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ISSUE 121 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/14/2008

Nude Models: An exposed exposé

By April Wright
Variety Editor

Friday, March 14, 2008

Imagine walking into class on a Monday morning. You've got your coffee in hand, your homework is all done and you're at least kind of ready for the week. But instead of taking a seat with the students in the class, you head to the front of the room, strip off your clothes and strike a pose. Welcome to the world of nude modeling. Nude models at St. Olaf are primarily used in figure drawing classes, where they serve to highlight the structure of the human body for students. For a class, a model will strike several poses as directed by the professor. The poses are designed to highlight different aspects of anatomy or techniques for drawing the body. Drawing from a nude model has the benefit of being able to see and represent the musculature and skeletal landmarks of the body. "They're nude because it lets you see the underlying structures better," Tom Lubanovic '07 said. "It really allows you to bring someone to life." Even for students who don't intend to go into a career that requires one to realistically represent the human form, figure drawing still has its benefits. "There are very few fields where you don't depict human forms," said assistant professor of art Lilla Johnson. In fields such as graphic design or animation, for example, stylized versions of humans may still be used to convey meaning, therefore relying on the artist's ability to accurately portray how the body moves. Poses are chosen to teach lessons. A professor might choose to do a series of short poses to illustrate how the body changes while in motion, or they might do one pose for multiple class periods to demonstrate a certain drawing technique or area of the body. Any student can become a nude model. Models can come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Ability to strike and hold a powerful pose is very important to being a good model. "They look strong and confident in their space," Johnson said. "An ability to sit still is a second, and it's really important." Not just hotties can be good models. The key to success is being unashamed of the body you do posses. "They don't get super self-conscious," Lubanovic said. "Someone chill is fun to draw. It's easier for everyone to be comfortable when the model is." And comfort is the name of the game. "I tell my students that with the models, it's all about respect," Johnson said. "The models do us a service, and we need to be grateful for that." Students choose to be models for different reasons. "I started going to the late-night drawing sessions, and it seemed like an easy way to make some money," Lubanovic said. "It's definitely the highest paying job on campus, and there are surprisingly few male models." Other models don't have dollar signs in their eyes. Kelsey Shay '09 did some modeling for a casting project Lubanovic is working on. "I think there is this huge stigma associated with nudity, which I find really sad," Shay said. "The human body is such a beautiful thing, and I was happy to do something artistic like this that showed an appreciation for the female form without hypersexualizing it." The act of modeling itself is challenging. "It's not what I would call an easy job," Johnson said. "They earn every penny they make." Lubanovic agreed. "Some poses can be painful or make you sore," he said. "But professors want you to be comfortable, so they try to work with you and your body." Poses can be strenuous on the muscles, and can sometimes involve sitting on cold or uncomfortable surfaces for an entire class period. It can be especially challenging early in the mornings when students start to nod off or in the evening, when they have already had a long day of class, practice and lugging around textbooks. For others, the difficulty hinges on actually taking one's clothes off. Lubanovic recalls a time when a model in one of his classes was very self-conscious and had a hard time being professional and calm about the job. "It wasn't very comfortable for us because she obviously wasn't," he said. "I think you have to be pretty comfortable in your skin to do nude modeling and understand that the artist is viewing your body as a piece of art, not as a sexual object," Shay said, touching on the dichotomy between the way nudity is handled in the studio versus in general society. Many students react to the fact that students strip down for educational purposes with shock and a little bit of discomfort. When I pitched this feature to my fellow editors, they were intriuged by the idea that anyone could be comfortable in the buff in front of a class. "It's sort of a titillating subject for people who don't draw a lot," Johnson said. "In the studio those social norms don't exist. They're not naked, they're nude." Lubanovic observed that more women model then men. He attributes the inequity to more women than men being in the art department, but Johnson thinks it hints at greater social trends. "There's this social conception that women are models and men draw," Johnson said. "It probably goes way back in our society." Lubanovic added that some people see it as a freeing experience. "Maybe more women are seeking that than men, but I don't know," he said. While the idea of nude modeling may seem somewhat shocking to those who don't do it, it's actually quite mundane to frequent participants. Before a drawing class or session starts, a model will usually go change into a robe or another easily removed piece of clothing. Once the artists have their papers and drawing supplies ready, the model will then strip off their remaining garment and start doing poses. "People bring snacks and stuff and share them," Lubanovic said. "You feel conscious of the fact that you're naked, but it's not a bad thing." Lubanovic likens it to going to any other job: you go in, do your job and then go about your day. But the nude modeling experience doesn't end once one gets dressed. Many students like to show off their art to the model. "It's not that weird, except for a drawing that Laura [Olson '08] did of just my [penis] and nothing else. I think it had a text bubble, too," Lubanovic said. For others, being able to experience a well-planned, artistic realization of their body brings enlightenment. "You kind of learn interesting things about your body from a cast as well that you may not know before," Shay said. "For instance, I had never really conceptualized how long my legs are until I was holding a form of the entire side of my body. It's so neat to be able to have someone take your body and make interesting pieces of art." And the act of modeling carries out into the non-art world, too. In a small community like St. Olaf, modeling for a class of 20 students means a good chance that a few people you see on a regular basis have seen you in your birthday suit. "It's a little weird," Lubanovic said. "But you're pretty much cool with it or you aren't. It was way more awkward to tell my parents." Nude modeling provides an opportunity for students to make a little bit of scratch while doing a major favor to their artistically-inclined classmates. Students interested in modeling on campus should contact Gwen Daniels in the art department.

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