live nudes!

Artist with Model by Paul Herman.

I’ve been trying to find a way to blog about a rather interesting aspect of my job–recruiting, hiring, and scheduling nude models for art classes– and today the perfect intro finally presented itself. David Pogue, a father, writes in the New York Times about his son’s work as a nude model for art classes, a job he holds in order to earn some spending money as a college student himself. Pogue writes that his son finds modeling an easy way to make some good money in only a few hours a week, as it is one of the best paying jobs on campus.

As a nude model recruiter, I can say I was happy to read that even at big colleges in Pennsylvania, the going rate is $15 per hour. Sometimes trying to recruit models in this Southern town is like pulling teeth, and I’ve worried we’re not paying enough. As someone in the department once remarked to me, there are plenty of other ways to make a lot more money being nude. The article quotes an art professor:

“There’s a difference between nude and nakedness,” says Charles Garoian, the director of the university’s visual arts program. Context is vital: a stripper is naked to arouse prurient urges, while a nude model is there to unleash an artist’s creativity.

Sounds a lot like what I once told a nervous young woman in my office to apply for a modeling job. She heard me on the phone talking to a friend about a Bible study and asked me what I thought about the “morality” of nude modeling. I can’t recall exactly what I told her, though I know I emphasized that she should not become a nude model unless she felt absolutely comfortable with that decision. I think I also told her about how my husband is a doctor, and would not have been able to become an M.D. without the people who volunteered as practice patients, getting nude in front of him so he could learn his craft. I told her that modeling is the same concept: allowing your body to be used so someone can learn their craft. I’m pretty sure I reassured her that our classes are very professional and respectful, that our professors would coach and guide her and help make sure she was comfortable. I think I told her that celebrating the body through art and exploiting it are two very different concepts. I should probably have told her that even some of the best religious art involves nudity.  I hope I told her that the body as it is created, is not something to be ashamed of.

As Pogue’s son’s modeling brochure reads:

You have just been inducted into one of the longest-standing traditions in the history of art…You are one of the select few who have provided their bodies for the betterment of other people. Because of people like you, we have the Da Vincis, the Van Goghs, the Warhols.

Perhaps one of the coolest things about my work with the models is seeing their confidence. Many of my best models have bodies of the sort that society would have us see as unattractive, and yet they have the confidence to bare it all in front of rooms full of college students. I wish I could bottle up their confidence and sell it to others, especially in a world where so many women are scared to wear a bathing suit, much less appear nude in front of a group! And of course, artists love a variety of body types– just take a walk through a museum and observe the various nudes in various shapes and sizes. My boss, a painter in his own work, is always telling me that drawing conventionally attractive bodies is “easy,” but bringing out the beauty in older or curvier or just plain different bodies is the work of a real artist. Many of the models love to see their representations, and some even buy the paintings or drawings from the students. Imagine being able to hang a testament to your own self-love on the wall!

Of course, as the article mentions, recruiting enough models to fill all our classes is always a challenge. So if you know anyone in my area willing to contribute their bodies to art, let me know!

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