Whenever I tell people what I'm about to tell you, dear figmentary Reader, they almost invariably have the same few emotions flicker across their face in the same order before they catch themselves and smooth out their expression, with longer pauses on one or another depending on the individual: first shock, then intrigue, then a curious faraway gaze that, I've come to realise, means that they are picturing me naked.
I am an art model.
It's only one of the many hats I wear, and not even necessarily the most interesting for me to do (although it's a great excuse to meditate), but it is the one item in the list that people tend to hone in on. I love almost every part of it. I love the fact that it forces me to look comfortable in nothing but my own skin, which has the effect of training my body and mind to be comfortable when naked and in other new and/or strange situations. I love the fact that my physical idiosyncracies—my receding chin, the wavering line between my thighs (between which there is no hint of a gap), the way my breasts have an endless array of different arcs that I can contrast with the sharper, cleaner lines of my arms and fingers—are what make me interesting to draw instead of just imperfections to be loathed until correction.
What I love perhaps a little bit less is the odd effect that my position as a model can sometimes have on the people who draw and view me.
It's not an enormous deal, to be honest—just an odd little note that I happened to notice more than usual last night, as a live model in an art show. An artist I've worked with before designed his show around the idea of an atelier, the studio/classroom/gallery space where classical masters of art would create their own works and teach their students and apprentices. A number of his works—some completed, others showing various stages of the artistic process—lined the walls, and several wooden artist's benches sat arrayed in front of the model's dais, where I sat (clothed, this time, as there were tender eyes in attendance).
There was enough noise and movement in the space to make my usual meditation a little too difficult, so I amused myself with watching the attendees. I counted four with serious cameras, but almost everyone took pictures on their phone at some point, and there were a few almost constantly snapping quick shots of the art, and the art but tilted a little bit, and other attendees talking animatedly in front of the art, and selfies with astonishingly exuberant expressions on their faces and the art over their shoulder.
And—unsurprisingly—I was often the art.
It could be a cultural shift in mindset, now that we've got social media platforms based entirely around sharing images (I'm a huge fan of Instagram myself), and people are beginning to assume that they are master of all they survey and subsequently capture with their smartphone. However, I don't (at least as far as I know) get Instagrammed when I'm just walking around town, despite the purple sparkly hair, peacock-patterned leggings and tutus. It's like being up on a stage with other artists (with whom I had a prior agreement) making art with me made my image part of the public domain. Not a single person who took a picture of me asked my permission to do so. Again, I'm not upset or even surprised at this, just remarking on this odd sort of shift toward an assumption of implicit consent.
I like being art. I like inspiring people to share their view of the world, and I completely understand that with the situations I willingly enter, I'm going to be part of that view at times.
I just wish that they'd ask.