I am a figure model for drawing classes but I don’t draw. I don’t draw because I have never been very good at it and I lack the patience necessary for perfecting it. I am an artist insecure about my failure to master a craft of any traditional artistic merit. I have however mastered the craft of modeling for art.
It is an important personal and political activity to stand without shame in my body, despite that my relationship with my body is primarily about shame. I have found that in the moments when I am modeling I am more allied with my body than at most other times.
In this performance I set the terms of the situation and facilitated a public life drawing event. When people draw, their engagement is with the materials and their own practice at representing what they see. There are variations in skill, and projection but in many ways it ceases to be about the body standing in front of them.
Plein Aire is an art historical movement that brings the painter into natural light and out into nature, somewhat ironically the figure in life drawing classes is rarely seen in natural light because of prohibitions against nakedness. Drawing is an anachronism in the contemporary world. Attempting to engage the public in such unmediated activity was set to fail from the outset. I enlisted many people to come to the event and I encouraged curious passersby to draw me - instead of just photograph and videotape me. After I assured them that skill was not a requirement, several of them participated by drawing. Many of them courteously declined.
The violence that is done to women creates
reluctance or an inability to fully occupy their bodies. Most women are afraid to be naked in public space. De-sexualizing nakedness, might decrease the violence done to women by others and to themselves. This is a huge goal. Standing naked as a woman in primarily gay male space that is contested for its use as a naked area made me conspicuously female. In this contested space devoid of women, what am I doing here? Art as historically and institutionally sanctioned space for women and for nudity brought the answer to that question, and legitimated my presence, albeit through a bizarre dislocation.
Staging a Public Life Drawing Event gave me public voice and visibility. There is a directness to being seen only as human - unfettered by the façade of cultural signification that is expressed in the way we dress and what we say when we choose to speak. When I am naked the most evident element is my female body. That I am queer is invisible. That I am an anarchist is invisible.