The New York Studio School is the most “prop-happy” place I’ve ever worked. Their stash of plastic fruit, bottles, vases, plates, silk flowers, musical instruments, etc, is so extensive it puts other schools to shame. I personally think the school elevates these objects to a higher status than they deserve. They have their own philosophy down there and that’s their right. But they tend to clog their compositions with these things and obsessively draw and paint every one of them. Many times I have found myself posing in a chair surrounded by a sea of props, feeling like I’m in the middle of a rummage sale.
Amidst this flea market atmosphere the life model, sadly, gets lost. We are rendered to merely blend in like just another object, and models are supposed to be “subjects”, NOT objects. But figurative beauty is not the focus apparently, and this approach can trigger a bit of insecurity in the model. It makes us call into question our purpose and our power to inspire, not to mention our hard work!
As an art model I harbor a touch of contempt for inanimate props, especially when they’re used to excess. Now I like working at the Studio School, I do. Great place, good people (mostly). But I have gotten into it down there a few times and voiced my objections (albeit mildly) to the devaluing of the model’s role in art. It’s brought out my militant art model side, the side that proclaims, “I am life, hear me roar!” and “How dare you force me to compete with a wine bottle!”. It would make more sense to me if they were just painting a still life, without a model.
I took these pictures yesterday when I was posing, happily, in one of the more sparse set-ups I’ve seen down there. It was a relief to have fewer things around me to knock over and navigate around.
This arrangement would make Cezanne proud:
Ok, those pictures were fine, but not terribly exciting, right? Do I need to explain why? I mean, let’s be honest folks. Are the textures, colors, and contours of those things more artistically appealing than, say, this?
Which inspires you more?