On Living art: life modelling
There’s nothing quite like being naked in front of 15, 5, 20 people, and being observed externally, your body analysed, purely on it’s physicality to make you go properly introspective.
I’ve had some of my most meaningful reflections on who I am and what I believe, how I feel both in my body and about my body all while being completely naked in front of strangers. It’s like they’re taking up all the energy I used to expend on analysing my body and being self-conscious, viewing myself, particularly, through the male gaze. All that energy and all that time, all those thoughts that I spent and, realistically, wasted thinking about how I look – it’s all been lifted and taken by the artists. Th
ey’ve left all this space inside my head to think about the shit that really matters. Because the internal landscape is infinitely more important.
The biggest thing I’ve realised in terms of my physical body is that no matter what I look like, no matter if there is cellulite or rolls of fat or acne or bad hair or all these ‘flaws’, no matter what pose, no matter what weight I am or if I’m tanned or barefaced without any makeup- if my eyebrows aren’t on! No matter what… I’m art. It’s the most liberating thing I think I’ve ever thought.
After all these years throughout which I’ve beaten myself up – figuratively and literally – and I’ve punished myself for changing weight and cried and cried and cried over how exhausted I was about being insecure, and the anxiety of being seen…. In some ways I regret spending so much energy and time on those insecurities. But I wouldn’t have had the realisation that I had if I hadn’t done that… It’s sort of snowballing too. I don’t know if it’s a product of getting older.
Everyone seems to say as you get older you care less about this sort of thing and I am experiencing that but it’s been a really sharp increase of liberation since modelling. Especially modelling and then getting to speak to the artists. It was a bit different the first times I did it at the Usher Gallery. I was still so terrified of everything then and my mental health wasn’t great and I never really crossed the boundary between nude model and just a person. But now I am sort of friends with the artists who are drawing me and I’m talking to them in between poses and they know me and I know them and I happen to be nude in front of them sometimes and they create beautiful artwork inspired by my body.
And I think that’s a key thing I’ve realised too. While the artwork is 'of' me it’s not really me. Everything is inspired by my body, and they’re trying to be as accurate to proportion and form as they can, but it’s not me. My body isn’t me really. Whatever they put on paper doesn’t feel and express and know what I know. So. There’s a power in disengaging from the artwork. And immense, immense power in seeing such a multitude of 'me’s. I think I have sort of, this light body dysmorphia issues in that I don’t really know what I look like. I cant’t really remember my own face and every time I see it I don’t really trust that what I’m seeing is real. And my weight is still very much influenced by the patriarchy and expectations upheld by society and that’s layered on top of what I see. Sometimes I get caught off guard with new sights of myself… I don’t have a very firm grasp on what I look like. And on one hand – seeing hundreds of different portrayals of my body and all of them looking different – my face, the length of my arms, the roundness of my legs – it’s me but it’s not me. It doesn’t help me know what I look like. It’s certainly not helping figure out what I am but at the same time, it’s reinforced that it doesn't matter. Because it’s all beautiful. It’s all art. It’s all form and shadow and lines and curves that are worth putting on paper. It’s very beautiful. It’s very poetic becoming art. Though I suppose you don’t ‘become’ art, you are art. You’re just captured.
It's very curious, how introspective external analysis from external minds makes you. I think it’s almost a form of mindfulness because I’m hyper aware of the pose I’m in and the lines that I’m making and the pressure points against the floor or I am aware of how my breathing is affecting my posture or trying to keep my expression neutral and even sitting through the pain, I’m acutely aware of where it’s coming from and where it’s travelling to and making minuscule adjustments to my muscles. So I’m hyper aware of my body but it’s from within and I’ve never really achieved that through meditation or yoga or pilates before. I’ve tried it and never been able to do it, but modelling has enabled that.
It’s probably very much to do with the fact that I can’t not be still– I am paid to sit still, I have to occupy that stillness so I suppose an element of ‘having’ to makes it more doable. I’m grateful for it though. It’s not every time that ‘s meditative. Sometimes it’s just a song on repeat or my to do list. Sometimes I really like analysing the artists when I can. I can’t look AT them, per se, but seeing how they’re moving and their brows furrow. I can see when they’re stumped or when they’re hooked onto an idea they really like. Its really pleasant to watch them work without them really knowing. At first the sounds really annoyed me too. Usually I’m always listening to something: a book or a podcast. I think that’s mostly to distract me from my monologue. But in modelling it’s just scratching on paper. And until I took the time to really listen to each mark being made it was really frustrating. But now it can be read into. Big bold marks – they’re usually indicating the artist is on a flow. They’ve figured out something. They’re confidently making big, solid shapes or backgrounds and when you get to that point you’ve probably nailed it. Or the frantic rubbing out. They’re so frustrated that they’ve wasted time. Then they start again and they’re quiet. And then there’s the shifting and little coughs and I kind of like to see how much people move even when they probably think they’re really still. Everyone is shifting all the time.