I awoke before the alarm to unfamiliar rays fraying the curtain edges. Today! Yes! Mortlake! New models in a church woohoo, and some artists. God knows I’d bamboozled the place with my laminated signs inviting anyone almost to a) take their clothes off, b) make some art. The big day.
I print out questionnaires for models (checking that Lucy who loves the questionnaires has not already done so). Check. Coffee, shower, clothes and train. I am meeting an Eastern European man who will let me in the building, his instructions are mostly clear. I like this dilapidated building, I mean the church isn’t bad, but the room I model in for Paul’s group has not been redecorated since the 50s I reckon. There are holes in the walls showing the bones. Yellowed lino to set off several more dreary shades of yellow and brown that adorn the cupboards. It reminds me of a room I used to live in, homely. Character. None of this Argos/Ikea bullshit.
I heft easels into the hall, sort out the heating which is so powerful there’s no need to bake the place out. It’ll whip up a temperature in no time when the models need. Sun is shining and there’s a tap at the window. Expecting Lucy I unlock the door to find an uncertain looking asian male. “Are you Esther?” I am. “I emailed you, about the modelling.” Come in, are you going to join us today?
He looks really tired but asks if I can inspect his body to see if he will be ok to model. I say there’s no need, he looks fine to me, but if the 3 hour stint will be too much bother on a warm day in Ramadan with no water, then I’m sure we can fit him in another time. He shuffles off as Lucy arrives. He hadn’t looked quite right, today, however it’s so nice to have interest from a non-white guy.
Lucy occupies the kitchen and models start to drift in and assist with easels etc. Such friendly people, and the artists too look excited as they set up.
I’m not used to being wanted this much as everyone seems to fancy a chat, but I really should gather the models. The men all arrive first which is almost worrying; but makes the emergence of a gaggle of females all the more exhilarating at the last minute. Just like Mum I remember all the models’ names, all 15. Only 2 are returning from previous events, and one is Ursula who I modelled with before. Some will go on the altar, others in the middle of the hall. They can pose how they like at first.
Sylvana is late and prefers to hang out in the changing area till break. Any anxiety she displayed before has mysteriously vanished once she is in pose. Lucy and I harrangue the models into group poses which look like scenes to show more connectedness between these almost total strangers in the buff. Sylvana is a queen on her throne, dismissing unwanted advisers and turning her nose up at suitors. I must congratulate Lucy on her dramatic skills.
It is eerily quiet except for scratchings of charcoal and one artist’s balmy monologue. I decide to put on some of Lucy’s music to jolly things up, but unfamilar with her selection the spirited salsa sounds I choose somehow seem too hectic; I sense a franticness amongst the artists jolted out of their calm, and a shiftiness from the models, itching to dance!
Overall I am overwhelmed by a fantastic turn out – artists I know from all over London have shown up, and almost all the models I expected have made an appearance. There’s just one thing missing. Having given up on the music I soon notice a gap in the silence. Where is the murmering that came from the table next to the piano? I’d made special arrangements for a certain peculiar man to be here after an incident of him (not meaning to) follow a model some of her journey home after the last event. But it seems my management has just now eluded him as I scan the room for his large orange headphones.