Art Model Funnies

So here in the Big Apple, the Bryant Park fountain is frozen solid. And 200 miles from us, winter-weary Bostonians are jumping out of their windows into the snowbanks below and posting their antics on social media. This winter is determined to drive us to lunacy, and it’s succeeding. I’ve had enough. Can we fast-forward the calendar to May 1st please?

Some art-themed cartoons to warm our frostbitten heads:

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Enter the Harem

Hello darlings! Neither my tired art model’s body nor my dread over another impending snowstorm and frigid temperatures will stop me from presenting a Valentine to my readers on this Valentine’s Day. And it ain’t chocolates or a bouquet of flowers. That’s kid stuff ;-) For us it is the scandalous, seductive, come-hither gaze and frank nudity of Jean Auguste Dominque Ingres’ La Grande Odalisque. Painted in 1814, this iconic masterpiece of Neoclassicism predictably shocked the uptight sensibilities of the Salon art establishment. Were they shocked because it was risqué and erotic? Or because the figure is anatomically disproportional? Both actually.

Jean_Auguste_Dominique_Ingres,_La_Grande_Odalisque,_1814 In the ruthless shredding this work of art received, censorious critics concluded that the model, as concubine, was given “three vertebrae too many” and that she had “neither bones nor muscle, neither blood, nor life”. The then 34 year old Ingres was accused of ignoring anatomical accuracy and having fallen victim to his wild, erotically-charged imagination. Perhaps he did. To that we can say, “so what?”. Surely there was a method to his madness. The female body is unique in its longer lines which create visually appealing curvature. Ingres clearly took it to the next level with his elongation. Proportionally, the figure is indeed strange, with some even claiming that the particular flexure of the spine with the rotation of the pelvis is physically impossible. But as an art model I’ve done some nearly impossible poses, so I’m not so sure. Although I don’t have any extra vertebrae that I’m aware of :lol:

But Ingres had a vision in his mind and he went for it. His subject is a nubile sex slave after all, and he wanted to heighten that purpose to maximum effect. Sensuality was priority number one. I’d say he succeeded, don’t you? She’s an enticing woman and she’s on view at her permanent home in the Louvre, keeping company with the Mona Lisa.

Hearing the Heart

What happens when doctors and musicologists join forces and embark on a research project? Some interesting, albeit speculative, theories are born. A couple of weeks ago, a article on the Internet grabbed my attention and, for a brief moment, set my heart aflutter <– I’m cute and clever for choosing that phrase as you will soon see. A medical journal published the article in which is it theorized that the distinctly dramatic, sometimes volatile and erratic tempos found in Beethoven’s music were caused by the composer having had a cardiac arrhythmia. My own damaged aortic valve and I became excited at the thought that the great Beethoven was a fellow member of the heart abnormalities club. It’s all I’d ever have in common with my musical hero that’s for sure. I’ll never compose brilliant music and I’ll never be German :P

But alas, none of it amounted to some newly discovered provable truth about Beethoven. As the cardiologist involved with the paper said himself, “This is entirely speculative”. Well, phooey then.

Anatomical drawing of the heart by Leonardo da Vinci:

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Putting aside my childish desire to have heart issues in common with the greatest composer who ever lived (yes I’m weird), the study raises some compelling questions about the intersection of creativity and science, or artistic abilities and human biology if you will. I have nothing against scientific research and new ideas, conjectural though they often are. Much of it is quite fascinating. On the other hand, the tendency to pathologize the reasons behind artistic expression is as disillusioning as it is intriguing. It falls into the category of things that are over-analyzed to death, investigated and studied and pulled apart to no real illuminating end or purpose. And that indescribable realm in which artistic gifts take flight is a realm that science can never explain or elucidate no matter how hard it may try.

We know that Beethoven was deaf, and hardly the only deaf person who ever lived. We also know he suffered from lead poising, which was not uncommon in Beethoven’s era. And yet Beethoven was the only lead-poisoned deaf person to compose the 5th Symphony. Physical ailments, of which Beethoven had many, don’t define us exclusively. Isn’t it just possible that Beethoven’s soaring melodies, fierce tempo shifts, and complex harmonies were the result of him being, well, a musical genius? Isn’t it possible his music is “heartfelt” not due to “atrial tachycardia” but to the man’s profoundly intimate understanding of the human soul? To attribute the emotional weightiness of Beethoven’s String Quartets to a bout of “angina” strikes me as a bit unseemly.

I will, however, point out what I think is the most convincing postulation of the study. The researchers claim that because Beethoven was deaf he would have been more aware of his heartbeat. That is genuinely interesting and makes you think. Unlike the 188 years-late diagnosis of an irregular heartbeat, Beethoven’s deafness was real and without question impacted the nature of his composing as it progressed throughout his life; middle register and lower frequency notes are more perceivable in the inner ear before complete deafness sets in. High notes go first, and Beethoven began to complain about that as early as age 30.

Beethoven’s hearing aids, known as “ear trumpets”:

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Oddities, illnesses, and abnormalities may or may not affect creativity. I posted previously about the alleged shrapnel lodged in the brain of Shostakovich. But the art and music survive, and how lucky we are for that. Let’s conclude this Music Monday with a video of Beethoven’s hand-written music manuscripts. They’re incredible to see, smudges, smears, erasures and all. His heart is clearly beating throughout:

Snowy Salutations

Hellooo friends! A warm thank you to those who emailed me concerned that I, and my fellow New Yorkers, would be buried under four feet of snow. Fortunately we’re not, although our friends in New England are having a much tougher time. I could wish Bostonians and their neighbors good luck in dealing with the first big blizzard of 2015 but I know they don’t need it. They’ve dealt with rigorous weather conditions many times and know the drill all too well. So hit the pubs guys! And lob a snowball or two on your walk home :-)

After a cancelled Tuesday for the storm, my final week posing at Grand Central Academy resumes Wednesday. It’s been a positive experience all around. January has also brought new sessions of private work with my friend Daniel Maidman. Art modeling, since last September, has been roaring with activity and I’m eternally grateful for this windfall period of work opportunities. Fellow freelancers know exactly what I’m talking about.

Daniel is starting a new painting of me. At our first session Daniel, as always, knew exactly what he wanted; for this piece, leaning slightly forward and to one side. And I did it for him. This is his drawing preparation:

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I will return to more frequent blog postings in the weeks ahead. My brain is percolating with ideas! Let’s meet up here again on Monday for a new music post, shall we? In the meantime, be safe, be warm, and rejoice in the joys, kindnesses, and wonders of each new day.

Love, Claudia
xoxo

Shinto

Shinto – Jorge Luis Borges

When sorrow lays us low
for a second we are saved
by humble windfalls
of mindfulness or memory:
the taste of a fruit, the taste of water,
that face given back to us by a dream,
the first jasmine of November,
the endless yearning of the compass,
a book we thought was lost,
the throb of a hexameter,
the slight key that opens a house to us,
the smell of a library, or of sandalwood,
the former name of a street,
the colors of a map,
an unforeseen etymology,
the smoothness of a filed fingernail,
the date we were looking for,
the twelve dark bell-strokes, tolling as we count,
a sudden physical pain.

Eight million Shinto deities
travel secretly throughout the earth.
Those modest gods touch us–
touch us and move on.

Edward Hopper, A Woman in the Sun:

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Atelier Days

Hellooo helloooooo!! Museworthy friends, I apologize for the terribly long absence! A Verizon FIOS outage kept me off of my beloved blog for a few days. Phone, TV, and Internet were down since last week but thankfully it was all restored over the weekend. Sunday night I felt too tired to post, Monday I worked a long day of modeling and schlepped around town in raw, rainy weather, and today I’m a touch sick with the usual cold/flu season symptoms. Got the old sandpaper throat. Sandpaper throat stinks, doesn’t it? I’m popping Ricola lemon lozenges like candy :lol:

Anyway, let’s get caught up. First, an official Happy New Year to you all now that we’re two weeks into 2015. Hugs and kisses all around! For me, the new year kicks off with a month-long modeling assignment at Grand Central Atelier. When I last posed there, in the spring, the school was in their original location in midtown Manhattan. Over the summer they moved into their spacious new digs in Long Island City, Queens. And I do mean spacious. Studios everywhere, skylights, plenty of room for artists, models, casts, supplies, storage, and a lovely gallery.

I am the January model for Jacob Collins’ figure class and we’re off to a splendid start. One pose for the month, every morning Monday – Friday. Grand Central is a rigorous four-year program that concentrates on classical training. In just the past week and a half I’ve seen firsthand the discipline and concentration of these dedicated students. It’s quite impressive.

On my first day before we set up the pose, I was handed a black binder that the students thought would be useful. In it was a compendium of images that represent classical art poses typically employed for academic art training. What a nifty reference. Now experienced art models like myself don’t necessarily need such a book, but I enjoyed looking through it. I instantly recognized David, Ingres, and Prud’Hon among others. This kind of compilation is certainly helpful for a newer model in search of ideas and it serves as a handy anthology of the academy tradition. I photographed some pages in the book to share:

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All art modeling is not the same. I’ve probably stated this a hundred times on the blog! But it’s true. To some degree, yes, a pose is a pose is a pose. But the settings and environments can be vastly different, which means a professional, experienced art model has to take into consideration what the artists are trying to achieve, what they expect, and how long the pose will be. Some artists really need to see and meticulously render the model’s sternocleidomastoid (yeah, Google that!), while others do not. Showing up at Spring Studio for a Wednesday night short pose session, doing active gestures one after another, is a far different gig from what’s happening this month at Grand Central. This is formal training, and the class is a mixture of 2nd year, 3rd year, and even 4th year students. Some are sticking with drawing for the duration, others are beginning to paint grisaille, while others may do painting with color. One thing is constant: the model’s pose. I posted it on Twitter if you’d like to have a look.

Before I go I’d like to share a deeply heartfelt column written by my good friend Daniel Maidman on the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris last week. Daniel, like me, is a free speech absolutist. I think this is worth a read. On the Huffington Post, this is “Guardians”.

2014 Send-off

I’m sure I’m not alone in my view that 2014 was a less-than-stellar year in many, many ways. Ebola, missing airplanes, kidnappings, beheadings, shootings, politicians being worthless and incompetent. Well, that last one could apply to any given year. Reading the news is always a dispiriting experience, but 2014 took it to whole new levels of misery and wretchedness. Good lord :(

As for me personally, 2014 was a stew of tumult, leavened occasionally with some bright spots. In February my house was burglarized, which sucked, and not long after that the family strife began, which sucked even more. But then, on the night before Easter, I was born-again. And then came a crisis of confidence in my art modeling career, which was happily healed come September when schools opened again and brought a slew of work, with both reliable mainstays and brand new connections. I was “in demand” once again. Whew! What a relief. And of course my mother’s art show was another notable high point of 2014.

Museworthy had a fine year in blogging, with over 180,000 views, 69 new posts, 148 new subscribers, and visitors from 170 countries with the United States, the UK, France, and Canada leading the pack. I’m honored to blog for each and every one of you, wherever you are around the globe.

We’ll bid farewell to 2014 with two gouache drawings of yours truly by Robert Fontanelli, created at Spring Studio this year. I’m a pink lady and I appreciate Rob making me so glammed up! Thanks for the images, Robert. And thanks to all of you out there. Bring on 2015! Happy New Year, dear friends. See you soon :-)

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