* The artwork is anonymous. If you are the artist and prefer to receive credit or know the artist, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Grab your coffee. This is a true story, told using a Tarantino timeline.
She suggested going downtown for Final Friday, May 27, 2016. Let’s call her Lovely. Wichita art galleries often open their doors as part of an art crawl on the last Friday of each month. In my opinion, this was an excellent suggestion. Art crawls are unique in the sense you may attend with other people, but you aren’t subjected to the same experience. An individual may explore the artist’s message, how the art resonates internally, and use others as a sounding board to discuss the different layers. I was intimate both physically and intellectually with Lovely prior to this story; both add dimensions to the car-ride-home-conversation.
We were probably four galleries deep when a lady approached us saying, “hello Ian, how are you?” I returned her enthusiasm, engaging in small talk for the next ten minutes. Lovely asked how I knew her, with understandable curiosity. The artist was in her sixties, obviously not affiliated with my construction job, and not family. I said, “she was in the art class where I modeled.” We both broke into laughter as Lovely discovered they shared a commonality: seeing me naked. It was at that moment I realized, nude modeling doesn’t end when you step down from the podium and put on your clothes. As soon as the thought pops into someone’s head, you are instantly naked.
I’m okay with that notion and here is why. The two contexts in which I wore my bathing suit were completely different and embodied two different ideas, one was intimacy and the other was art. To be clear, this post isn’t about my love life, but nude images in society.
The human design isn’t inherently sexual.
If I had 40 dollars, this source: Eck, B.A. Sociological Forum (2001) 16: 603., would likely support my argument. Alas, I do not have a database subscription. However, the abstract provides sufficient information if it isn’t already common sense.
“The nude image resides comfortably in three familiar and bounded frames: art, pornography, and information.”
Information incorporates medical fields. Pornography targets a primitive desire. Art, on the other hand, is both an appreciation and figurative explanation of what it means to be human. Indeed, there are regions of overlap; Body Worlds, is an exhibit combining art and anatomy.
The identity aspect of art is what piqued my interest as a model. I don’t believe you are the body that takes up three-dimensional space. Rather, the body is an accessory. My goal as a nude model was to see my body for what it really is, a carrying case.
Toward the end of the 2015, someone told me about a class at Wichita State University that needed models. I followed the procedure and filled out paper work in January, but didn’t hear back until April. When I finally heard back, it dawned on me that I might be unqualified. Modeling is a job. I know how to be naked, but sitting or standing for 20 minute periods is quite difficult. On the other hand, it seemed like such a ridiculous thing to practice at home; I decided to wing it, fully prepared to fail. The following is a play by play of my thoughts.
Setting: Small, door less cubical adjacent to art room. There is a mirror on one wall.
Me: Okay, Ian, here we are. Let’s swap the clothes for our robe. How do we look? Same as yesterday. It’s kind of cold. I think we can request a space heater. If I do, what does that say about me. I’ve been cold before. Yeah dude, but never in front of an audience. This sounds like an insecurity talking. Don’t worry, everyone dies. You’re right, no heater. This robe looks like the waffle material long johns are made of. The kind old men wear in movies, minus the pee stains. Don’t worry, they didn’t specify silk and it’s not like you’ll be wearing it long.
The instructor calls me out and gives me the run down as I step onto the modeling stage.
Setting: Isles, artists, glints of light from dodging glances, a ladder on center stage, a grid made of tape on the floor.
The first pose is a simple standing pose. Arms out. 2 minutes.
Me: These lights are hot. I feel like I’m a musician or pastor. It is kind of difficult to tell when people are looking at me versus the rendering they are creating. It’s almost as if they aren’t real people and I’m not really naked. Okay cool, this isn’t too bad. Wow, my arms are tired. Was I glaring at the start of this session or did my face slowly adopt the look of pain?
Next pose. sitting.
I feel like I’ve been staring at the soap dispenser on the wall for an eternity. Has it been five minutes yet? I’m not cold. I might even be sweating. I don’t see how people could get a boner. Okay, maybe you can. Better think of something else so that doesn’t happen. But for real, let’s go back to thinking of the soap dispenser. Wait was that the timer. Okay, put on the robe. Now how are going to organically interact with the ladder in the next pose?
After leaving day one, I felt a kind of euphoria, not because I was naked, but because I had a unique human experience. Perhaps it was a temporary escape from existential ennui or maybe it is an overwhelming gratitude for the bond between art and artist.
I hope to model every so often, to see how well I am accepting the changes to my carrying case. I think it is worth noting that one gentleman mentioned in one of the sessions that when he was younger, he would have been able to model because he was less self-conscious of his body. I would be lying if I said I don’t have insecurities. It isn’t easy, but I believe confronting self-doubt is the best way to free the self. If you wish to serve as a symbol of liberty I encourage you to do the same.