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Last month, I saw an art project online that was looking for nude models. It was a marathon art project involving 32 models, 16 hours of drawing, and 8 artists over two days culminating in a one-time art exhibit/show the evening of the second day.
Each model was needed for only 20 minutes and could bring home select drawings – no other compensation was offered.
Although I have never been publicly nude before, I am comfortable with my body and thought it would be an interesting experience.
I knew it would not be a sexual endeavor, something which I have zero interest in, but can appreciate good art and understood that this would be focused on the form of the human body.
What I failed to realize was how objectifying that notion actually would be.
A lot of my friends called this “adventurous” and said I was “brave” but trust me, I was still very nervous about it. Especially because the actual modeling part was very informal.
I really had no idea what I was going into. My biggest fear was that we would have to come up with poses ourselves. A smaller fear was that I would be cold the whole time.
Upon arriving to the studio, I was told they were running 30 minutes behind. This was actually helpful because I was able to talk to a guy who already modeled and a girl who had yet to model. Neither of them had done this before and both were nervous beforehand.
Since the guy had already posed, he warned me that you do have to make your own poses. Oh no! And it is a bit chilly in the room. Oh no! The two things I was dreading.
Instead of running out the door in a panic, I used my wait time to come up with ideas for poses. By the time I got called on, I had at least 3 ideas of poses to do.
The room was very informal. One of the artists explained how everything was going to work: I was to do 4 poses lasting 5 minutes each. When the timer goes off, I immediately move on to the next pose. No one would tell me what to do.
And that is exactly what happened. Like a piece of machinery, I changed poses when I heard the alarm then after the last one, I was told “thanks, that’s it” and sent out.
That was it.
Needless to say, it was pretty boring. I’m not sure why I thought standing still for 20 minutes would be “fun” and “exciting” but it seemed it would be.
The most surprising aspect of this experience was how uncomfortably objectified I felt. This is surprising because, in hindsight, that is the entire point. You are not a person but literally a body, an object, being drawn by people who are drawing anything put in front of them. Switch me out with a bowl of fruit and they won’t think of it any differently – it’s still shapes, lines, and shadows. Being stared at and drawn for 20 minutes then just sent away had a very strange feeling to it.
I knew this would not be sexual in any way but I hadn’t realized I would still feel objectified regardless.
With that said, it was not an overall negative experience but more neutral. I don’t see myself posing again but do suggest trying it if you are curious. It wasn’t “fun” but it also wasn’t “horrible”.
On the upside, I did get to take home 8 drawings of myself immediately from the session (see image above). Having free self-portraits is pretty nice, even if they will live in a folder on the top shelf of my closet for a while.
Readers… Have you had any experience with being an artists’ model? Have you participated in something you thought would be “exciting” but ended up being a completely different experience? Share below.