Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Living Forever

Last night, I went to model at one of my favorite classes of the current semester, but before I got on the platform, the teacher showed the students a PowerPoint presentation of figurative works from the past.  The slideshow went in roughly chronological order, and displayed works by, among others, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rubens, Rembrandt, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, and ended with several works from artists of the Bay Area Figurative group of the 1950s and 60s (David Park, Richard Diebenkorn, Joan Brown, etc.).  As I watched each slide, I thought not about the artists but about the model for each drawing or painting.  What was he or she like?  Why did he or she choose to be an art model?  How long did he or she remain in that particular pose as the artist created the piece?  I also couldn't help but envy the models whose poses had inspired the creation of the works I was now seeing projected on a screen here in February of 2012.  And I wondered if someone one hundred years from now might look at a drawing or painting of one of my poses in the same manner.

In my 27 years of modeling, I have modeled for many classes of all different sizes, but I have not done many one-on-one sessions.  The idea of it just seems rather intimate, unlike a classroom full of students or a workshop with several artists.  In fact, given the choice between working a small class with only four or five students or working one with 25, I would pick the latter.  There's just something about the larger classes that I really enjoy--maybe it's the variety of different works that I get to see when I walk around the room between poses.  As for those one-on-one sessions,  I've never sought them out, even though I know that that will probably mean that no drawings or paintings of me will ever make it to the major art museums of the world.  The art that hangs in most galleries or museums is generally not art that was done in an undergraduate classroom, where 99% of my modeling takes place.  I'm sort of OK with that.  Part of what I love about this job is seeing what students do at the beginning of a semester and comparing that with what they do at the end.  In many cases, the improvement is quite dramatic.  I get up on that platform to help students see and learn and progress, not necessarily to inspire their masterpieces.

But there is some part of me that longs to be immortalized in something that will be seen for generations.  The woman who posed for the Mona Lisa, the young man who stood for Michelanglo's David sculpture, the model for Botticelli's Birth of Venus--the images of these individuals will live for the rest of human history.

It was with these thoughts in mind that I stepped onto the platform in last night's class, after the slide show, and dropped the robe.  I went through the quick warm-ups and then a fifteen minute standing pose leaning against the wall.  The class ended with a seated-with-a-twisted-torso 45 minute pose that I managed to hold without a break.  I watched and listened as marks were made on paper, as eyes went from me to easel, back and forth, and I wondered how many of the eighteen students present would go on to create something during their careers that would get shown and talked about in future slide shows.  The drawing was so intense during those 45 minutes that I was hesitant to even think about taking a break and disturbing anyone's momentum.

The instructor of the class even set up an easel and drew, although she did so for less than half of the time as she also made rounds throughout the room working with the students.  She gave me the drawing after the class ended, although she wasn't that happy with it.  And she made me promise not to put it on Facebook and tag her.  I think the drawing is remarkable though.  When I look at it, the amount of shading around my face as compared with the rest of the drawing immediately draws my attention there.  And since I had been contemplating life and death and immortality through art during this pose, it just makes that emphasis on my head and shoulders even more appropriate.  Here's the drawing.  Given the artist's instructions when she gave it to me, I will decline to name her here...


  1. Hi, this is my first attempt at commenting on your blog - let's see how it goes (sound of me holding breath...) Anyway, liked your entry; your mention of drawing groups in San Francisco in the 60s made me curious if you've ever read a book called The Undressed Art?

  2. Hi Kimberly, thanks for commenting. I have heard of The Undressed Art, but I haven't read it yet. I'll have to put it on my list.