Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Feminist Artist And His Model

There’s a drawing I’ve seen reproduced once in a while. It’s a figure study, and I think it’s a Poussin (Nicolas, French, 1594-1665). The artist has rendered a seated female nude very solidly in black crayon or chalk. It’s startling, because the model is blindfolded, and the blindfold is itself a beautiful little drapery study. Of course the blindfold is there to maintain the model’s anonymity, but the state frequently binds the condemneds’ eyes. Am I asserting my values too absolutely by wishing that, three or four hundred years ago, a man whose business was to convey meaning with images, noticed the resonance, and felt a trickle of compassion for the anonymous woman he was drawing?

My models are comfortable being nude, and with their occupation. I know their last names, and if Barbara and I bumped into one, waiting in line for a movie, I would introduce them, and we’d chat. In a past post, I mentioned a model’s full name, and went back a few minutes later and removed the second half. As obscure as this blog is, I would hate to have some local idiot read that one Gudrun Q. McGillicuddy poses naked for artists, and take that as indication that he would be welcome to track her down and make a pest of himself, or worse.

As per usual, Tuesday night I was the only man in a room with five women, one of whom was sitting very still with her clothes off. One of the other artists skipped the five two-minute warm-up drawings to leaf through a book of Beatles photographs, and we gossiped about the love lives of people who are now old or dead. “Talkin’ ‘bout my g-g-generation.” There were pictures of Patty Boyd, who became Mrs. George Harrison, and Lisa, the model, mentioned that she had just watched A Hard Day’s Night, in which Patty Boyd appeared. I tossed out that Ms. Boyd did so in a very fetching schoolgirl uniform, and Lisa said something about men and their fascination with schoolgirl uniforms. Point to Lisa.

I wasn’t on top of my drawing. Lisa was sitting on a blue sheet, sometimes draping it over parts of her body. There were a lot of complex folds, and I was tired. Some of my drawings were okay, and some were b-b-bad.

After we had finished drawing, our hostess Betsy turned on the television to catch the election results, and it turned out that the Republicans had won the gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia that were supposed to be a referendum on the Obama presidency (Democrat Bill Owens, whom Republican Dierdre Scozzafava had endorsed upon leaving the race, did prevail over whatsisname in New York’s 23rd Congressional District). Betsy was distressed, and railed against bigots in general and Republicans in particular. I was standing in the door at this point, and Lisa squeezed by, so I said, “I’ll walk out with you.” Truth be told, I would have enjoyed staying and exchanging views with Betsy, and I wonder if she took my departure as abrupt or pointed, but it was late.

When Lisa and I reached the street, Lisa said she’d see me around, and turned left. I said I’m parked on Thirty-sixth to explain my turning left as well. I could almost hear the wheels turning in Lisa’s head, as she wondered if she had acquired an unwanted admirer. Drawing somebody’s naked body for two hours isn’t arousing. I’ve tried, experimentally, to work up a little arousal while drawing, but I always come back to the problem of translating what I see into marks on paper, without noticing when. People are real. I’m real. Lisa’s real. I’m not going to violate that.

As we walked under one tree, it was like walking on bubble plastic. Something was snapping under foot. I picked one of the things up. It was a pale orange fruit, bigger than a cherry, but smaller than an apricot. I tasted it, sweet but cheesy, sort of like Parmesan sherbet. That was way too goofy a thing for a lecher to do. If Lisa wasn’t convinced then, she was when I got into the car in front of hers and made a u-turn onto 36th Street.

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