Friday, 1 January 2010

Confessions of a Naked Lady Art Model

by Miss Justine Brown

No, not that kind of "art model". At least, that's what Miss Brown keeps saying.

Punks and goths have always had a turbulent relationship with nudity. Whereas for hippies nudity with extra body hair was an crucial emblem on the freak flag, punk rockers have tended to shun it. Johnny Rotten set the tone when he denounced sex in general and everything that went with it-- like Led Zeppelin and hairy chests and sweat-- whereas nakedness, period, was a way of life for hippies. (At least until winter set in.) Hippie grownups encouraged us little kids to let it all float free in the breeze and took moody pictures which later came back to haunt us when, as punks, we were kitted out from head to foot in wool and leather. It was unacceptable to write erotic lyrics and even to disrobe while coupling (sorry, Johnny). No, punk rockers occasionally used nudity as punctuation-- during performances, for example-- but that was about it. Sid Vicious did his thing shirtless, revealing his blueish white, perfectly hairless and toneless skin on stage-- the anti-Robert Plant-- but he was just showing off the slashes.

Below, Sid Vicious demonstrates an acceptable form of nudity.
With Johnny Rotten circa 1977.

Robert Smith of The Cure. Can you imagine this man
voluntarily undressing?

One of my best girlfriends made it a point never to take off her shoes in bed. Or any of the rest of her many clothes-- though it's possible that the wearing of short kilts may have permitted some kind of goings-on. But rarely! When she asked men back to her West End apartment for a pyjama party, she meant what she said. They got hot chocolate, ghost stories, a sleeping bag on the couch, and flannel pyjamas. Did they resent this? Did they heck! My friend travelled with a group of soft-eyed male admirers. Girls, take note. Attempting Cosmopolitan magazine's latest list of acrobatic sex tricks will get you... a one-nighter if you're lucky. The 11pm to 2 am slot perhaps. Even an audition for the circus. My friend, however, was clearly onto something big-- and she wasn't even trying.

Despite having been her roommate for a while and keeping close company with her for decades, Miss Brown has never once seen her naked. Miss Brown is sorry to report that she cannot say the same. In addition to flashing her as she changed from one outfit to another, Miss Brown left some art model promo photos (the aspiring naked lady's resume) on our kitchen table.

Let's get one thing straight here: to be an art model, especially a life-drawing model, you do not need to be attractive. In fact, some of the most successful art models closely resemble gnarled tree stumps-- you know those tree stumps which resemble trolls? If you look like a tree which looks like a troll, you may have a tempting career opportunity before you.

No, you don't need to be attractive. You need to be willing to get your kit off and sit before a roomful of strangers in a freezing studio with only a space heater for comfort-- a space heater that barbecues one leg while leaving the rest of you in the deep freeze. Oh, and you have to strike a pose-- for half an hour at a time minimum. Your extremities go to sleep. Sounds bad, doesn't it? But 15 dollars an hour seemed an awful lot to an otherwise unemployable 18-year-old punk rock girl.

The employers? Respectable art schools, in the main. Some night school stuff. A few private assignments, some of which became very awkward very fast. But the prize for Job Most Sounding Like a Euphemism for Something Dodgy is uncontested: The Vancouver Businessmen's Art Club. The reality of it was respectable enough-- a bunch of hobbyist painters working under the guidance of a professional artist. Every Wednesday night she doled out bags of wisdom and gave each man lots of individual attention. Every time they completely ignored her advice. The businessmen were in the business of painting in a certain rigid style, come hell or high water.

Miss Brown generally got a ten-minute break half way through the class. Then she would enter her little cubicle, put on a dressing gown in a late bid for modesty and tour the classroom. Each canvas seemed to represent a well-known period-- Cubism, for example, was well represented. There were wannabe Renoirs and Modiglianis. There was even a Gibson Girl fan! That particular businessman was about a hundred. The one thing these painters did not represent was Miss Brown, who could have abandoned the class at break time without disturbing it a bit. Looking around the studio, Miss Brown saw juxtapositions rather like this:
Duchamp, Nude Descending Staircase (1912)

Gibson Girl, Charles Dana Gibson (c. 1900)

It was strangely isolating work. The students essentially contrived to stare at you for one or two hours solid while pretending you didn't exist. The sensation was heightened when, one one occasion, Miss Brown was modelling at the University of British Columbia. The assignment involved posing on a table some feet above the seated students. The room was located on the first floor of a noted modernist building. It so happened that the students were too low to see passers-by, while passers-by were unable to see the students. All they could see-- a senior citizen's tour group comes to mind-- was a mysteriously naked lady hovering motionless before them. Neither group could see the other, so the joke was lost on them, and nothing was permitted to burst the bubble of silence in the studio. Miss Brown certainly earned her wages on that day.

No, you don't have to be attractive to be an art model, but you may very well want to be. Since you're not a stripper earning a stripper's salary, you can't afford a magic tan and breast implants. What are the nude person's Desert Island Beauty Products? Come to that, what are anyone's Desert Island Beauty Products? This kind of mental game provides loads of entertainment whenever one has to kill time-- while art modelling, say. Imagine you can bring five items. Sunscreen doesn't count, because you have managed to salvage one wide-brimmed hat full of beauty items from the shipwreck, while a handsome sailor has managed to salvage you.

Once again Boots the Chemist has come provided an answer! Last year the public went barking mad when the BBC featured its anti-aging lotion. Tubes of No.7 Protect and Perfect whizzed off the shelves in their thousands. This year the Daily Mail, that august rag, has created a similar frenzy by featuring Boots Aqueous Cream, which, we are told, does everything except fetch your slippers for £3.99, or about 6 bucks. (And--you guessed it-- it's being marketed as "credit crunch beauty.") Of course, although every pharmacist on earth has made a version of this cream since forever, Miss Brown immediately went out and joined the lineup at Boots. Sure enough, it can be used as a moisturiser, soap, shaving foam etc.; it also soothes cuts and burns.

Thanks to Boots, you now have room in your sunhat for Nars the Multiple (one colour for cheeks, lips and even eyes), some decent concealer, and mascara. Razors. Et voila! We at Beauty Skool only hope that your desert island has some decent long grass and coconuts-- otherwise you'll have to run around naked. And we can't be having that.


  1. Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) on3121

    Grv Namirha

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