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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Paper Animals

Last Friday night my niece and I spent “A Night at the Museum”, a popular children’s event at the American Museum of Natural History. With sleeping bags and flashlights in tow, city kids and their adult chaperones had free reign to explore the museum to their hearts’ content, or until they passed out in their pajamas at midnight! Throw in an iMax film, storytelling, and a captivating visit to the Butterfly Conservatory, (one of my favorites) and a super fun time was had by all.

While there is certainly no shortage of fascinating displays at the Natural History museum, I was blown away by the museum Christmas tree which was still up in the main lobby, and the subject of many a camera click. Adorned completely in origami animals, the tree was one of the most enchanting things I’ve ever seen. I don’t think my photos fully capture the charms of this tree as they appeared live, but you can definitely get the idea.

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Origami, as everyone knows, is the art of paper folding. A Japanese tradition dating back almost 2000 years, origami, in its more skilled and advanced forms, is much more elaborate than the common origami cranes many of us learned to make as children. In fact, I asked my niece if she ever attempted origami and she responded, “Yes. It was a big fail!”. Ha, I know what she means. Anyone who’s ever struggled with the crane can feel only awe at the sight of origami giraffes, eagles, horses, dinosaurs, kangaroos, buffalos, geese, rabbits, alligators … the incredible range of diversity to be found in the animal kingdom. The origami artists who decorated the museum tree did it all.

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Check out the cobra at the bottom of this picture. Love it!

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Besides the sheer variety of animals to be found on the tree, the colors were also dazzling to the eye. What is it about colored paper that makes you want to play with it and create with it? Brings out our inner 2nd grader perhaps. The paper collage I made for the Museworthy Art Show makes even more sense now :-)

One more photo. Notice the red cardinal on the right side. So cute.

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Doughboys on Fifth

I should probably regard it as a positive sign that the museums of New York City are inundated with people these days, locals and tourists alike. Flocking to see art is clearly a wonderful thing, except when it screws up your plans! Yesterday, I attempted to see the Dutch Masterpieces exhibit at the Frick. But when I arrived, the line went around the block and the wait was estimated at an hour. I stood on the line for a while, but when we hadn’t moved an inch in 15 minutes, I realized I wouldn’t have enough time to see the show and still make it to midtown in time to meet my niece and my mother as planned. So I bid farewell to the Frick and busted out of the line. But I shall return. I’m not done with you yet Frick! Vermeer ain’t leaving this city before I can take in his magnificence, that’s a promise :-)

New York City being New York City, passing through the doors of a museum and paying an admission fee is not required to view art or objects of interest. Such things are all around us. Museum plans scrapped, I strolled down Fifth Avenue on that sunny Saturday afternoon. Within three blocks I was met by the 107th Infantry Memorial at 67th Street. Erected in honor of New York’s Seventh Regiment which fought valiantly in France during World War I and saw heavy casualties, the bronze sculpture sits a top a huge 25 foot wide granite base.

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The designer and sculptor of the piece, Karl Illava, served in the 107th as a sergeant and was able to draw from his own firsthand experience with the horrors of war and the brotherhood of an infantry division. The inscription is prominent and very nicely done.

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This powerful war memorial rightly draws stops from passersby. With art museums to the north and high end department stores to the south, the 107th Infantry Memorial stands tall along Fifth Avenue, a formidable presence of courage and sacrifice.

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See you all in 2014!

Walk to the Rock

The expression “walk if off” has special meaning for art models. Most of us will tell you that the best and quickest way to recover from pose discomfort is not stretching or resting, but walking. To bring back circulation, alleviate muscle strain, and combat fatigue, nothing beats plain old walking. Today, after a morning modeling job at the Century Club, a private, exclusive club in midtown Manhattan, I needed a good walk to get my sore hip flexor back to normal. With the rest of the day off, I had plenty of time to take a leisurely stroll a few blocks north, cold weather be dammed. Bundled up in my scarf, hat, warm winter coat, with my modeling bag slung over my shoulder, the walk was – this avowed “summer person” admits – quite invigorating in both body and spirit.

After a stop for a delicious hot herbal tea, I made my way to Rockefeller Center, the polestar of NYC tourist attractions during the Christmas season. I took a few pictures to share. Here’s the big Rock Center tree with silver flags blowing in front:

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The golden Prometheus watches over the ice skaters:

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Toy soldier blowing his horn:

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Angels on the promenade:

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I leave you all with these scenes of my twinkling, shimmering, frosty and festive holiday city. Meet you right back here on Sunday for the Museworthy Art Show :-)

Beethoven and Brotherly Love

Have I ever mentioned how much I adore my brother and love hanging out with him? Yes, I believe I have :-) Last week Chris and I attended the NY Philharmonic concert at Avery Fisher Hall. The evening’s program was Beethoven’s sublime and transcendent Ninth Symphony. The moment conductor Alan Gilbert strode onto the stage and took his place at the podium you could feel the anticipation filling the air of the sold out hall. New York City native and child of the Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert conducted the hour long Ninth Symphony from memory, with no score in front of him. That’s not uncommon among conductors these days but still it was fabulous to watch.

Chris and I before the concert, outside an illuminated Lincoln Center:

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My brother and I share the widely held view that Beethoven’s Ninth (and last) symphony is as close to the musical pinnacle of Western Civilization as it gets. In other words, it is sacred. And scared things often run the risk of being desecrated by the more prosaic arena of popular culture. Case in point: the background of my Twitter page is the Mona Lisa blowing bubblegum. Sorry Leonardo! I’m guilty as charged :lol:

When Beethoven is involved, however, I become a bit protective. For me he’s the untouchable exception, as I am in reverent awe of the man and his music. My protective instincts kick into even higher gear when a Beethoven work is co-opted for undignified purposes. The Ninth Symphony, intended by Beethoven as a paean to humanity and universal love, provides the musical backdrop for the 1988 smash hit action movie “Die Hard”. It also figures prominently in the violent futuristic dystopia of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”, in which the music is contrasted with disturbing images of Nazis. Loudmouthed TV personality Keith Olbermann used the first few bars of the symphony’s 2nd movement as the opening theme for his now defunct MSNBC program. And since we apparently can’t leave Beethoven’s unparalleled genius alone there’s now ” an app for that”. Yes, a Ninth Symphony iPhone app! Okay, so the app doesn’t really bother me and actually seems pretty cool, but Bruce Willis fighting terrorists to “Ode to Joy” is tacky. That’s some degrading bullshit.

I wonder what Beethoven, or any of the giants of artistic creation, would think of their works being treated in such ways. Mona Lisa parodies depicting her as a biker chick, Beethoven symphonies in action movie soundtracks, Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring taking a “selfie”. Heck maybe the artists wouldn’t be offended much at all. Or maybe they would find such things travesties. We’ll never know.

To conclude this Music Monday, Here are The Beatles performing – what else? - Roll Over Beethoven. Kisses for John xxx :-)

Studio Flowers

I’d like to thank everyone again for the sweet comments on the Museworthy birthday post. I usually give individual replies, but I decided this time to let them stand on their own. Thanks also for the emails! Please know that I loved and appreciated every one. Year seven of this blog is now underway :-)

It’s hugely appropriate that during the same week of Museworthy’s birthday another notable New York art community birthday took place. Minerva Durham, founder and director of the one and only Spring Studio, celebrated her 75th. We had a party last Sunday, and I returned the very next day for afternoon modeling. During a long pose in which I had to hold my gaze in one spot for forty minutes, the subject of my stare was the opposite wall, where Minerva’s birthday flowers still sat atop the bookcases. I thought they looked so pretty, so I snapped a picture on my break. The yellows of the roses and sunflowers are “framing” a red pencil drawing by Gary Katz, whose exhibit “Multiple Perspectives” was just on view at the studio.

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Enjoy the rest of the weekend everybody! Catch you right back here on Monday :-)

The Return

Aaannnnd . . . we’re back! It’s official. The fall 2013 school years have begun. Yay! Studios are open for business, students are ready to create, models are ready to pose, and instructors are ready to impart their brilliance and expertise ;-)

It felt great to walk into the New York Academy of Art for my first modeling booking there of the new term, John Jacobsmeyer’s printmaking class. The class created ink sketches of my nude figure which they would later make into prints. I’d love to see how they turned out. I may have to find those students and ask if I could take a gander at the final results, as I’m a huge printmaking fan.

Few institutions undergo a transformation as dramatic from first week to end of the year quite like art schools. Summer cleanups are very thorough. New coats of paint brighten things up, supplies are stored neatly away, and everything is scrubbed spotless. When classes begin, the immaculate surroundings transform into smudges, splatters, and spills. Ink, clay, and oil paint start to appear on chairs, stools, and the floor, stacks of rolled up papers and unfinished canvases occupy every corner, fabrics are strewn about, and unidentified sharp objects stick out from various spots. So to models and students alike I say enjoy the tidiness while it lasts, which is about a week!

The New York Academy’s printmaking room, a great space, on day three of the new semester. Not yet sullied from the dirty work of making prints.

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Actually, the Academy is one of the least disorderly art schools I’ve seen. It’s a spacious facility with a conscientious staff and student body. The atmosphere is terrific. Great vibes. The Art Students League, on the other hand, is a cluttered mess . At least it was when I worked there years ago.

Did I mention how good it feels to be back at steady work? Yes, I believe I did. Off we go!

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Me and the Mad Hatter

Helloooo everyone! Hope you all had a good week. The summer is rolling along and the weather here in NYC has been really beautiful lately. Clear blue skies, not hot. Gorgeous. After a couple of blog posts bitching about my doldrum days and scarcity of modeling work, on Friday, at long last, I was rescued. Yay! Rescued from this idle summer of crap and nothingness. My knight in shining armor was the one and only Fred Hatt, who invited me to his studio in Brooklyn. We spent the afternoon drawing, discussing the photos for the Museworthy Art Show, and enjoying each other both as friends and collaborators.

Fred is of course a professional photographer but I also had my camera with me, and that inevitably leads to goofy pictures taken when I’m not posing. My view from the studio floor with Fred in the background:

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I like it on the floor. And the floor plus mirrors is a recipe for weird visuals. Fred has plenty of mirrors around. Can you find me in this picture? My version of “Where’s Waldo?” :lol:

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More fun with mirrors. Here I am showing Fred the fine art of the “selfie” , one of the more dubious fads spawned by social media.

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Me acting like a complete idiot. You see folks? This is what mirror selfies will do to people :lol:

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When I wasn’t messing around with my camera, Fred and I got down to the more inspiring endeavor of creating art. Here’s two drawings that Fred made, each a ten minute pose. You’ll notice in the first one that the elbow gesture is similar to that in the small mirror floor picture:

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And finally, a picture  of me and Fred captured the way people took photos of themselves in the days before “selfies” – with a timer! The large drawing behind us is one that Fred did of me in the summer of 2009, which I posted on Museworthy. Thank you Fred for a lovely afternoon!

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Museworthy Art Show Redux

With all due respect to the other bloggers out there, this blog – sweet ol’ Museworthy – has the best readers. THE BEST. That’s a fact, Jack! ;-) It’s been too long since I acknowledged this, but you guys really and truly keep me going in the blogosphere. I owe you all a debt of gratitude, and I try to demonstrate it every week, with every post, with every word typed and every image uploaded. Each time I hit the “publish” button on a post draft I hope, in my heart, that you all take even a little something from my humble offering. In return, I receive much from my readers; smiles, laughs, thought-provoking insights, intelligent comments and conversation, emails, useful links, and even personal support during my moody, unraveled episodes. What did I do to deserve such a cool gang of followers? I’m so very grateful.

I’m sure many of you remember the Museworthy Art Show from 2011. It was a great success if you recall. I definitely enjoyed it! Since then I’ve been made aware of interest in a second Museworthy Art Show, something I should have done last fall. A reader emailed me recently with a splendid idea for another Art Show, but with an interesting twist. Todd Fife, a Museworthy reader from the great state of Kentucky, suggested that this time readers submit their artwork based on a life modeling photograph of me, the muse and blogarista! For a reference photo we would choose from two, maybe three, of the professional photos of me which have appeared on the blog over the years. Just a reminder; all the nude pictures of me which have been published on Museworthy since its inception have been taken by the only person who ever photographs me, and that is my dear friend Fred Hatt. So what do we think of this idea? My livelihood is devoted to serving as model for artists in studios and schools, so why not for my blog readers? If everyone likes this concept then I will figure out the specifics and set a submission date. Please share your thoughts in the comments! And like last time, I too will submit a piece, because one need not be an “artist” to participate in a Museworthy Art Show. All are welcome to take part!

This is me doing the chair thing, photographed by Fred Hatt:

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By the way, since I was just singing the praises of my readers and their feedback, I’m wondering why no one has said a word about the new blog theme background. Does it totally suck? :lol: My mother doesn’t like it! I suspect it’s too girlie and silly. But “customization” can drive you absolutely mad. I was up until four in the morning testing different backgrounds. If pink circles and swirls aren’t working for you guys then I may have to experiment again and choose something else. Stay tuned!

Summertime Blues

What is that phrase used in football when the quarterback changes the plays at the last minute? “Calling an audible”? Well I’ve just done that with this blog post. I had written four long sad-sack paragraphs about why I’m unable to take a vacation this year and my painful breakup with the boyfriend, the event which precipitated this lousy, depression-filled summer. Then I read some truly horrible news stories about senseless crimes, tragic accidents, and children with cancer. When I returned to Museworthy to publish the post, suddenly my “woe is me” whimperings seemed really petty and self-absorbed in contrast. So I highlighted the whole damn text and hit “delete”. Good riddance.

But I am genuinely happy for my family, all of whom will be taking fantastic vacations; my mother to France in early September for painting in Provence and Paris, and my brother, sister-in-law, and niece to the Grand Canyon, which will be Olivia’s first time there. We all agreed to take separate vacations this year, that was the plan set in motion back in the spring. Since then, everything has changed for me and my summer plans with the boyfriend – now ex-boyfriend – of course won’t be happening. So I’m feeling kind of stranded, lonely, and swindled. That my birthday came and went without so much as a call, text, or email from him only compounded my sadness :cry:

Hey, I said I wasn’t going to do this. Stop it Claudia! How about two pictures to wrap up this post? I was fortunate enough to spend a brief 24 hours in the Catskills where I photographed some of the vegetation by the lake in South Fallsburg. I was hoping to see seals, whales, and the ocean this summer. I’ll have to settle for cattails and purple thistles instead.

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Four more weeks until art modeling resumes. It can’t get here soon enough. I’ll be counting the days .  . . .

Stopping by Bethesda

Central Park is home to numerous charming and exquisite spots. One of its most well-known and most visited gems is Bethesda Terrace and the “Angel of the Waters” fountain. Saturday, after modeling at the National Academy, I decided to take a stroll over to Bethesda via the 72nd Street walkway. The earlier overcast sky from the morning had cleared to bright summer blue with white puffs of clouds. Bethesda, with its gently spilling water, winged angel, and majestic staircases, attracted tourists and New Yorkers alike. The layout and setting of Bethesda is incredibly inviting, as it was intended to be.

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The vision of Central Park designers Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux is represented magnificently at Bethesda Terrace, a spot they expected to serve as the heart of the park and was inspired more by the essence of nature than by architecture. This can be seen in the detailed carvings which flank the steps from the top level of the Terrace to the bottom.

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These enchanting birds and plants are the work of Jacob Wrey Mould. I love them. Here’s a closeup:

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The fountain was commissioned as part of the park’s original design plan, and the bronze angel sculpture is the work of Emma Stebbins, a well-connected native New Yorker. The piece was created to honor the successful Croton Aqueduct, a notable achievement in civil engineering, which went into operation in 1842 and was responsible for delivering a reliable supply of clean water to city residents. Although the old Croton Aqueduct is no longer in use, it set the standard for New York City’s famously excellent tap water. We’ve got good tasting water, folks :-)

Here she is, the Bethesda angel atop the fountain, soaring tall against the summer sky:

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In keeping with the theme of healthy, nourishing water, the name “Bethesda” was chosen after the Biblical reference to the healing pool in Jerusalem where the sick and infirm went to be cured. From the book of John: “and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water … for an angel went down … and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.” (NKJV)

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The ripples and splashes of the fountain’s water streams are indeed calming, and the restorative effects are felt however you wish to receive them, whether in spiritual or earthly manner. Although the site is secular and civic in nature, the Bethesda fountain holds a celestial aura that seems to communicate healing, hope, and rebirth. The final scene of Angels in America features the spot quite beautifully and effectively because of these qualities.

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I took all the photos in this post and if the quality of them seems irregular it’s because my camera battery died after I took only a few pictures! So I had to default into Blackberry cam. I wanted to capture Bethesda any way I could and share it with all of you. Here’s one more for the road:

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Study in Saffron

I’d like to say that the picture I’m posting here is some sort of homage to pop art or digital creativity but that would be a lie. All I did was doctor a photo of myself out of sheer boredom. They say that “idle hands are the devil’s playthings”. I would modify that to “idle hands are the sulker’s time waster”. Man am I in a shiftless, dejected funk. So just for the hell of it I decided to bathe myself in yellow, a choice meant to be ironic in that my mood is far from the cheeriness of this saffron-like color. At least I was successful in obscuring the original background of this photo which was the drab model’s changing room at FIT. The yellow is better, trust me.

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Here’s my song choice for this Music Monday. The great, incomparable Aretha Franklin singing “Trouble in Mind”. Later friends.


People I Know

After 33 years working at the National Academy in charge of building maintenance and janitorial staff, he has undoubtedly earned his retirement. We all bid a fond farewell to William the other night with a lovely reception in the school gallery where hugs, kisses, and well-wishes overflowed. Back in 2005, when I showed up for my very first modeling job at the Academy, it was William who directed me to the basement-banished Studio 5. “First day?” he asked. “Yes!!” I answered with the gung-ho enthusiasm of a  new, wet behind the ears artist’s model. “Good luck darlin’!”, William said. And I smiled. Over the next eight years William often witnessed me dashing through the hallways for quick bathroom breaks between poses, spilling coffee, asking for Band-Aids, looking for lost jewelry, and noisily pushing heavy armchairs around to set up long sitting poses. Always on hand to meet the requests of instructors, teachers, and models, William was our trusted friend. I wish him all the very best in his post-Academy life. A blown kiss for Willie to augment the kiss I already gave him on the cheek.

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Still reeling from the harrowing loss of his son Ronan just one month before his third birthday, Rick Louis came here to New York City, his hometown, to visit family and friends. Rick and my brother Chris have been friends since childhood, and Rick has of course known me, Chris’s little sister, for just about the entirety of my life. All of us, along with our friend Greg, gathered for a reunion on the upper West Side where we enjoyed good food and great conversation. We were the Queens kids together again, reminiscing and sharing our favorite stories. While Rick is experiencing the unimaginable grief of a parent losing a child, he is seeking, and hopefully finding, solace in the bonds of those who love him and stand by him through his trials. Like me, Rick is a yoga enthusiast. For dear Rick, a spontaneous burst of upward-facing-dog on my kitchen floor. Namaste, friend.

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Out of the blue, an email arrived with a subject memo that read “Blast From the Past”. Usually those words introduce something either very welcome or very unwelcome. In this instance it was, happily, very welcome. Again, an old friend, this time from high school. He searched for me on the Internet, which brought him where else but right here to Museworthy! Jimmy wrote the nicest note and thoughtfully attached some great old pictures of our gang. The faces of Stephanie, Heather, Leonard, Faby, and Jimmy are only partially obscured by my gigantic 80s hair! But gosh, we look so young. Ear-to-ear smiles. Exuberant. Energetic. The faces of carefree teenagers who have their whole lives ahead of them. Well, we’re all in our mid-forties now, but to assure Jimmy that we’re not old people just yet, a little fun in my living room chair showing that I can still kick up my heels like  the troublemaking high school junior I once was ;-)

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All of the photos in this post were taken by the most important of the “people I know”, my boyfriend Craig. Thanks for the pics baby :-)

Bones, Flesh, and Harmony

Those who participate in typical life drawing classes do not generally obsess about things like the latissimus dorsi (back muscle) or the anterior superior spine (bone in the pelvis). Artistic anatomy classes, which are required in most graduate art programs, involve intensive, meticulous study of the musculature and skeletal structure of the human body. The MFA students at the New York Academy of Art are fortunate to have a superb instructor like Robert Armetta, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with for some time now.

Posing for anatomy is a different experience for the model as well. While students make good use of classroom skeletons and écorché casts for bone and muscle observation, the model is there to exhibit, and sometimes actively demonstrate, those same bones, muscles, and connectors as they appear in a living, breathing life subject. We’re often asked by instructors to flex, twist, rotate, or create resistance so as to emphasize a particular muscle or bony landmark. For the long pose, students will draw on their paper the model as skeleton alongside the full figure. Teachers and students alike benefit greatly when their anatomy model is a seasoned professional, one who is comfortable being pointed at at close range, and who doesn’t cringe when the term “fatty tissue” is uttered during a demo. Fatty tissue???? NOOOOOO!!!!! Just kidding :lol:

Here I am in Robert’s class posing alongside my anatomy buddies - écorché cast on the far left for muscles, skeleton (who lost his head!) in the middle for bones, and the sum total of it all, yours truly, with bones, muscles, skin, a messy hair bun, the whole shebang:

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It was a marvelous experience posing for this class of first year students at the Academy. The focus and dedication they displayed was impressive, and I was honored to be their model over the past several weeks. They’re well on their way. Keep up the good work guys!

Lovely drawing from the class by Chusit Wijarnjoragij:

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Busty Lady

First they took measurements of my head with a sculptor’s caliper. Then they slapped slabs of water-based clay on their armatures. Then they began the process of creating portrait sculptures of yours truly. When Mario D’Urso asked me to pose for his private sculpture class in his Queens studio I jumped at the chance. I haven’t modeled for sculpture in quite a while, and Mario is a delightful, wonderful guy, so it was a no-brainer. Here’s Mario showing Lara some modeling techniques:

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My booking with Mario’s group is open-ended. We’ve agreed to continue with the portrait sculptures until they are finished, with no fixed timetable. So as far as planning sessions is concerned we’re winging it from week to week, scheduling the nights according to my modeling calendar, which is very considerate of them.

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Still a work-in-progress, this piece is coming along nicely. And I’m really enjoying watching the class work as I sit for them. They mold, carve, add clay, take clay away, and try to achieve a likeness in terms of features, proportions, and character.

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A sculpture “bust”, by the way, usually refers to a sculpture of the subject’s head, shoulders, and upper torso. What we’re doing in Mario’s class is more accurately a “portrait sculpture” of just the head. But I couldn’t resist using “busty lady” for the post title. I thought it was funny. Or wishful thinking. Or maybe it was just a cheap ploy to get more search engine traffic :lol: