Thursday, January 21, 2016

Disappointment

I was looking back at my blog, and I realized that I only made two entries in all of 2015.  It is now mid-January, and this is my third of 2016.  At least I am following through on my New Year's Resolution to write more in this.

2016 has started with both a triumph and a disappointment.  I've already written about the triumph, so I guess I should mention the disappointment.  The Texas Academy of Figurative Art held a week-long workshop with famed artist Robert Liberace January 11 through 15.  I had been approached about being one of two male models used in that, and I had responded by asking about scheduling.  I only had three days of paid time off left at my regular job, but I would have gladly taken the other two off unpaid to have gotten a chance to model for this workshop.  It was not to be, however, as I got an email in late December telling me that the male model positions had been filled.

The spring semester has now started at most colleges in the area, and I do have two model bookings scheduled for next week.  It will be wonderful to get back into a regular drawing class again after the long winter break.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Aftermath

One week has passed since the Culture Hole exhibit.  I have to admit that I miss the anticipation, the nervous jitters, preparation work, that feeling of going into unknown territory, and the email exchanges with Lana.  The experience of the show itself seems surreal now, almost like it happened in a dream.  It is a memory that will stay with me for a long time.

There had been quite a few pre-show announcements of the exhibit, with publications like D Magazine, the Dallas Observer, and Glasstire including it in their list of art shows to see that weekend, so I was curious about any reviews or press after the event.  Unfortunately, I have only found one post-show item about it, and the disappointing thing is that it is more about my personal narrative about the exhibit than the exhibit itself.  It was written by Tim Rogers for D Magazine, and the title of the post is “The Weirdest Thing You Will Read Today”.  You can click the link to read it, but it sounds like Mr. Rogers wasn’t actually present at the show.    In what seems to be a case of lazy reporting, he makes disparaging remarks about the concept of the exhibit while denigrating, in an offhand way, my report about the event.  In other words, he doesn’t “get it”.

I realize that the nature of that performance piece was one only for people who wished to be challenged.  When Lana first asked me to be the model/performer for it, I didn’t think about what she was trying to say with the piece.  I saw a chance to be a part of a major exhibit in a leading gallery in Dallas, so I immediately took it.  And even now, after the fact, I don’t know what Lana was trying to say with the piece.  I wasn’t one of the viewers.  I didn’t walk into the Power Station after seeing the announcements; I didn’t socialize with the other patrons; I didn’t go into the Hole to try to take in what Lana had put together.  I was merely part of the exhibit.  Some would say that I WAS the exhibit, but there was so much more than just my “performance” in it.  There was the venue, the video, the music, the lighting, and the communion with the other patrons.

I experienced something revelatory and amazing at that exhibit, but as the performer, my experience was totally unique, all my own and no one else’s.  I still wonder what the people coming to see the exhibit got from it, but in my position, I will never fully know.  Unlike Tim Rogers, however, I would never write anything denouncing the exhibit without seeing what the artist (in this case Lana) had wanted me as a viewer to experience.

By the way, the Culture Hole website has been updated with a video from the event on its front page and with photos under the Projects link.  Needless to say, they are not safe for work...


Monday, January 11, 2016

Lana Paninchul at Culture Hole

I arrived at the Power Station more than two and a half hours early on that Friday night, January 8, 2016.  It had been a day filled with nervous anticipation as I struggled through my work day.  I found it difficult to sit still at my computer, as I got up and left my cubicle several times just to walk around.  I was never more relieved to see the arrival of 4:00 PM so that I could leave the office and set my mind on what was going to happen that night.

I had been booked for a very special modeling gig, much different from the college drawing and painting classes I regularly model for.  Within Dallas’s Power Station art gallery is a hole in the floor, normally covered by a metal trap door.  This hole is only about four feet deep, and I would say roughly 8 feet long and between four and five feet wide.  The people who run the Power Station wanted to use that space, newly dubbed the Culture Hole, for a series of special one-night-only exhibitions, and the first artist selected had been Lana Paninchul, a German-American artist currently working out of Austin.  Lana had contacted me via email and hired me to be the “seated male” for a special performance piece.  The description was that she would be singing German love songs to me via a video feed as I sat nude in the space.

As our email conversation developed during the booking process, Lana told me that she hoped the German love songs would inspire me to have an erection while in the space, and that her original idea was to have the model try to orgasm without any manual stimulation.  I told her that I was willing to try her original idea, but that it might turn out to be impossible.  I decided to refrain from any ejaculations, either from intercourse or masturbation, for several days prior to the event, in the hopes of being able to fulfill her original vision for this exhibition.

Of course, in the days leading up to the show, I had done research on “mental orgasms”, and I learned that I probably have what is known as Delayed Ejaculation, which is described on Healthline.com as “a common medical condition. Also called ‘impaired ejaculation,’ this condition occurs when it takes a prolonged period of sexual stimulation for a man to ejaculate.”  I had already told Lana that it normally took me a long time to orgasm even during intercourse, so all the symptoms of Delayed Ejaculation seemed familiar to me.  I knew that this would make the challenge even greater.

When I arrived at the Power Station, I had planned to walk around the area and try to find some other art galleries to see.  But as I got out of my car, I heard my name called.  The two curators from the Culture Hole were walking over to another gallery to attend an opening and invited me to tag along with them.  Not knowing the area very well, I walked with them to a gallery called Beefhaus, which was hosting the opening of a show of paintings by Michael Mazurek.  I have to admit that I had problems looking at or trying to think about any of the works in that show since my mind was elsewhere.  The Beefhaus did have fliers on display promoting the Culture Hole event, and I wondered how many of the people at this gallery would be going to see me later on.  The fliers and all of the other promotional material for the Culture Hole show I had seen online only mentioned that Lana would be singing German love songs to a seated male.  Nothing was mentioned about that male being nude or that there would be any erotic display.  As I saw the people at BeefHaus, I tried to imagine their reactions when they saw me in the Hole.  Which ones would be fascinated; who would be offended; who would be aroused or envious or impressed or disgusted? 

I broke away and did a lot of walking around that area of Dallas.  At about 9 o’clock, I made my way back to my car where I put on my contact lenses and grabbed my stack of business cards, hoping that some of the patrons might be teaching figure drawing classes somewhere or might otherwise need a model for a project.  I had printed 50 of the business cards, and once inside the Power Station, I put a stack of them at the sign in table and another stack at the bar where drinks would be served.

The lights inside the Power Station were off, ironically, and the entire building was lit by a multitude of candles.  The best lit place in the building, and the only place where electric lighting was employed, was the Hole where I would be stationed.  The walls and floor of the Hole were bare concrete with two metal tracks in the floor.  A large flat screen TV had been hung on one side, and given the small size of the space, that TV took up almost that entire wall.  Tucked under the stairs leading down into the hole were a DVD player and a space heater.  The Hole was warm since the heater had been running for a while, and Greg, one of the curators, explained that the video feed of Lana had had to be replaced with a looping video of logs burning in a fireplace.  German love songs would still be played, but Greg highly doubted that it was Lana singing them.

It was still early, so we stood around talking and waiting for 10:00 PM, the scheduled start of the exhibition.  Jeff, the other curator, was there, and I told him and Greg about some of my past modeling experiences and how this was a unique event for me, even after 31 years as a nude model.  At 9:50, we decided it was time to get into position, so I took off my clothes, stashed them in an area behind the makeshift bar, and headed toward the open trap door.  Lana had wanted a very minimal aesthetic, so I went into the Hole wearing absolutely nothing and sat on the bare concrete.  By the time I got into my spot inside the space, I already had an erection.  One of the guys, either Greg or Jeff, turned the music on and started taking photos.  I closed my eyes, as I had been instructed by Lana, and began meditation in hopes of causing an orgasm.

Once I was alone in the space, I began to think that I could orgasm quickly via my meditations and the constant flexing of the muscles around my prostate, which kept my erect penis throbbing and dancing.  But I didn’t want to come too early and lose the erection before anyone had a chance to see anything, so I held back.  I kept my muscle flexing slow enough to keep my penis twitching, and I even started timing them to the music.  I kept my eyes closed, but I kind of hoped that it looked like my penis was dancing.

I started to really reflect on what I was doing.  When I model for almost any art class, I have always thought of my nudity as a pure state, and that no one part was the focus.  Everything went together to make up the whole: head, torso, arms, hips, genitals, buttocks, legs, feet, all equally worthy of study and rendering in art.  Yes, my genitals are exposed in those art classes, which makes the job of art modeling unique only because those parts are so rarely exposed in mixed company, but I have always considered such exposure as incidental and necessary in the display of my body in its pure form.  But this event that Lana had devised was much different.  Because she wanted me to have an erection, wanted me to try to bring myself to a mental orgasm, I felt that the sole focus of this exhibition, this performance, was my penis.  So I did everything in my power to keep it erect for as much of the allotted time as I could.

The German music was loud, but I could still hear activity up in the Power Station as people arrived.  Keeping my eyes closed as Lana had instructed, I heard people on the stairs, felt the presence of others.  I listened to the sound of their voices as I continued flexing, my erect penis dancing and throbbing. There were at least two people in the room with me, and I wondered who they were and what they thought when the first saw me.  I wished I could have seen their facial expressions.  My penis kept dancing; I felt sensual and sexual, like an object to be viewed rather than a person.  I was used to feeling like an object when modeling for drawing or painting, but I never lost my sense of personhood in those art classes.  Now, with people in the space with me and with my erection raging and throbbing, I felt like a mere sexual object.  I was my penis, and my penis was me.

One of my fears when getting into the hole was that no one would want to come down, that I would be there alone, that no one would see my performance, so I was happy that people were down there with me.  The German love song ended, and in the pause before the next one, I heard a female voice to my right say, “Take a picture of me with him.”  The entrance to the Hole was to my left, so she had stepped past me to get to where she was.  I heard the click and the flash.  I had hoped that the girl to my right would stay, but I heard her complain about how hot it was in the Hole.  I opened my eyes as she and her companion left, and when they were gone, I crawled over and tried to turn the heater down.  Unable to see well up close with my contact lenses in, I wound up turning the heater off, and it stayed off for the rest of the exhibition.  Wanting as many people to experience the performance as possible, I didn’t want the Hole to get so hot that they stayed away.

The temperature of the Hole was fine for me even with the heater off, and I concentrated on keeping my penis hard and throbbing.  I felt the beginnings of what could become an orgasm, and my mind drifted to past sexual experiences.  I heard and felt people enter the Hole and leave.  Then people entered and found seats for themselves.  Conversations started, with topics ranging from my erection to the coziness of the room and video of the fireplace.  Someone thought the burn marks on the logs looked like Jewish script.  Another person said that I looked like George Clooney, and I amused myself by trying to imagine Clooney doing a scene like this in a movie.  People shifted and moved around as I kept my eyes closed and tried to concentrate on creating an orgasm.  A young lady to my left tried to talk to me, told me that she had drawn me before in art classes somewhere.  She was sitting so close to me, her shoulder touching mine, as more people crowded into the Hole.  I wondered what the reaction would be if I shot a big load of semen across the space; I really wanted to hear what they would say.  I didn’t know how many people had crammed into the space with me, but if I was going to orgasm, I wanted to do it with a lot of people there.  The conversations went on, and I tried to block them out, tried to get myself off as Lana had hoped I would.  I was almost there, almost to the point where I thought it was possible and that I would be able to do it, when someone with a heavy boot accidently stepped on my toe as he tried to get to the far section of the Hole to my right.

My concentration was broken, and my eyes shot open.  I didn’t cry out or say anything, but I did wiggle my toes, trying to make that second one, which has always stuck out farther than my big toe, regain circulation.  I was never able to get back into that pure meditative state, and anytime I felt someone move, I would crack an eye open and look to make sure I wasn’t about to get stepped on again.  Still, I kept flexing those muscles around my prostate, and my erection kept dancing to the music.  Some people were amused by it.  Several told me that they admired my dick.  During one of those times when I cracked an eyelid open, I saw that at least eight people were sitting around me in the Hole.  I kept working, kept my erection dancing, but I never came close to coming again.  At some point, a guy lit a cigarette (he had asked me if it was allowed but wanting to speak as little as possible, I had only shrugged), and he began passing it around like it was a joint (it really wasn’t).  A girl to my left asked me if I wanted to take a drag, but I shook my head.

When Lana had told me that she wanted me to keep my eyes closed during this performance, I didn’t question her as to why.  But I figured that keeping them closed would be less intimidating to the guests than my looking at them would have been.  So I was surprised by how many people kept talking to me, trying to engage me in conversation, and ultimately trying to get me to open my eyes and look at them.  There I was, completely naked with an erect cock that I kept twitching and throbbing in a sexual, some would say obscene, manner in a public space in mixed company, and people kept trying to get me to connect with them.  I wondered if they were doing this in spite of my sexual display or because of it.  I do know that it had to have been a unique environment for everyone involved, coming across such a blatant sexual display.  I felt so exposed, so open, with my erect penis protruding out like it was.  I’m used to lots of people seeing my penis in my years as a model but not in that erect and throbbing state.  If the model for this exhibition had been female, she would have had to have been in OB/GYN stirrups with her ass in the air and legs spread wide to feel as exposed as I felt.  And to be honest, I loved that exposed feeling.  It was new and exciting.  I wished everyone upstairs could have been down in the Hole with me, so that I could have been so exposed to everyone at the same time.  I used those thoughts to maintain my erection, to keep trying to have that orgasm that I no longer thought was going to happen (but I was still trying anyway).

At some point after the Hole had grown quiet, I opened my eyes and saw one guy left inside with me.  “It’s midnight,” he said.  “Really?” I asked.  “12:06,” he replied after looking at his phone.  I don’t remember if we said anything to each other after that, but he started climbing out.  I looked up and out of the trap door.  I had been told that when the exhibition ended, the trap door would be partially closed and that all the guests would be ushered out of the Power Station before I could get out.  I didn’t really like that plan, and now, after hearing all the people trying to talk with me, I wanted even more to just come out of the Hole and make myself available to anyone who wanted to come talk to me, to ask me about the experience.

Jeff was messing with the trap door, as I crawled over to the foot of the stairs.  My legs and butt were numb, my arm muscles sore from propping myself up.  I wanted to stand up and stretch.  I could tell that all of the remaining guests were across the room, still inside but near the exit door of the Power Station, so I told Jeff to just leave the door like it was.  He seemed OK with that and got up.  I tried to stretch my muscles as well as I could, but I was limited by not being able to stand up.  Someone approached the trap door and motioned for me to come out.  At the time, I thought it was Greg, but I realized that it was someone else when I made it up out of the Hole.  I was so glad to be standing up straight.  My penis was still about 80% erect, so at least it wasn’t protruding at full 90-degree attention.  Several people turned and looked at me as I walked out and toward the bar.  It was cold up here in the larger space, but with everyone looking at me, I wanted to stay naked, to keep that feeling of being so exposed that I had relished inside the Hole.  Someone offered me wine from the bar, so I drank a glass as I went to the restroom and peed.  I came out, and there were still people lingering.  I was still naked, my penis still hanging large, but I was beginning to shiver from the cold.  The lady who had tended the bar was packing up stuff right in front of where my clothes were stashed.  I felt a bit strange invading her personal space while I was naked and aroused, but I was also cold.  She stepped aside when she saw what I was trying to get to, and with shaking hands, I put my clothes back on.

I heard nothing but raves from Greg and Jeff about how pleased they were with the event and my performance.  They invited me to a nearby bar for a drink, and I went for a beer.  When I asked one of them what future projects they had planned for Culture Hole, he shrugged and said it was still up in the air but that tonight’s event set a standard that might not be able to be topped.  I was, of course, flattered by this and by the reception I got from everyone after the performance was over.  I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to orgasm, but Greg told me that there had been rumors that I had.  I shrugged and said I had probably emitted a lot of pre-cum during the course of my two-hour erection but that I knew I hadn’t had a full scale ejaculation.  He shrugged and said that the event was a success anyway and that he hoped I got a lot more opportunities from this.  Of the fifty business cards I left out on the two tables, I only got 16 back.


For years, I had always wanted to delve into performance art or to be a nude model for some kind of gallery event, fully open to the public.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been the performer for this very special event as it was the inaugural opening of Culture Hole.  I told Lana in an email later that night that it was a privilege to perform for this exhibition.  In that email, I told her what I told Greg and Jeff in that bar, that it was special to have been part of a performance that celebrated male sexuality in a culture that so objectifies women in that regard, especially when without such male sexuality, none of us would have ever been conceived. And I told all of them that I would do it again in a heartbeat if ever given the opportunity.  I am so grateful to Lana for selecting me for this.  The biggest disappointment of the night was that Lana had not been able to attend the event herself.  She had, apparently, not been able to make it into town.  I do hope to meet her one day.  In fact, I had hoped at the event to have gotten a photo of Lana and me together, her in whatever she had planned to wear and me naked.  When we do finally meet in person, maybe the desire for such a photo will give me an excuse to get naked again…

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Life Drawing: a Novel

I have finally begun editing and rewriting the novel, called Life Models, that I started back in October 2013.  I never actually finished that first draft since the story had taken a turn that I knew would have to be drastically changed.  Because of this, my motivation just kind of petered out without putting an ending on the 84,000 word manuscript.

I retrieved the manuscript after it had lain dormant for over a year and started over at page one, revising and re-writing.  My female main character, Lydia, has undergone some radical changes from how I had written her in the first draft, which has necessitated changes throughout the story.  The plot also needed a lot more conflict to make it interesting, and these changes to Lydia help provide that.  I’m hoping to finish this draft in October so that I can start on a new project for 2015’s National Novel Writing Month.  I’ll pick up Life Models again in December for a third draft and a polish and hopefully have it ready to submit by February.

In the meantime, I’ve got a short story or two that I plan on submitting to magazines and literary journals.  To prepare for this, I bought the newly released 2016 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.  In one of the articles about outlining in the early part of that book, a novel called Life Drawing by Robin Black was referenced.  I was immediately intrigued since the first title for my novel was Life Drawing (I changed it to Life Models in December of 2013).  In fact, I was so intrigued that I ordered a copy from Amazon and read it in about two days this past week.



I will say that Robin Black’s Life Drawing is not the type of novel I normally read, but there are similarities to Life Models.  Both are told in first person and both involve (sort of) recently widowed spouses.  Infertility also plays a part in both stories.  When I received Life Drawing in the mail, I was surprised to find a full nine pages of quotes from reviews, which made it seem to me like the publisher was trying too hard to sell the book.

Ms. Black’s novel deals with an artist who is married to a writer.  The writer’s death is alluded to in the opening pages, but the rest of the novel deals with the two of them trying to maintain their marriage after a previous infidelity.  It is the type of family drama that I normally don’t enjoy, and I didn’t think I would like Life Drawing until late in the story, when the couple takes a trip to Cape Cod.  It was their exchange on the drive there that really sucked me into the story (finally).  When the writer’s death does come, it is shocking and jarring and would have been far too much if it hadn’t been alluded to in those first pages.  The story is, ultimately, a tragedy, but it is one that I did enjoy.  I’m glad the title prompted me to buy it, although there were no scenes in an actual life drawing class, nor were there any references to drawing the nude (in spite of the woman in what appears to be a robe on the cover).


I did notice that one of the review quotes in the opening pages of Life Drawing was from author Alice Sebold, the author of The Lovely Bones.  In 2007 Ms. Sebold did write and publish a novel called The Almost Moon which features an artist’s model as the central character.  I read it a number of years ago and had mixed feelings about it.  I do recommend it, however.

Friday, April 10, 2015

On Nudity


I did a three hour standing pose last night (with breaks at regular intervals, of course), and I valued the time to just be alone in my head, letting the thoughts run through my sometimes overactive mind.  Given my physical state at the time, I started thinking about nudity in our society and how my job as an art model is perceived by the general public.  Society trains us into equating nudity with sex and that, because of this, we have to keep our bodies covered at virtually all times.  And for most people, this is a self-fulfilling condition; the sight of a nude body does generate a sexual response but only because they so rarely see it and because they expect such a response.  I have modeled nude with quite a few other models over the years (although not that often since most schools and art groups can’t afford to pay two models for the same session).  In each instance, I have taken just a very brief moment to admire my fellow model’s form and beauty (because all bodies are beautiful) before getting to work myself.  I have never felt that that admiration and appreciation of the human body has ever been sexual.  I’ve been doing this job for over 30 years, and I’ve seen quite a few other nude models and works of art created from those models.  I’ve been seen countless times myself, and at 48 years old and with a few fat layers from my full-time job sitting at a desk and looking at computer monitors, I still marvel at drawings done of me.

I do think that there is an allure to nudity because we as a society hide and cover it so much.  When people succumb to that allure, they turn to “adult” entertainment which keeps perpetuating the lie that naked bodies are only to be used for sex.  But then again, pornography itself is a lie, with atypical bodies saying and doing atypical things.  I’ve often thought that if we as a society were more open to nudity in everyday life (especially nudity of the average body and not the idealized bodies that our media almost exclusively presents us) that pornographers’ incomes would come crashing down.  But instead, our society has prohibited simple nudity from the public arena.  When singer Erykah Badu got nude on the spot where JFK was assassinated for one of her music videos, authorities in Dallas launched an investigation to find someone who witnessed it and who could be convinced to file a complaint.  Once that person was found and the complaint filed, Erykah was charged with disorderly conduct and fined.  Why go to all that trouble for a “crime” that had no victims?  It just saddens me.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

30 Years!

I modeled for a figure drawing class for the very first time on November 6, 1984. Last night, at an anatomy class at the Texas Academy of Figurative Art, I finished my first 30 years of modeling. Tomorrow night, at the Friday Night Lights and Shadows painters group at Brookhaven College, I will start my second 30 years on the model stand. It is a job I love. With all the busy-ness going on in life, doing an art class is one of the few chances for me to just simply be. And when, after a long pose that causes cramping, pain, or the loss of feeling in a foot or leg, I question why I keep at it, I only have to look at the amazing and beautiful works of art that are produced.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

About Modeling

It has been far too long since I added a blog post here, and for that, I apologize.  My full-time job has been taking more and more of my time, and the kids' activities even more.  Modeling jobs have seemed fewer and harder to come by with my current schedule, but I still take what I can get.

Two or three years ago, I was approached by a fellow model at the University of North Texas.  He wanted to produce a book for models detailing the profession and loaded with photos of sample poses.  I loved the idea and immediately signed on.  At first, the book was to be strictly for the models at UNT, but he also had ambitions for making it more widely available.

We did a photo shoot in one of the empty drawing studios at the university in mid-May, just after the spring semester had ended.  I did examples of short gesture poses and what would be longer ones while he snapped photos.  He had tried to get a rotating platform, but that idea had proven to be impractical.  Instead, I turned 45 degrees for each pose to get four different angles.  I did quite a few solo poses, poses with a female model, and poses with another male model.

For whatever reason, the university art department, which, according to this model/author/photographer, had at first seemed enthusiastic about the idea, soon seemed to lose interest in the project.  Still, this fellow model talked about producing a more widely available book.  Unfortunately, life intervened as it so often does, and he had to move a bit further away.  We still communicated sporadically via email, and he finally got a few spiral-bound copies of the book printed and sent to the models who had participated.

He had planned on retouching the photos to remove the backgrounds and put more highlight on the model and the poses, but he hadn't had time to do that yet.  The photos in the book I received were dark, grainy black and white images.

There were a total of seven models of various shapes and sizes photographed for the book, three males and four females.  I think I was, by quite a few years, the oldest model in the book.  When I look at my copy, I am struck by the pure beauty of the pure human form, the lines and shapes.  We are truly amazing creatures, and it sometimes makes me sad that society insists that we keep ourselves covered at virtually all times.

The book makes me proud of my almost 30 years as an art model, and it also makes me want to do my own book.  I envision a project that is part memoir, part how-to, and part photo-journal.  Rather than photos in an empty studio against a plain backdrop, I would love to illustrate it with color photos taken in an actual drawing class, with students and artists busy working.  Maybe one day...

Here's a sample page from the book I received from my former UNT colleague.  Out of respect for the other models who participated, I chose a page that featured only my solo poses.  Needless to say, the image is not quite safe for work.  Click on the image to see the full size version...