Lifelike College Nudes, p.2

Second, Deshaye observes that there is a "peculiar sort of nudity expected of -- and willingly provided by -- the artist's model. No artist's model would ever mount the podium with her modesty protected by a G-string... After all, that would prevent us from a full and accurate rendering of the play of light and shade across the volume of her mons veneris and the cleft of her labia majora, and might place an artificial dent in the origin of the adductor longus muscle and other sacrosanct features of occult pelvic surface anatomy! At the same time as the genitals, nipples and buttocks must under no circumstances be obscured from view, the artist's model more often than not displays herself arrayed in several items of elaborate jewelry."

Let me insert a corroborating comment and observation. Art instructors, of both genders, often carefully drape naked model bodies with items like cloth, paper, metal, and plastic, but carefully make certain that genitals, buttocks, anus, and female breasts are as available for overall classroom viewing as poses may permit. These are not only sexuality-related parts of the human anatomy, but are anatomical units specifically written into anti- public-nudity laws as forbidden to offer for public view.

So we may paraphrase Deshaye. The naked model's genitals, nipples, buttocks, and anuses must under no circumstances be intentionally obscured from view. And the art instructor, or supervising artist, must make certain that the nude model is either posed stark naked or draped so that these elements of erogenous anatomy remain, given the pose, as available as possible for spectator-artist viewing.

Deshaye peripherally notes much of this, then continues: "There is clearly eroticized content in all of this, which borders on the fetishistic. And (despite the sarcastic tone of this paragraph) I'm not complaining. I love it. But I refuse to pretend that the particular sort of nudity displayed by models in the artist's studio -- far from pornographic or exploitative though it may be -- has nothing to do with sex."

Support can be found for Deshaye's claim that the vital attraction of life-drawing is the offering of human public nakedness. In the plethora of articles on figure modeling from print publications and on the Internet, art, if mentioned at all, always comes later and usually minimally. Article after article on the subject of figure modeling, either in print or on the Net, is either headlined or begins with titillating or tittering comment on the offering of nudity. Nearly nothing about art is ever mentioned.

Because most figure modeling is done in classrooms at colleges and universities, many of these articles are in college newspapers. A few, randomly off the top of a quick list that I made, include one piece in the Nebraska State Paper, January 27, 2001, about University of Nebraska nude model Zooey Kumar titled "Nude Modeling Is A Different Sort of Experience For NU Students." It got a posted response telling of an outdoor nude modeling session where a "redneck" showed up.

Or, in Artdish, February 2001, John Boylan writes in "A Meditation On Getting Nude" about his experiences as a nude art model. Or, from Cascade Chronicles (of the Cascade Printing Company in Idaho), January 2001, an article entitled "Life Drawing Class," talking about nude modeling in Berkeley. Another is from the Montana Kaiman, of the University of Montana, October 31, 2000, titled "Nudity in the name of art." All of them, as one may gather from the titles, focus on the sensationalistic "nudity" of nude modeling. None of them has more than a justifying tidbit that mentions not much more than the word "art."

It seems to be a common attitude. Professional nude models note it and talk about it. There are smirks, grins, and other aspects of entertainment seen in eyes of beholders of our bare bodies when we meet them later on campus or other places. Sometimes students take the trouble to point out recognized nude models. It goes with the territory, and it illustrates a student focus on the nudity aspect of their art courses.

Finally, nude modeling is inextricably bound up with voyeurism, with the erotic gaze of the onlooker. An article "Re-Viewing the Nude" by Brown University art professor Leslie Bostrom in the publication of the College Art Association, Art Journal, Spring 1999 (see:, cites an incident in which one of Bostrom's nude models claimed that people were looking at her -- meaning that people who were not in the art class were looking at her naked body -- as an illustration of the difference between nakedness and nudity.

But, as may or may not be the case at Brown University, nude art models quickly grow to expect such voyeurism as fairly regular occurrence. With far more curiosity than concern, nude models quite regularly noticed people from outside art classes looking in, dropping by in the class, or happening to work at either other art projects or building maintenance in the studio classroom. This regularly occurs, whether at colleges and universities or non-educational modeling sessions.

If you have ever been in an art studio using a nude model, or at least have looked at photographs of drawing studios, painting studios, sculpture studios using nude models, you may have noted the performance presentation of the scene. A standing or seated circle or semi-circle of properly clothed human beings scrutinizes and interprets the bare flesh and anatomy of a silent and stripped-naked human being. In many ways, the scene is not unlike that of a strip show.

[1]       2       [3]       [next->]

May 2002

jay's head