Taking the Men out of Menstruation; Return to Women Only at WOW

When I bleed the artists Love me more.

They sense my edge more clearly and it pleases them in their aim to capture me, define me. Even if the power of the Mystery is actually stronger, their overall grasp of my Being is deeper, more profound at that time, because I radiate so vibrantly.

Other times perhaps I’m a bit blurry, but day 1 of my cycle, I’m as crisp as an iceberg, as hot as a volcano, and I melt and pour all over their page. During Menstruation, the artists compliment me more, rebook me more, and generally become more fascinated with me. I have observed this over 8 years of primarily making a living from being a life model.

Sometimes I can smell myself, maybe a little blood has rubbed onto my thigh. Can they smell me too? I’ve heard of artists taking offence at male models getting hard or just dribbling! But female models bleeding; I think they are simply grateful I turn up at all. Lots of female models won’t pose at that time, but I do and I know I excel then. I don’t care if my mooncup overflows and artists get a sight of my rich blood flowing down my leg. In fact I like that they see the whole deal uncovered. It doesn’t happen often as to pose without mooncup or tampon would be extreme, blood necessarily instantly gushing. Only a very feminist life drawing group might go for that, but I haven’t found such yet. To be honest, I haven’t asked. This post my first overt foray into the grit of menstrual posing.

I love my periods and decided to celebrate them with my girlfriends in a red tent group every new moon. The female body and our connection to the natural world and the universe is incredible. I hardly get PMT; at worst it tells me what I need to remove from my life. At best it makes me a lot more badass. Sometimes I want a lot more Me time. I’m less malleable.

I used to experience it more painfully when I was younger, in my early 20s, but I think becoming a life model improved my relationship with my body. I can use the poses like yoga to stretch parts of me that need releasing, sending endorphins on a regular route round my nervous system keeping me in check.

Every day I go to work is a celebration of my body.

Also over the years I have attracted partners who respond more positvely on all levels to my form; less jealousy, greater acceptance and gratitude. Naturally this is a mirror of myself.

PMT may be very individual, but I think many of us can work through it, unblocking its potentially negative hold on us. I believe that it is a cultural construct (and very powerful at that), but it can be undone. That involves unlocking the burdens that have been placed on us by others and ourselves, and figuring out what we actually want for ourselves. In some cultures and in some cases, that may be nigh impossible, but here in the post-Industrial West where the traditional family unit long disintegrated for many of us, reconsidering the life of womankind must assume prominence. We are ripe for it.

Men & Spirited Bodies

Some men are sneaky fuckers. They know how to behave in front of me so I’ll think they are kosher. Then they act like a dick with the female models. They don’t realise some of the women are my friends, so I know all about their idiot tricks.

I’m left with a choice.

a) Don’t bother with men any more.

b) Only invite men to model who I really know and trust. (Male artists very rarely a problem).

c) Get funding as dealing with idiot men is very consuming and one ought to be paid to bother. It would be a great shame to miss all the lovely men out there who may benefit and not cause any problems. But dealing with men in this game involves many idiots.

d) Make the issue clearer at events with announcements at the start outlining the rules.

What can happen when the wrong men pose at Spirited Bodies

Staying still in close proximity to several nude (desirable) women – they get carried away in male fantasy of what this long awaited opportunity means. They have been conditioned to think that because these women are happily naked with them, they may be sexually available. Perhaps they have never been naked with a woman before, never had sex or a girlfriend. There’s a lot of potential issues rumbling around the studio. Not just about the body, not just about sex, but concerning the entire Patriarchal corruption of the male/female relationship.

One more thing about the Blood

That bit at the end of the period or the beginning or even somewhere in the middle on an unpredictable one – where there’s not enough blood to warrant an insertion (tampon/mooncup). Fuck it. I’m just going to bleed a little, smell a tad, because that for me is going with the flow.

Spirited Bodies at Southbank

On Saturday 7th March we return to the Women of the World festival at Southbank Centre. We will be in the Blue Room on the Spirit (ground) Level, from 5 – 7pm. This is a Women only event, for women wanting to model, draw or witness. Interviews with some of the women modelling will be played while they pose (sound recording). Get in touch (info.spiritedbodies@gmail.com) if you would like to book a place to model, draw, or even be interviewed. Limited places. If you get a day pass or a weekend ticket to the festival you can also come. There will be guidance on how to pose if you are new, and this is a very supportive environment if you are nervous. If I have time I will schedule a smaller workshop for women a week or so before the event to warm up for it.

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These pictures are of myself and Hope Deeney posing at Toynbee Art Club, December 2014

Belly Button (Body Adoration) Sculptures

This is a poem by Ursula who took part yesterday and joins us as we create the next event, for Notting Hill Visual Arts Festival (next week – see ‘Events’)
Belly Button (Body Adoration) Sculptures
I so like to engage
With my body
Display its beauty
For which I am grateful
Especially my belly
As the centre of it all
I start breathing consciously
To establish a relationship to it
See how it ebbs and rises
My belly, as the centre of action
And the focus of my adoration
Because I can work with it
And shape it
Into a form that I like
Not too big
But small and beautiful
With its button in the middle
As a sign of my connectedness
To where I come from
Not too small
Otherwise I can’t see the belly under the button at all
And my feelings could disappear
And could get lost anywhere
My belly is a landscape
My belly is a landscape with a button
My belly is a landscape with a button and I like it
Not too hilly
The hills come further north
Along my body
Hills with nipples at their tips
The kind of hills that we call tits
The centre, though, is my belly
I think that my soul lives here
I imagine this to be the home
Of my feelings, of my sensitivity
I so like
To engage with my body
As it’s a part of me
Along with my mind and soul and spirit
Making me part of humanity, I share with it
I am, We are
Minds souls spirits and bodies
An array, a display of landscapes and sculptures
Every-body wrapped in a skin and a colour
And their outlines horizons
With a button
In the middle
Of each one’s belly.                                                                                          © Ursula troche, 2 – 7.12
Photograph by Ursula Troche
Photograph by Ursula Troche

How To Pose ~ Guidelines for Life Models at Spirited Bodies

  • # What you do with your eyes is up to you. If you wear glasses you may prefer to model without, that way you won’t be distracted by which artists are looking at you and where. On the other hand, being able to see artists may give you a more direct energetic contact with them, which can in turn feed into their picture.
  • # For longer poses in particular, fixing your eyes on one point in the room is a useful way to aid meditation, stilling the mind. It lends you a more striking quality too as you seem focused.
  • # You can’t always fake it – if you’re not in the mood, sometimes it’s better to address that. Don’t be too strict and allow yourself to move the one part of your body which is a little freer – your face.
  • # If you’re really not feeling it, it’s ok. Break the pose, have a stretch, or just leave the room. If you can let us know why then great, if not don’t worry.
  • # Go with what suits you. It’s good to push yourself, but your posing should reflect who you are. If you’re a slacker, just let that be. If you’re an athlete, bring that out. There’s somethings we can only suggest, the rest is in your hands. You are all different and that’s what makes this amazing.
  • # If you can find connections with other models, go with it. If it’s not happening, just listen to your own body.
  • # Listening to your body is key. Moving from one pose to the next can be like a sequence telling a story from your body. Also you can alternate muscle groups from one pose to the next so that your comfort is afforded.
  • # You will get uncomfortable. How much you want to push yourself is up to you. I still regularly get myself in regrettable poses which make me wish I’d never accepted the job. But I also know that by the next pose or the break, I will have a sense of reward and achievement. Obviously if it’s really awful I stop.
  • # Nip it in the bud – the tingles. If you feel pins and needles coming on, do something early on, or it will get exponentially worse. Don’t feel bad about this.
  • # Emotional issues may arise for some of you; this is normal. There can be a sense of vulnerability to modelling nude, plus you have much quiet time to think. You may feel stuck there like an object and any awkward sensations relating to this could be ripe for emerging. Don’t try to block it, and don’t let it overcome you either. Take your time, do what you need to do. We want you to enjoy yourselves most of all and have a positive experience.
I contrast poses here which suggest positions of power and vulnerability in turn
  • # Seamless continuity of group pose. This is an unusual scenario – and it is not modelled on a traditional life drawing session. You probably won’t all change pose at the same time. I may suggest to each of you when it’s a good time to change pose, or you may decide to do so independently. This way most of the group pose appears to remain the same for the duration, with only subtle changes happening throughout.
  • # Listen to your body and each other! You are part of a bigger picture telling a story of individuals as well as collectively.
One of Alex B's images from the last Spirited Bodies @ Drawing Theatre

Opening Up To Transformation

We ask participants to tell us why they want to try life modelling, what it means to them. Sometimes we find it arresting and we ask if we may share their thoughts.

“There are 3 main reasons.

Firstly, the aesthetic ambition: I am fascinated by the idea of the gaze. I spend a lot of my time gazing, spectating, and absorbing art – and indeed life. I want to see how it feels to be on a different side of the arrangement: how I will feel, what kind of emotions it will stir in me, and how I will view myself while being viewed by others.

Secondly, the empowerment. The first time I ever felt truly comfortable in – and confident about – my own body was when I was in some communal showers, surrounded by other women, suddenly realising that we are all different sizes and shapes, and that if you are not a magazine beauty, you can still be beautiful. I loved the sisterliness of that; after many years of a painful and difficult relationship with my own body, it was almost dazzlingly liberating.

Thirdly: after a lifetime of being single, and three years of self-imposed celibacy, there is a frivolous side of me which thinks it is a pity, when I work so hard on my body (maintaining my figure through healthy eating, exfoliating my skin, toning my muscles with exercise, etc) that nobody ever gets to see it except me! I suppose I also hope that, if I feel more confident and empowered, I might have more courage to try to accept relationships in the future – rather than just reject all offers, as I have been doing, for the last seven years, thanks to one bad experience in the past.

So – no pressure! 🙂 “