Spirited Bodies follow-ups: Part 1, a model from the Summer event speaks of the changes in her since modelling

I never had any expectations of life modelling – I didn’t know if I’d love it or hate it; whether I’d feel shy or be unable to stay still for any amount of time. I had no idea of what to expect. I sort of just closed my eyes and dived in.

I began to look in to life modelling a little more than 6 months ago. I was beginning to explore my own creativity and love for the arts. I have a deep respect for artists and, though I doubt my ability to hold a pencil, I wanted to be artistic in my own right, in a way I thought I could.

I used to be a gymnast, I have an awareness of my own body and how my body expresses my emotions – through illness when I’m stressed, in my expressive or closed body language in different situations – but that awareness did not automatically equate to a consciousness, and rarely to control.

Coincidentally, at the same time as I was beginning my own creative journey and recognition of my body’s expressive capabilities, I was feeling dissociated from the way my body looked. I felt unattractive, my body had changed since being a teenager – I was beginning to look more like a woman and I felt betrayed. What do you mean I won’t have abs of steel unless I exercise! Why do my curves have to wobble?! And where did that bottom come from?! I knew I was still petite, I just am that build but there was no denying my body was new to me and some how I ‘d have to learn to love it, or I’d be in for years of hell trying to regain my teenage physique.

Meanwhile, I had been in touch with an artist and tutor from Kingston University who put me in touch with you, Lucy. I decided, what better way to reconnect with my body, to regain control and accept my new body than to take my clothes off in front of a bunch of strangers! I jumped in.

From my warm welcome at Spirited Bodies and my initial meet with Esther, I was immediately put at ease. Now all I’d have to do was undo my robe…

Any trepidation I felt before stripping off disappeared the moment my robe hit the floor. This was something I could do and damn it, I would work and concentrate as hard as I can to let these artists know a story about me.

This idea of modelling being an opportunity to tell a story about me is something I keep coming back to. Each session I model I find a theme emerges from the first pose. That then dictates what kind of pose will follow and so on, until I have re-enacted (or just acted) frozen images from previous (or fantasy*) experiences. A whole session allows the kind of freedom of expression I rarely get verbally. I use the language of my body to reconnect with my own thoughts, feelings, memories and try to send those stories out to any artist who might be ‘listening’.

There are times I leave a session feeling, though exhausted, rejuvenated. It is a cathartic, cleansing experience.

I seek to connect with an artist in a non-verbal way where they hear my story and it stirs something in them and they draw accordingly. A synching of experience.

I am a singer and this same ‘synching’ can happen at times musically too. This is when you get the ‘buzz’ and you can feel it coming off all the musicians performing too. There have been times where I’ve come close to this experience through modelling and it is that feeling that I continue to seek. That drives me to concentrate and work hard at each session and to hope for a commission with an artist I connect with in such a way. I would love to be part of a working-relationship to achieve a picture which is an insight into both the artist and the model. Achieved by collaboration.

My preferred length of pose is about 20-30 minutes – at this time I ache enough to have to fight for it, not so much I begin to hate it! I find it is long enough to both test and train my concentration on that ‘tableaux’ that is in my head.

*I want to make a point about life modelling being very removed from a sexual nature for me. I try to express my inner ‘Gaia’ rather than, well you know. I feel nakedness has an innocence about it that is too often forgotten and yes sometimes in nakedness we are sexual beings but I try to avoid being provocative as it’s not something I’m comfortable with. I feel the need to raise this because so many friends (even artists!) think that it is of a sexual nature. So far the one with the greatest understanding, who I told of my ambitions most fearfully, has been my Mum! She is even considering having a go herself.

Published by esther bunting

Performer, artist, writer

3 thoughts on “Spirited Bodies follow-ups: Part 1, a model from the Summer event speaks of the changes in her since modelling

  1. What a wonderful post. You’ve made me think of a couple of things I hadn’t thought much about before: (1) that we who are fatter/heavier are not alone in struggling with our bodies’ changing natures, and (2) the innocence of nudity.

    Speaking of the latter, I was at Golden Gate Park yesterday and a little girl (maybe about 6) was running around the lawn with a shirt on, but not a stitch below the waist. I worried about dangerous consequences (voyeurs, pedophiles, getting in trouble) even as I loved her obvious delight and freedom as she ran and shouted. Nakedness is so fraught in our culture… I couldn’t believe no one (her own parents, other parents, park authorities) stopped her. Perhaps that’s what startles me most about the experience — simply how shocked I felt to see her. There are no children in my daily life and it has been years since I saw any unclothed. It seems odd to me that I’m more comfortable now around naked adults than naked children, and your comment on innocent nudity makes me think even more about that.

  2. Thank you Lisa. Indeed it sometimes seems surprising who is worried about their appearance or their bodies, and changes.
    It is a sorry time we live in where nudity especially for children has lost its innocence. It may make us concerned or suspicious. I imagine society has to go through this uneasy stage to the extreme before a more trusting environment may return.
    I was flicking through some of my childhood photos with my Dad a few months ago, and came across one of me aged about 7 and naked, holding my Dad’s hand (he was dressed) as we were on a country walk in Summer. It was innocent and sweet but also made me think how that may be a less likely scenario today. It also made me feel a little awkward looking at it with my Dad, which is surely a shame, and part of our conditioning. Just thinking about it now makes me want to revisit that moment of looking at that image with him, and somehow consciously feel more relaxed, totally relaxed about it. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Thank you for reminding me.

  3. nakedness and clothing and America – a couple of years ago, i gave myself the entire ER TV series on DVD and watched my way through it over the year. one thing that came across very strongly was just how much clothing everyone put on to go to bed once the series had become popular and mainstream – whereas earlier episodes had much more nakedness – mainly with a sexual context, when it was edgy and challenging and a discovery for people. certainly Abby, a nurse then doctor and very much a core character, who slips and slides around various addictions, has a very strict dressed and undressed at night code. when she was being ‘good’, ie not wrestling with addiction, she wore full baggy top and tracksuit style bottoms to bed, and when she was being ‘bad’ (ie going down that addiction route) she got naked.

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