Modeling Life: Art Models Speak About Nudity, Sexuality, And the Creative Process Review

Modeling Life: Art Models Speak About Nudity, Sexuality, And the Creative Process
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Sarah Philips undertook this research in Portland, during the mid-1990s. She puts in print words of art models themselves, which surprisingly hadn't happened much before. In the book we can read four more or less extended interviews with models, but dozens of conversations took place. Philips relates the models' words with interesting theoretical issues. It's a very enlightening book, since we come to know a very ignored and undervalued occupation. The book raises questions such as:
Why are there more female than male art models?
Is the myth that a model is an artist's mistress true?
Is a model the same as a stripper?
Does modeling objectify or degrade the person (usually the woman), as some feminists say?
Why would nudity be empowering and boost the model's self-confidence?
Why would someone do this job, normally part-time, since they could earn more money elsewhere? (In Portland, in the 1990s, they earned from $8.50 to $10 an hour.)
Is modeling always passive?
Why do most models underrate photography as "less artistic" than drawing, for instance?
What's the role of pornography, especially on the internet, when handling photos of artistic nudity?
What specific boundaries exist in personal space, verbal contact or eye contact when posing?
What's the difference between a "sublimely" sensual pose and a blunt sex pose?
How do models handle cold, and physical stressful or painful poses?
How do models deal with erections and menstruation?
There are no definite answers, but the discussion is really fascinating. Not all models agree upon all issues, and age and gender usually influence the answers.
I think the core of the whole question is the fact that in art modeling there are new rules, for our everyday regulations are upside down: a person doesn't hide his/her nakedness, and the others ARE supposed to observe it. The boundary is the motto "nothing unusual is happening". Don't behave as if this situation is abnormal, surprising, sexually arousing or deserving lewd peeking. It's just natural for professional artists and models to work with nudity, which can make many newcomers and art students blush.
Nudity in art is not for a particular physical aesthetics that discriminates all other bodies. It's not for sexuality, either. It's rather a celebration of the natural, general beauty of every human body, no matter its shape, color, size or other specific characteristics.
I am a painter myself, and I always work with the female nude. I can say that I am grateful to my models for their good work and professionalism. They are the body of my art, and they inspire its soul. As the model "Michael" says in the book: "If it wasn't for us, we wouldn't have a lot of the greatest works of art." For all the curious, and all of us artists who work with models, this book is necessary to understand, not stigmatize this indispensable job, in the models' own words.

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A fascinating consideration of the work of life models and the models' own perspectives on their craft.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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