Stories of Women ~ the journey so far


The idea came as a way to develop the interview format where I would record models and artists speaking about their experiences relating to modelling and drawing, and play this while the models posed. With Stories of Women I chose to focus on one model each time, and give her the chance to lead and inspire not only with her body, but through far greater agency than is usually afforded, by letting her deliver her narrative too. There was also the fact that I could not reasonably afford to pay more than one model with this experimental and risky new venture. The Feminist Library has been an ideal new home for the project and introduced us to a wonderful, vibrant wider community of feminist activists. I am most grateful for their generous and accommodating support without which the events could not have run.

As part of a life model community I have gotten to know many amazing models over the years, each very different. Usually they pose silently and Stories of Women seemed a wonderful way to unleash another side of them; the mind behind the poses and inside the body. It gives the opportunity to address many issues that naturally relate to each of us; including size, race, age, illness, surgery, disability, Motherhood, sexuality and gender for example.

I have also encouraged fellow models to come along and join in the discussion which has made for a rich sharing of experience and a frankly much needed live forum between us. So much happens online and it is great when we can actually meet – so rarely do our individually busy schedules allow for this.

It has given me the chance to get to know some of my fellow models better too, as the invitation to share a story necessitates more communication than is usually required between model and booker. Typically a meeting happens and some further batting back and forth of ideas. It makes a pleasant change in the general routine of dashing between jobs with minimal interaction. It may put down a marker of what is important to the model at that time, gives them a reason to take stock. What does modelling mean to them? Why do they do it and is there anything they would like to change?

 

 

Two of the models so far have not been feeling that modelling will be so much in their future, so there was the sense of drawing their work to a close and celebrating a long career that is now ending, certainly with Jennifer and Hana. Jennifer revealed some very profound feelings about the work, which may have jarred with newcomers simply hoping to try it out, because it’s very different when you model full time for years on end. But this did spark intense and animated discussion as it happened among a number of fellow professionals who were present. Even if newcomers were shocked or surprised, they also learnt a great deal of inside information!

Hana Schlesinger

Hana has retired she says, but still likes a little work here and there as the pleasure remains, but she is much older now and suddenly finds there are so many more things she wants to be doing. I was given her number by a tutor Eric who I model for in Hammersmith. She was the oldest model I could easily contact that I knew of in London, in her mid 70s. It was a real treat to get to know her and visit her in Harlesden, her decades of experience through different life drawing eras and stages in her own life were fascinating to hear of. A lovely woman who radiates confidence and liberatedness, a joy to behold.

With Claire it was more of a retrospective look at her modelling career as she no longer does it much. In fact she only does it at Spirited Bodies in recent years specifically to explore her relationship with her body post mastectomy, having been a life model prior to that. It links up with various pieces of writing, poems, artworks and photographs she has also created on the subject over a number of years, and lined up with an exhibition she put on at The Women’s Art Library at Goldsmiths (part of her residency). So each event has a unique content and flavour, sometimes an edge.

Leo

Leo and Natasha are very much in their element now as models, even if Natasha can’t always do as much as she’d like due to full time work commitments. Valentina modelled at Good Girls Reveal All with me, and while this wasn’t called Stories of Women, it was a very similar format so I shall include Valentina here. She also is really enjoying a fantastic life model career now, and it’s a pleasure to connect with this energy in all of them. These younger women took up modelling in the last 6 years and expressed the changes they’d felt as a result of their nude career. It was overwhelmingly positive what modelling brings to them, even if sometimes the affects are so strong that you make some very massive changes in your life that have serious consequences. It’s not uncommon when we become models that it shifts something in our intimate relationships. Suddenly we are being appreciated physically (and more as this is about personality too) by others, artists; and we don’t necessarily need that from our partners any more.

Leo expressed her devotion to celibacy and the empowerment she finds that way. As a larger model her experience of the world is shaped somewhat by how society regards her (as it is for all of us in our own way). I am a slim model and appreciated for different qualities, fat hasn’t been such a thing for me but for so many women it is. How fat becomes a gift in the life room may be the most obvious example of how life modelling can enhance body positivity.

Natasha has become in touch with her own sense of independence and confidence not just as a result of modelling but also various other nude activities, including the World Naked Bike Ride; Spencer Tunick, Matt Granger and her own outdoor photoshoots; and blossomed in that regard. She started her own life drawing group in Upminster called LeNu with her sister a few years ago which runs weekly sessions and where Steve and I will be part of a Spirited Bodies – Stories type event, hopefully in the Summer term! Natasha also very much looks forward to creating a new photographic project in the Summer, similar to her outdoor group nude shoots in 2015 (Project Naked).

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Valentina and I enjoyed a luxurious amount of time to prepare together. Because I would be performing as well, there was much to discuss – how our narratives would blend and intersect. We wanted to memorise parts of our speech for a more dramatic effect, and tried out ideas with each other over several meetings. For her, the body positivity element was very strong, and moving to listen to. The painful experiences that preceded our lives as models, are the drivers for passionate immersion in a new world of self exploration and expression, with a guaranteed audience! This gig was a new departure, a collaboration with Good Girls Eat Dinner founder Jo Wallace, who drew me in Hoxton the term before when I announced one of my events. She was interested and came along, as well instigated Good Girls Reveal All with me. A new direction for her, and a different audience for a Stories of Women type event. As creative director at an advertising agency in Knightsbridge, she arranged the event where she works. Most of the drawers were her fellow creatives from a number of professional fields. They didn’t try the modelling (it didn’t seem appropriate with many of them working with each other), but listened and drew avidly. Jo asked us questions which we had prepared, and also we delivered a couple of learnt set pieces. I found it very liberating to have this platform too, and greatly appreciated sharing it with Valentina. There was strong solidarity between us, and a chance to bond as women as well as models. Our audience were pretty new to these ideas and drew a lot from our insights. Thanks to Jo (and Valentina) who helped make this transition to a new territory especially smooth and welcoming.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our next model will be Lucy Saunders who helped to found Spirited Bodies with Morimda and myself, in 2010. This is an exciting prospect for several reasons. Lucy enjoyed a hugely popular and decent length life model career which mostly came to an end a few years ago, as she decided to focus on teaching and then PR work. There have been health issues too more recently; an operation last year left her somewhat disabled, but relieved her of a great deal of pain. Nevertheless she is rapidly regaining her mobility and is determined to demonstrate the full variety of her posing repertoire. Truly I know that even if she can’t create poses with her body as nimbly as previously (much physio is on the cards), she will have no problem enthralling an audience (of drawers) with her life modelling tales and the way she informs her posing from a number of inspirations including great masters’ compositions.

 

 

The story Lucy always tells about her initiation into life modelling and what gave her hope that it was worth pursuing despite her size – she was modelling at a RAM audition alongside a young student; slim, long red hair, perfect in the way that young people can be carelessly perfect. She knew nothing about good poses and made some fairly mad shapes. In the break, she wandered round looking at the artists’ work. One man had done a competent A3 drawing of the young woman sitting on a chair. Up in one corner, the size of a playing card, he’d done a quick sketch of Lucy sitting on the floor from behind. ‘He made my arse look like a smile, and I thought, I can do this.’ says Lucy. ‘What looking at images made of me by hundreds of artists in all sorts of mediums, from charcoal to paint to clay to collage, has made me realise is that I truly have very little control of how other people see me or what they think of my body. It is a huge relief to lay down that burden of trying to live up to expectations that I have learnt are largely internalised dictats of the culture I live in.’

 

 

It is a rare opportunity for a model to demonstrate posing with some disability, in this case one who has enjoyed a long and full career as a celebrated model. She worked at various institutions including Morley College, Kensington and Chelsea, The Prince’s Drawing School, the Hesketh Hubbard, Richmond Art School as well as many other formal and informal life drawing groups and meetings. ‘I love seeing what the artists create and while I might think my pose expresses one thing, it can be enchanting to see it turn into a completely different story through the artists’ work.’

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lucy was I think, the largest female model I was aware of on the circuit in the early days (10 years ago). Then I got to know some more, but they have generally been a relative rarity, greatly in demand for their shape and size. At Spirited Bodies we have always wanted to encourage everyone to feel comfortable in the body they are in, especially marginalised bodies, but as margins can be internal, this really is anybody. Whether your body is judged unfavourably by a critical society, or further controlled by harsh cultural practices imposing limiting behaviours; or it is at war with itself for whatever reason; if you can find self acceptance, and let go of feelings of shame, that can benefit a person immeasurably. From that place of self love, one may be better equipped to address further issues that invariably arise.

It has been very rewarding to help people come to terms with bodies they did not feel at home in, and to reclaim them, sometimes through modelling as a group at our sessions; and in some instances helping them further into life modelling careers of their own. I have probably gotten to know an unusually high number of partially disabled models due to Spirited Bodies’ inclusive body-embracing aims. Sometimes the warm appreciation of artists serves as a healing energy that goes a little way perhaps to redress the discomfort of a body/mind that may be struggling.

If you would like to join us for Lucy’s Stories of Women event, it will take place at Hampstead School of Art (HSOA) on Friday 18th May 2018, from 6:30pm – 8:30pm. The cost is £20 and you can buy tickets online here, or book a place by calling 0207 794 1439, or email info@hsoa.co.uk

The address is 2 Penrose Gardens, Kidderpore Green, NW3 7BF, London. 

a5-flyer-sow06-2000

It is an enormous delight to return to HSOA – in 2014 they generously hosted my Girl in Suitcase performance with live musicians and fellow model and friend, Ursula Troche. I have been modelling there recently and they got wind of my events in December and asked me about putting one on there, in the Summer term. They are keen to host exciting new life drawing and art related events at the school, where they fit with their programme. It means a great deal to have friendly collaborators who make you feel very supported, indeed you need that in order for a project to survive. Artists supporting each other is what it’s all about and we are very grateful to have such company. Looking forward to presenting Stories of Women for them and whoever fancies coming along. This is a mixed event (unlike The Feminist Library ones) and there will be the chance to try posing as well, alongside Lucy, and with her direction and guidance. Drawing materials provided and naturally easels, boards, tables – for the first time this type of event is happening in an actual life drawing studio! What a gift! We are excited and honoured, and hope to inspire the artists with a new understanding of a muse. Many thanks to Isabel, Anat, Caitlin and all at HSOA – their kindness is much appreciated. And how happy I am to be working and creating again, with my one time project partner. We step easily into the groove, familiar enough to get straight to the point in what are sometimes challenging personal matters. In the depth we find strength and closeness renewed. I have every hope for a most successful occasion.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With special thanks to all our friends who have turned up, helped and joined in; it is all greatly appreciated.

Life Art & Therapy in Highbury

I had been busy working on my play – Girl in Suitcase – in recent weeks, and left editing new interviews a bit last minute. I wanted to hear how they would flow with the material from March which was being reused, so naturally I gave each model’s interview a listen. Getting to Mum’s on Thursday afternoon left me with a heavy impression. The power in her voice is so disarming, to appreciate life so readily when one’s experience has been shockingly limited. I was reminded of the caged bird. My heart moved, and when I arrived for work in the evening, they knew something was up. Luckily they’d requested a Tank Girl look, so I was wearing stompy boots (and stockings) without anything else. They took a while to prepare their easels but some hiphop was playing and I just had to dance in my performance space. My way to release, to express, to flow back into a safer, happy place from where I can observe my emotions without being too caught up. The boots helped to ground me, as well as swing me around.

I just about managed to organise the interviews in time, but I was nervous. Every little thing – replenishing art materials, briefing models, instructions for how to maintain the pristine haven of a venue, biscuits, suitcases full of kit to charge across town by bus… and why had so few artists booked places? Would there be more models than artists? Turned out I had sent out a faulty link to the online booking  in my invitations and on the flier! Well it is the first time I have sold tickets that way, and now I know.

People showed up regardless. The right people. Not too many, but enough, definitely enough.

The planning for this event happened just before I was set to look after Mum a few days back in May. I planned the Girl in Suitcase performance then too. I needed a focus to make my days as a carer ok. Sounds terrible when some people like Dad do that all the time, but nevertheless, so it is. So there was a little urgency in the planning, which is great for making things happen, though bound to be a few hiccups.

One of the main models I had planned this event with, had dropped out last minute, due to a very important court case she was involved in out of town. Couldn’t be helped, but I guess it threw me a bit, seeing as she’d been a driving force previously. But hey, she helped get the ball rolling, and, I am so pleased with the outcome. For sure there are improvements to be made; interviews which need more editing mainly, and the possibility of some models doing a longer pose, while others move more often. What worked really nicely was Niomi’s (the absent model) idea of having a post-event debriefing session for all who cared to stay. There had been considerable discussions a while back about how we would ensure that the right people stayed, but in the end, it just happened organically. By that time, with the intensity of all the interviews fresh in the air, the people who can and want to stay on know who they are.

I tried to make sure everyone who wanted to, contributed to the discussion, and it was rewarding for me to discover how much people enjoyed hearing the interviews. As they played I had felt painfully aware of background noise, and parts of interviews which made the model in question (and me too) squirm inwardly as s/he heard her/himself. It was remarked that it was refreshing that it was not overly edited. Made it more authentic, genuine, to hear that I’d caught them at teatime, and this must have been my only opportunity to interview them, so I had just pressed record whilst kettles were boiling, cutlery chinking, or people shouting across a hall in the background. Not all the noises could be edited out, if the words were very important.

There was a difference in the way some interviews were received at Southbank Centre in March, and then at Skylight Centre now. In March at WOW the room was packed to bursting, and women at the festival had spent much of the weekend building the feminist momentum listening to talks, taking part in discussions about the female slave trade, getting more women in top positions, and getting rights for women in the middle east. By the time they got to us at the end of Sunday, they were ripe for each and every woman’s voice at our women only event.

I only invited one male model to Highbury as I was playing it very safe. I knew others would come to draw anyway and they would have a chance later in the session to pose, but I wanted to be extra picky at this stage, for this event. I won’t explain who he is or why I chose him here, as that might compromise his privacy, as with other models. But he stood out in a few ways, and I knew he wouldn’t come otherwise. My main objective might be to offer the Spirited Bodies experience to people who would otherwise not find it, and who may gain the most, as well as contributing most meaningfully to the ensuing dialogue and others’ experience.

One artist mentioned that he was amazed to hear how the interviewees expressed such hatred towards their own bodies, and that it made him realise there were likely a lot of people going round with those negative thoughts in their heads. Tragic. It was news to him (he’d been brought by a friend) that the model might be experiencing therapy whilst modelling. He wondered if all models gained in this way. I explained that for most regular models, after a while one is relatively free of body hang-ups, but that modelling may continue to offer valuable insights due to its meditative energy sharing nature, even for the seasoned model, and that’s part of what can keep its appeal. Another artist who tried the posing stated that modelling raised his energy in a trance-like way, took him to a higher place. I totally agree.

I am aware of a block I might have towards applying for funding. I guess that (funding) has never been a reason for doing the project, as my drive is born more directly of passion, a need to create and to share. I mean, funding might be great, but I would not wait for it. When I need to make Spirited Bodies or a piece of theatre happen, I just do it. I loathe the idea of fitting my plans into boxes for others to judge if my intentions and methods fit with their criteria. On the other hand, at some point I may cross that threshold as I know this is worthy of funding. It just has to happen before I get the itch to be doing the event, because then I have no time for forms.

On Friday evening there were 8 interviews, including one from an artist. There was going to be music too, but due to a technical hitch early on we only got the sound started a bit later, so no extra time available. At least 5 of the artists tried the posing. Mum received a round of applause after her interview! Revealing her identity is a little controversial as she is shy about people she knows knowing that she modelled nude. But I have this feeling it’s like worrying that someone from work will see you at a fetish club. If they are there too, surely you’re in it together? Moreover Mum’s voice is too powerful and my connection to her too strong for me to present this less personally. A middle-aged woman with advanced MS who is paralysed from the neck down poses and tells you about how in her dreams she is in her 20s and can walk, but in waking life she requires anti-depressants in order to feel ok about everything. She would hate it if the people on her street knew about the modelling (but some of them do as she’s proud enough to have some of the pictures from her previous sessions up in the kitchen). Her voice is slow, and would be quiet without volume control. Normally it’s lucky if one person can hear her, let alone an audience. She tells it like it is, and she almost has nothing to lose. Women in the audience who may be too worried about the size of their behind to pose, or think they have a big nose, rethink their concerns when they hear what Mum has to contend with. It puts everything into perspective to have an elder (63, but in a condition more like a 90 year old) like that. She hadn’t thought she could be a role model, but it dawns on her during the interview. By the end we are all extremely grateful to be able to move independently, to pick up a piece of charcoal or remove our own clothes unassisted. Life takes on new meaning.

model Liliana

 

20140627_213446

20140627_214000

All pictures taken from the event. There were many more good ones I missed, but hadn’t got that far in my planning. All the same, brilliant memories.

Spirited Bodies in Highbury

When I think of you my heart grows stronger.

Skylight--flyer-web---A5

Come on out for Spirited Bodies in Highbury on 27 June, Friday evening. It will be magical. In a beautiful centre for therapy the peace will welcome the powerful performances of our models.

An image of the venue:

The Skylight Centre

Collecting interviews. From models and artists. Backdrop for a stunning scene.

 

Images from our WOW event in March this year.

20140522_193149

20140522_193702

20140522_193814

20140522_194248

20140522_194427

20140522_195331

20140522_195442

20140522_195811

20140522_195838

20140522_195918

20140522_200107

20140522_200212

20140522_200622

20140522_201224

To buy tickets and for much more information go here.

How to look good not naked ~ the challenge of clothed modelling, & our first exhibition!

An exciting week lies ahead; 2 workshops, and the first week of our exhibition up. I spent part of Friday and Saturday collecting the artwork with Thelma, and then fathoming how to hang it. I am pleased with the result and think we have decorated the Sh! shop very nicely. I am going to give you a peek here, as best I could manage, with the glare of lights in their basement where the pictures are.

Whilst sorting out where and how to hang each image, I was in the space where we will hold our women only session on Thursday (7th November). I got a feel for the possibilities there, chatted to the manageress, and thought about how best to encourage women to pose – with clothes on. We have never had this restriction before (while we have had clothing optional modelling, nudity has always been allowed with us!), but also we have never been in such a feminine space. The manageress said they have never had anything like our workshop in the shop. They offer a number of erotic classes and sessions, from ‘how best to perform fellatio’, to erotic poetry evenings; but we are adding a new dimension.

I checked out some of their underwear items which women might consider posing in, if they fancy treating themselves to something new, and tasty, as well as some of the goods on sale which could make fun props!

Edible bra made of candy beads was not very expensive
Edible bra made of candy beads was not very expensive
Not sure how well these items fit different sizes or adjust, seems to be one size
Not sure how well these items fit different sizes or adjust, seems to be one size
Bare minimum for a burlesque look
Bare minimum for a burlesque look

IMAG1361

Frilly pants for £9 I think
Frilly pants for £9 I think
sequin tassles
sequin tassles
A bit more expensive, 'Pants to Poverty' fairtrade pants are £14 but at least they are ethical
A bit more expensive, ‘Pants to Poverty’ fairtrade pants are £14 but at least they are ethical
And now for some props
And now for some props

When we had our women’s meet and chat evening last month in this space, one of the women who dropped in had a whole lot of questions. In fact she had so much to say that hardly anyone else got a word in, and we realised we would have to manage situations like that better in future. Memorably, in the middle of the woman’s diatribe, Morimda got up and strutted over to the whips. She carefully picked an instrument and struck a dominant pose in the middle of the space, holding the whip with intent. Now she had everyone’s attention and there was quiet. Morimda explained how the model holds the space, and picks poses to engage with her audience of artists.

A lot of the scenarios we create in our workshops, a bit like in a drama class, are centred around notions of status. These props may add an amusing nuance, helping to make status relationships very clear.

Paddles, collars & blindfolds
Paddles, collars & blindfolds

Now for a virtual tour of the Spirited Bodies exhibition!

Seated figure drawing by Chris Francis
Seated figure drawing by Chris Francis
'The Queen of Sheba' by Kate Hardy - a 20 minute pose at our Women of the World women's event in March at Southbank Centre
‘The Queen of Sheba’ by Kate Hardy – a 20 minute pose at our Women of the World women’s event in March at Southbank Centre
A scene from last December's Mortlake event by Mike Flight
A scene from last December’s Mortlake event by Mike Flight
A standing nude in water colour by Chris Francis
A standing nude in water colour by Chris Francis
3 of Mike Flight's paintings are on the top shelf
3 of Mike Flight’s paintings are on the top shelf
more Mike above a pink mirror
more Mike above a pink mirror
One of Jane Barton's paintings, from Battersea Arts Centre in October 2012
One of Jane Barton’s paintings, from Battersea Arts Centre in October 2012
Simon Whittle's watercolour and pencil picture from our event at The Mall Galleries this August
Simon Whittle’s watercolour and pencil picture from our event at The Mall Galleries this August
Jane's other painting of female nudes has been a big favourite, also from BAC October '12
Jane’s other painting of female nudes has been a big favourite, also from BAC October ’12
One of Lily Lemaire's drawings and a couple of Mike's smaller pictures
One of Lily Lemaire’s drawings and a couple of Mike’s smaller pictures
Charles Patey's 'Stanza' from Mortlake last December, features life model Isobel, in charcoal
Charles Patey’s ‘Stanza’ from Mortlake last December, features life model Isobel, in charcoal
'Opposing Pair' by Chris Francis on the right, and a reclining female nude by Lily Lemaire on the left.
‘Opposing Pair’ by Chris Francis on the right, and a reclining female nude by Lily Lemaire on the left.

Lily is one of the artists who will be drawing the models on Thursday, and she will give a drawing to each model to keep, a lovely memento we think.

I asked the manageress of Sh! why there have not been any other women’s sex shops opening since this once in the early ’90s. She explained that it is not a commercial venture since this shop is women only for the most part – men must be accompanied by a woman or visit on Tuesday evenings. This excludes  by far the largest market for the sex industry, since men are used to spending on sex. Most women never by sex products for themselves as they have less disposable income and are used to spending more of their income on others, and thinking of their own needs less. While this shop addresses this imbalance, it is a political (feminist) choice rather than capitalising on a gap in the market. They are considering starting some classes for men in future which teach them about how to please women. I think there is a growing interest in this area if Orgasmic Meditation is anything to go on.

I am really pleased to have our first show here, and hope you can visit the shop to take a look; it is on for all of November. I will try to schedule a ‘Private View’ type evening, but it will be later in the month, as we have been a bit busy.

Looking forwards to Thursday and finding poses with all our models, however clothed they prefer to be; see here if you are interested in coming along – Women Only Life Modelling at Sh!

For some more clothed modelling inspiration;

when I posed last year for Tadworth Art Group
when I posed last year for Tadworth Art Group
seated on the floor
seated on the floor
posing at Citibank where nudity is not allowed
posing at Citibank where nudity is not allowed
drawing by Khadijah who will be drawing on Thursday at Sh! as well as adding her work to the exhibition!
drawing by Khadijah who will be drawing on Thursday at Sh! as well as adding her work to the exhibition!
Today I modelled at Toynbee Art Club and although I was nude, a fashion student imagined clothes on me
Today I modelled at Toynbee Art Club and although I was nude, a fashion student imagined clothes on me
another outfit I do not possess but would like
another outfit I do not possess but would like

Human Orchestration, an explosion of nudity and sound

Dear Blog, this event has moved me; or rather it has been a culmination of a series of drives to ascend ourselves. We have created a new standard, a higher level of our art as models with a way to give voice to our internal thoughts and feelings, in the same time that we pose, collectively as a group. We communicate as one, individually audible, and collectively uplifted, empowered to speak back, feedback in real time, more than just a look or building up a feeling inside. This is a way to channel ourselves further into the art through the people drawing us.

I speak as if I posed, but really I was an orchestrator, conducting from the side. I was not even naked, but in my skin coloured body suit which is like being naked but with less definition, and room for a muffin top which otherwise doesn’t exist, squeezed up from tight leggings. I helped to deliver instructions, and as well I was a negotiator. London Drawing had their idea of what would happen, and sometimes the models had theirs. The balance was fine, and beautiful too. Spontaneity necessary, the models’ prerogative more than an important gesture, and truly the soul of Spirited Bodies. We are not just mannekins to be ordered by artists! We are creators too, and well we understand our craft, and what it might be to step outside of a comfort zone and the value therein.

With Ursula atop a pyramid of models, who were as Matt put it, “semi-autonomous noise generators”. Not entirely autonomous as they had to adhere to a few cues from myself as well as work as a group, listening to each other, and letting the sound come naturally from within them, or about their body, whether a note, a hum, a tap or a click. And Ursula led; although notes were preferred by London Drawing, she had a feeling to sing snippets of words too. I did not want to block this idea – nor could I – which was very creative and powerful. Ursula is a pun-meister and creates new arrangements of popular songs to suit the moment, in this case the present time of being drawn by artists. ‘Big Spender’ began, “Let me get straight to the paint!” (or was it ‘pen’?) At times she was not singing known songs, but rather voicing an undercurrent in the room, almost as if furniture could speak. “How do you feel when we are posing for you?” or something like, yet in sonorous tones. This part with the words was unrehearsed, and undiscussed. But the other models got it straight off and chimed in with their part, especially Tom and Christine our other professional singers.

The Church, St Johns, was perfect and seemed to beg our performance. With chairs neatly rowed for the usual practice, this awesome space demanded to be shaken extraordinarily, furniture strewn and space transformed. A light, almost completely open space with organ gallery at opposite end to altar, the high ceiling called down to us to fill it with our sound. Not just singing. Not how it has been done before, but something stretching the congregation to make it really listen, and to make a music out of just our everyday breathing, sighing, laughing and uttering, because we are celebrating the joy and wonder of being human for all our flaws, we are extraordinary too.

The Reverend Giles praised our art in spite of its controversial nature in the eyes of some of his congregation. He at least can see that the naked human is at the heart of Christianity. I suddenly felt like he was blessing our work, giving us Christian approval and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. But it was a compliment and he was right. At Spirited Bodies we are about allowing people to find their truest selves without fear, to be the best that they can, in such a way that they must face themselves truly. There may be something Christian about that, and it is certainly spiritual. I had a very good feeling about Giles, welcoming us thus. He knew that we belonged there too. We offer something that his church also needs, and I really enjoyed this event more than any other.

Surprise when our models posed as artists. Horror when they gradually stripped off next to their unknowing neighbours – “will it be me next? Do I have to take my clothes off too?” Quite a few models remarked that this part – the first part – was similar to an event I and several of us took part in during the Summer at Guerilla Galleries, called ‘Inversed Voyeurism’. Turning the tables on people’s, especially artists’ expectations of the model, the idea that the model is something separate, like an object.

These were not typical Spirited Bodies, and yet they were also very typical. And very experienced. People who we have gotten to know, through our events and others like them. These people love to be part of nude art. Some will travel the world for good opportunities. Maybe it is their religion. As well a couple who were very new to what we do. A very nervous woman who fared very well.

A success of working relationships. Our 3rd collaboration with London Drawing. We get better at knowing what to expect and how to navigate the sticking points. And a growing team of dedicated Spirited Bodies; our soul is thriving, we just want to keep growing and travelling further with our shared passion.

The following photos of artwork are courtesy of Steve Ritter, who also wrote about Saturday’s experience; http://charoigne.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/a-human-orchestration/ as did Matt Whyndham; http://repulsivemonkey.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/life-modelling-3-and-bit.html In many ways they each have outlined more clearly what actually happened than I have, but it would be boring if we all wrote the same.

IMG_1324

capturing the architecture with the figures
capturing the architecture with the figures
Models interspersed amongst artists
Models interspersed amongst artists

IMG_1329

IMG_1335

View from the gallery, art work spread on the aisle
View from the gallery, art work spread on the aisle

IMG_1339

IMG_1348

the sum of our parts
the sum of our parts

IMG_1363

IMG_1364

models singing an echo in a line
models singing an echo in a line

IMG_1367

A finale of models on a platform in front of the altar
A finale of models on a platform in front of the altar

IMG_1380

IMG_1381

IMG_1382

IMG_1383

IMG_1384

IMG_1385

a sort of human pyramid
a sort of human pyramid

IMG_1394

a flaming cross
a flaming cross

IMG_1398

And from our life model friend Santosh who also took several photos:

1381678_172474486281759_1317847248_n

1394132_172474159615125_1506118946_n

aisle Anne & David talking to the artists

altar

collage

Rehearsing the final pose
Rehearsing the final pose
Setting up the 'singing drum' pose
Setting up the ‘singing drum’ pose in the morning

image

lights

windows

Looking forward to more of such collaborations, with gratitude for a remarkable team effort on all sides, and the pleasure of enjoying some outstanding artwork.

Here is some more from artist Jess Miller; http://jessmillerart.com/2013/10/13/the-drawing-theatre-2013/

Favourite moments? (1) Seeing artists squirm as other ‘artists’ were given the nudge, and obliged by removing clothes. (2) Grinning fiendishly from the outside as the models raised their pitch and crossed into new territory empowered by voice. (3) Watching Morimda take the central standing position in the final piece, as the guy before needed a break. The symbolism of a black female replacing a white guy on the top spot gave me a big kick, and, after all, we wouldn’t be here without Morimda.

Will be sharing more pictures from London Drawing soon.