it was actually harder than the last day. The last day was easy. Eighteen amazing years. There were ups and downs, highs and lows but I have nothing but great things to say about my time there. The entire industry is changing right now, it's not just Dave FM. When I had some dark moments, it was that Dave FM community that was there for me. That comforted me and the other jocks a whole lot. Now I'm excited for the next chapter."
For now, Davis says she's going to concentrate on posting her celebrity interviews on her website, maradavis.com. "And I'm looking for a job! Are you hiring Atlanta magazine?! I'm waiting for that next great opportunity. But for right now, I'm taking some time off. It was 18 years without a break. The time is right to take one."