Choosing a Different Path, & Spirited Bodies at The Dana Centre

by Cynthia Barlow Marrs at Dana Centre
by Cynthia Barlow Marrs at Dana Centre

Sometimes I get a touch of the social phobia – the shivers creep up on me as I get dressed for a family function, or an attack of nerves has me weeping on a bus on route to a networking event which I am sure will be full of ‘posh’ women! It’s that fear of being judged for not having a ‘proper’ job, a ‘normal’ life. I would prefer it if instead of subtle remarks hard to pinpoint when you are feeling twitchy, people came out with the more direct “But how do you get by with a crap job like that?” or “Are you a slag because you pose for artists?” “Is it because you are mentally ill?” “So where did your parents go wrong?” “I hope my daughter never meets you!”

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I am so familiar with the usual run of questions trying to suss out if I am still renting in my ’30s, if I can afford to do this because I have a rich husband (I don’t!), if there is any evidence of a ‘normal’ job in my background (there isn’t), if my life gets any more shocking than being a life model (this is where the fun starts); I can anticipate this nonsense a mile off. Sometimes I am on form coming back at them in all my cutting finery, other times it’s an effort and I reel off some well worn spiel and take another sip.

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It doesn’t happen very often, but when things do get to me, I ask friends why I still do this. Recently, a good friend reminded me. She said, picking up that part of me wondered why I am not ‘normal’ after feeling like an outsider at a party where everyone seemed to be part of the ‘mainstream’; “It’s very important what you do. If you had a child, you would not be able to make Spirited Bodies the way you are now. Most people grow up thinking they must get a certain kind of job, with a set income. They must marry the right kind of person, buy the right property, have children at the right age, mix with the right people and send their children to the right school. When people do choose a different path, that is something amazing.” (Her voice was shaking. She is a young Grandmother who is very close to her family and has grown to appreciate so much an alternative lifestyle.) “You must celebrate your different path,” she said, “And remember how unique and inspiring it is.” Thank Goodness for strong, clear-sighted friends. I knew immediately that she was right, her words rang loud and resonated deeply. I almost cried with joy as I remembered that I had indeed chosen a different path many years ago. When I was still a teenager I knew I never wanted to be conventional! The girls in my North London grammar school wreaked of materialism and bored me no end. I got off the track, scrambled through all sorts of wilderness to find some freaks who were real! Idealistic and romantic – me? More like dark, fearless and underground!! It can take a long time to come out of the dark, and sometimes it’s pretty fucking scary. But I am out now, and I mean business!

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On Tuesday Lucy and I gave a presentation at The Science Museum‘s ‘The Dana Centre‘ in South Kensington at an event called ‘Eating Identities’. Lucy spoke whilst showing slides and I posed so the audience could draw. Lucy was talking about portrayal of the body in the media focusing on youth, slimness and sexualisation, and how Spirited Bodies can help people discover a sense of value in their bodies no matter what. Other speakers included Dr Meredith Brown who is a feminist art historian at The Courtauld Institute; she looked at the female form through the ages in art, and Catherine Collins who is Principal dietician at St George’s Hospital in Tooting; she discussed the futility of most fad diets and how our bodies are meant to be a certain shape anyway so we are better off not attempting to deviate too much from that. While these two spoke, Lucy and I both posed. It definitely felt quite novel to have some life drawing at this presentation – when Meredith was speaking I got the impression she had not anticipated how real and live we would be, nude and contorted in front of her! She was trying to describe one of the original models for a Renaissance Venus painting or some such, and the fact that the model was a prostitute. She kept stuttering on that word as she looked open mouthed at me in front of her feet away on a table with my legs open and unashamed, totally cool!

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Here are some photos of the presentation and more of the artwork from it.

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IMG_2587Me in classic one-legged pose

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IMG_2628Some artistic licence with the accessories!

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Author: estherbunting

Performer, artist, writer

2 thoughts on “Choosing a Different Path, & Spirited Bodies at The Dana Centre”

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