Saturday, June 30, 2012
Even Nudes Get the Blues
“Okay, so here is the bathroom. And you have your, what did you call it again?” “Sarong.” “Yes, we’ll see you out there in a few minutes, then.” He smiles and leaves me to undress. I take a breath, smiling to myself. Here’s looking at you, kid. My belt clanks on the tile floor as pull off my skinny jeans. I stand up and give myself a look in the full length mirror; well, I think, if I can’t lay around naked in a room of strangers at 26, young and careless, when can I? I wrap my sarong around me and walk back into the studio where I will sit in one pose for three hours while five artists furiously paint what they see. A ‘stage’ has been set on the floor of drapes and cushions, brightly lit by additional lamps. “Will you be posing me or, um, should I just give it a go?” “Well,” Rick replies cautiously, “let’s see what you come up with and maybe we can make adjustments?” I turn back to what will be my little nook for the next three hours and hesitate to remove my covering. For one half second the discomfort seems almost unbearable. I remind myself that nothing about this is going to be easy and I must embrace the discomfort for a moment until it passes. As I set myself down on the red velvet draped stool, I am supremely aware of the… shall we say, vantage points… of each of the artists. I am not interested in giving away any more intimate a glance than has already been afforded. Taking full advantage of my own artistic license in this scenario, I decide to sit on the floor. With over-cautious grace, like that of a young girl wearing heels for the first time, I lower myself to the ground with my back against the stool. Dropping my knees over, I form a kind of greater-than symbol with my legs and look up for approval. “That’s it. Don’t move. Wait, tilt your chin.” As he says this, I rotate my shoulders more openly to the room, twisting my back slightly. “Perfect!” Another artist exclaims, “Everybody got a good angle on this one? I’d say we got it on the first shot.” They all nod, I make a few more minor adjustments to the tilt of my chin, playing with the light until it sounds like everyone is satisfied from their varied angles. Suddenly, like at the sound of the gun at the races, there is a fury as brushes make scratching sounds on canvas with slight tapping interludes as they reload. Amidst all of this, I sit. I sit with only my thoughts to entertain me, wearing nothing but patient concentration. There was that moment, less than a moment, when I thought this may have topped all of my crazy ideas. Really, Blake? The pay isn’t that good, even if all you have to do is sit around. But, then I remembered. I remembered that in fact I have done things much, much stranger than this and as the world spins madly on I am somehow comforted by this thought. Sitting in this form of silence, I go looking for a distraction. In no time at all, I find one. I have this theory, you see, that goes something like this: if people were naked more often, and naked around more people, we would be happier. We would be happier because we would stop lying to ourselves about what ‘perfect’ really was, we would stop looking at our bodies in relation to “everyone else’s.” The fallacy of this being, of course, that the bodies most people are seeing undressed have been gymed, or starved, or photoshopped, or just plain lucky because those are the one’s people are told are okay to bring out of doors. Most people don’t look like that and it never seemed to be as much of a problem as it is today. If we were more comfortably naked, maybe we would stop judging ourselves as much. If we stopped judging ourselves, well hell, we might just lighten up our judgment of others. But that’s probably just a crazy thought from the crazy girl sitting naked while strangers paint her. After 30 minutes passes, an alarm goes off. “Okay, you can take a 10 minute break.” I get up, already a little stiff, and try to, as daintily as possible, stand while wrapping my sarong around me. Somewhere along the line, sitting had begun to feel safe while standing undressed just didn’t suit me at all. Leaving the safety of my nook, I wander around behind the easels to catch the first glimpses of these developing pieces. Strange, I don’t know what I expected to see but when I looked at the first painting I was… amazed; that is me, wholly and unfiltered, rendered in oil paint. And there, again, that is me, but different. And still, three more me’s. In attempting to stifle my gasp, I raise my hand to my mouth. This is way more than I bargained for. This is big. After a few more minutes of walking and stretching, chatting and listening, I walk back to my nook. This time, I take off my sarong without batting an eyelash and take a seat, quickly finding the muscle memory of my previous pose and settle back into my meditation. Floating in and out of thought and the absence of thought, I make plans for the week; friends I will see, bike rides I will take, books I will read. I quickly tire of these thoughts, thoughts I can busy myself with any old time, and just settle my mind and think of nothing but the space between my eyes and the wall plug upon which I have chosen to fixate. And so goes the rest of the night. Every 20 to 30 minutes, I get up, stretch and watch myself develop through the eyes of these artists. We talk about what it means to recreate what you perceive and then sell it, how it will never be perfect until we let go of the need to make it so. The present is just too precious to be copied, I guess. Then I sit, back in my meditation of non-thought, just me and the wall plug. I like to think it was meditating back on me, but we will never be sure. At the end of the three hours, I dress and am handed over a check for my time, along with the promise of calls in the near future from several of the artists looking for models for longer term projects. I give my thanks for their patience on my first sitting and bid them all a safe drive home. I walk out into the cool of the evening and I can no longer stifle the laugh that has been sitting on my heart all night. As I step off the curb, I give my heels and playful click. It was meant as a reminder, a reminder that I am not that girl painted so stoically on so many canvas, looking like a petal recently fallen. No, no, I am… well, I don’t really know what I am yet but maybe that is exactly the point.