Corporeality

So I bitched all summer over not having enough work and now as the summer comes to an end, and art modeling will soon kick into high gear, I’m like NOOOO!! NOT YET!! Okay, I’m a pain in the ass :lol:

I suppose since last spring brought a good share of professional aggravation and frustration, I’m feeling some ambivalence about facing the art scene full throttle. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to seeing certain people again that I’m fond of, and faithfully serving in my role as muse. I just hope my middle-aged body cooperates! I did a lot of running, biking, and exercising this summer, but I still could have done more.

I came across this video that I really enjoyed, “Sculpting the Female Torso” by Peter Rubino. Sculpture is amazing in that it begins as amorphous slabs and gradually transforms into a replica of the human form through molding, carving, scooping, and all those wonderful tactile sensations. Once when posing for a sculpture class I saw an artist get fed up with his tools and take out his plastic credit card, which he then used to scrape ridges in the clay with better precision. Sculptors get it done, one way or another. Beautiful final result in this video:

 

Not to be outdone by the three dimensional molders, artists who use pencil have to “mold” in their own way as well. Lights and darks, as we all know, are the keys to creating form on a piece of paper. This is my torso drawn by my dear friend Daniel daSilva.

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Have a great Labor Day weekend, everyone! Peace and blessings. See you soon :-)

Love, Claudia

Light Years

I was going to open my birthday blog post with some “wise” and insightful quote about how aging is really a liberating, beautiful experience full of maturity and honesty or whatever, but come on . . . those quotes are all horseshit. And if anyone tells me that as a woman at 46 I am “ripening” they’re getting a knee to the groin. Ripening? What am I, a banana?

It goes without saying that I am grateful to be alive, healthy, and celebrating a birthday as opposed to, you know, NOT celebrating one. On the other hand, I can’t exactly bring myself to jump for joy either. It doesn’t help that I overheard a conversation between two guys on a crowded subway a few weeks ago. One of them was telling the other about a woman at his gym who flirts with him regularly. While he conceded that she was very nice and looked good, attractive and fit, he said he’ll never ask her out because, and I quote, “She’s old. She’s like 40!”. His friend shared in the horror by replying “Ew! That sucks.” The “ew” was a nice touch, don’t you think? There I was standing right next to these guys, trapped with no way to escape until my stop came up. The conductor’s announcement of 14th Street never sounded so good. I was outta there. What a relief.

Just a couple of New York jerks, right? Not worth getting upset over? Perhaps. But that attitude is much more prevalent than you think. Much much more. Especially in this city, which has ruthless tendencies. Yes, that attitude is hurtful, even cruel at times. Take my word for it. I have extensive firsthand experience. So today, on my 46th birthday, I feel like I have to apologize for not being Kate Upton.

My mother gave birth to me in 1968 and there’s nothing I can do to change that. Nor can I change, apparently, my habit of taking selfies on Photo Booth after knocking back a couple of Mike’s Hard Lemonades. Heck it’s my birthday. If I want to make an ass out of myself I will ;-)

4-up on 7-21-14 at 7.47 PM (compiled)

4-up on 7-21-14 at 7.48 PM (compiled)

4-up on 7-21-14 at 7.48 PM #13 (compiled)

Beacon

O grace abounding, whereby I presumed
. .So deep the eternal light to search and sound
. .That my whole vision was therein consumed!

In that abyss I saw how love held bound
. .Into one volume all the leaves whose flight
. .Is scattered through the universe around;

How substance, accident, and mode unite
. .Fused, so to speak, together, in such wise
. .That this I tell of is one simple light.

Yea, of this complex I believe mine eyes
. .Beheld the universal form – in me,
. .Even as I speak, I feel such joy arise.

– Dante Alighieri, il Paradiso, Canto XXXIII

Wash sketches of me by Eleni Papageorge, created at Spring Studio:

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Chasing Isabel – Gaston Lachaise and his Muse

So fellas, how far would you travel to be with the woman you love? The woman who inspires you? For French-born sculptor Gaston Lachaise the distance was 3,400 miles, though we can presume he would have traveled a lot farther than that for his muse, the person who set afire both his artistic imagination and erotic passions. For an attraction that powerful, a trip across the Atlantic is a mere walk down the block.

She was Isabel Dutaud Nagle, an American woman vacationing in Paris during the early 1900s. Gaston Lachaise was still a young 20 year old art student at the Académie Nationale des Beaux-Arts when he first caught sight of her walking along the Seine. He was instantaneously captivated. There was only one problem; Isabel was married. She was also ten years his senior.

Isabel Nagle photographed in Paris, 1904:

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The son of a skilled woodcarver and cabinetmaker, Gaston Lachaise received training in the decorative arts from the age of 13. Immersed in apprenticeships and a supportive family, Gaston Lachaise was on a solid path to a life of creating art. But then, with a promising career in sculpture ready to break out, Lachaise did the unthinkable. At a time when artists from all over the world came TO Paris, often without a dollar to their name, to study and create and live in the city that was the happening, stimulating hub of vitality for artists during the 1900s  – Gaston Lachaise did the opposite. He made plans to leave Paris and follow Isabel to her home in Boston. On the surface it seemed he was going in the wrong direction. For an up and coming artist in 1904, Paris was the place to be, the heart, the “scene”. But in a choice between hobnobbing with Picasso, Modigliani, and art dealers in Montparnasse, or packing up and relocating to America to be with the woman he loved, Lachaise chose the latter.

But the logistics of such a move were not without snags. In 1903, the year Lachaise turned 21, he was was drafted into the French Army. He served an uneventful 12 months during which he could not see his beloved Isabel. It was also during this time that Isabel had to return to Boston. Her husband was a wealthy businessman who refused to grant her a divorce until their son Edward was grown and enrolled in Harvard. Isabel accepted those conditions. In the meantime, Gaston Lachaise was discharged from the army and, instead of returning to formal study, secured a steady job in the studios of René Lalique where he cast jewelry, modeled vases and other art nouveau objects that were all the rage of the day. Before long he had earned enough money to pay for his passage across the Atlantic plus $60. His girl was waiting for him.

Isabel doing a nice nude twist on the rocks:

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On December 5, 1905, Gaston Lachaise set sail for America. He arrived in Boston one month later and was reunited with his muse. He would never return to France again. Lachaise found work in the atelier of sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson and enjoyed the time he and Isabel were able to spend together. They listened to music, discussed art and books, and attended concerts. When Kitson moved to New York City, to a studio on MacDougal Street, Lachaise followed him. Isabel came soon after. By 1912, Lachaise was assistant to Paul Manship and about to enter the period of formidable personal expression in his own work, driven of course by his enchanting and inspiring muse. Of Isabel he wrote, “through her the splendor of life was uncovered for me and the road of wonder began widening.”.

Gaston Lachaise’s figurative sculptures are known for their Junoesque stature and voluptuous dimensions. Certainly Isabel was no skinny waif, but she was not quite the imposing figure of Gaston’s work either. In reality she was only 5’2″ tall and weighed around 110 pounds. But like many artists are inclined to do, Lachaise exaggerated for artistic effect, amplifying the sensuousness, strength, and vigorous force of the human form. This is one of Lachaise’s most famous works of Isabel, “Elevation”, in bronze. A fascinating sculpture that presents a full-figured torso and thick thighs in an active gesture balancing effortlessly on the tiptoes of tiny delicate feet. It looks as if she could lift off and float away, light as a feather.

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It’s hard to miss the influences of Rodin and Maillol. They along with Lachaise exalted the human form to archetypes of potency, energy, and forces of nature. Committed to his vision of “Woman” as he felt it and experienced it through Isabel, Gaston Lachaise remained faithful to his passions and his artistic vocabulary.

This is Gaston Lachaise’s “Floating Figure” at the National Gallery of Australia, also inspired by Isabel. Completed in plaster in 1927, there are seven bronze casts in existence altogether. At first glance we see an almost caricature-like exaggeration. But Lachaise is presenting us with curvaceous lines and shapes, which are inherently womanly and feminine, a disproportionately small head, and a cross-legged seated pose with outstretched arms that communicates a peculiar mixture of control, tranquility, expansiveness. An odd, original, memorable work of modern figurative sculpture:

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1917 was a banner year for Gaston Lachaise. He became a United States citizen, finally married the now-divorced Isabel, and was preparing for his solo show of sculpture and drawing at Stephan Bourgeois Galleries in New York. The next seventeen years brought more exhibitions, commissions, great success and critical acclaim, and the purchase of a summer home in Maine. In retrospect, Lachaise’s infatuation-induced decision to leave Paris for America was a wise one, however impulsive it may have been. His union with Isabel was happily made official, and his career flourished in his adopted homeland. He called America “The New World” and added that “The American soil is fresh. It is fertile. Flowers and fruit of new species will come forth from it to lighten the world.” The old adage about following your heart is exemplified by the journey of Gaston Lachaise.

And then, in 1935, Lachaise’s life and career were cut short by the sudden onset of acute leukemia. He died just months after a triumphant retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art. Isabel Nagle, who left her previous husband to be with Gaston Lachaise, was now his widow. He had written 567 love letters to her and credited her as his “primary inspiration”. Isabel lived for another 25 years after Gaston’s death.

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An invaluable source of images and information for this post came from the Lachaise Foundation . Definitely check them out to learn more. Also of interest, an old art review from the New York Times

Heaven and Hard Times

So it looks like this summer is going to be worse than last summer, and I didn’t think that was possible. Last summer sucked majorly for a couple of reasons; painful breakup with the boyfriend which still hurts over a year later, slow art modeling, and no vacation. This summer adds a new element of tension and troubles in the form of intra-family strife that only seems to get worse by the day. Isn’t that fantastic? The hits just keep on comin’. Ugh.

Coping mechanisms? Same as always. Hunker down among the good. Jettison the bad. Cling for dear life to that which gratifies and gladdens and edifies. Oh yeah, and blogging. Keep blogging :-) Art and music are two of the best pathways to salvation, I think we can all agree on that. And I’ve got one of each to offer today. A striking linocut print of yours truly by the wonderful Christian Johnson, followed by music for Music Monday. Gospel is a dependable source of solace for me as most of you know. The track is “I’m So Glad (Trouble Don’t Last Always)” by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers.

A belated Happy Father’s Day to my dad readers. Hope you had a great day! I’ll see you all very soon, friends. And Christian … thank you :-)

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Spero Meliora

Discontent is a peculiar thing. You think you can pinpoint its source but you can never really identify it with absolute certainty, no matter how much you turn yourself into knots. Where is it coming from? you ask yourself. My nonexistent romantic life is the problem. That must be it. That’s not it? Then it’s my dwindling bank account. That must be it. You seek to expose the pesky germ that is rousing your troubles. Because if you can just identify it then you can crush it, and everything will return to normal. Or so you believe.

Two nudes in studio, Jan Sluyters:

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I could, for example, point the finger squarely at the business aspect of art modeling and some of the untrustworthy and/or two-faced people who, through their egos and passive aggressive behaviors, make this field far more complicated than it need be. This isn’t brain surgery after all. I could also wonder if I should accept that a callow 20-something millennial has been placed in charge of bookings at a school upon which I depend for my income. And I could further wonder if it’s appropriate for said millennial to say to me, a 40-something model with years of hard work and experience at that school under my belt, that the reason she neglected to call me for work was because, in her exact words – “I don’t who you are, sorry”. Is that rude and hurtful? You bet it is. And I wonder how my journey through art modeling, to which I have devoted body, heart, and soul, has devolved into one insensitive, disrespectful and dismissive remark from the mouth of an art school-coddled child.

Model Sitting, Edward Hopper:

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On the other hand I could point the finger squarely at myself and wonder – in a wrenching exercise of humility – if I have, to some degree, worn out my welcome. In some circles that is, not all. Certainly not at Spring Studio, which is an exception in so many ways. Or I could wonder if I’ve lost the ability to let personal slights simply roll off my back, a skill I used to think I was pretty good at. Are my own insecurities and need for validation distorting my perceptions? Maybe. I don’t know. I wonder if I, as a 45 year old woman in New York City, am due once again for a “bob and weave” in life. Changing and adapting is the crucial key to survival as we all know. If you can’t bob and weave, you better learn.

The Model, Ilya Repin:

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While my love of art and art modeling is intact, my disillusionment with the art community and some of its players has grown exponentially over the past year. But that’s my problem, nobody else’s. Nor can I say for sure that the frustrations of the art modeling business are to blame for the way I’m feeling now. The seeds of discontent are nebulous. They refuse to show their faces and announce themselves. We are dodging an unseen adversary. Well, maybe not an adversary. Maybe – just maybe – the rumblings of discontent are not adversarial at all, but a signaling force agitating with good intention. Maybe it is the spirit of growth trying to tell you something.

Model to the Grindstone

Helloooooo!! Greetings friends. I trust you’ve all filed your taxes, completed spring cleaning, and renewed your car inspections since I lasted posted? Because I’ve done all of it! :lol:

Ok, I lied. I haven’t done any of those things. But they’re all in progress. I have a valid excuse for procrastinating, though, which is that I’ve been studio-bound working my heinie off at art modeling. Because it’s what I do. And I am a dreadful time-budgeter. The worst. Also, I had a a brief rant on Twitter the other day in which I vented some frustrations, but it’s passed now thank god. Behold the bitchfest here and here. My fellow art model Andrew heard my grievances loud and clear. Thanks friend.

For some visual proof of my daily grind, this is me posing on Long Island’s north shore. From the expression on my face it looks like I retained some residual “don’t mess with me, I’m a professional model” attitude from last week. Well, it had been a long day and Rob Silverman took this reference photo at the end of the session. It was very nice of him to send me the pic. Rob and I have known each other for years. He’s an excellent teacher. This was the agreed upon pose set-up for painting. They wanted nude with fabric and they got it. Throw in light, shadow, and color, and you’ve got the essentials of studio art. Satin, baby ;-)

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