Depression and Redemption

I woke up this morning in a foul and despondent mood. I wish I could’ve attributed it to something as banal as a hangover from the Spring Studios Anniversary Party last night. If only it were that simple. But, alas, it was not. Believe me, I would have much preferred a thumping headache from too much wine than a dark, emotional rollercoaster of anxieties swirling through my mind. For those of you who can relate to what I’m saying, you know that it’s hard to describe accurately. But I have an advantage here on Museworthy, in that I can use art to tell the whole story, as art often does.

So I started the day feeling much like Picasso’s depiction of Dora Maar in “Weeping Woman”:

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“Weeping Woman” was actually a series of paintings he did in 1937. And since Dora was romantically involved with Picasso – a notoriously cruel misogynist – it’s no surprise that she could provide enough tears and misery to fill several canvases. Here’s another “Weeping Woman”. This one reflects my mood this morning as well, and I prefer this version for some reason. Any artists agree?

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That is some serious pain, and it hurts to look at. Now I know that these pieces were prep work for “Guernica”, but out of that context I just see a woman tormented by troubles that are non-political, and unrelated to the Spanish Civil War.

So this was my tough morning; tears, worries, frustrations. It sucks. I won’t lie. But I went to work this afternoon at the National Academy, booked to pose for Kamilla Talbot’s 4:00 watercolor class. I was deeply concerned about my modeling “performance”; I thought about it on the subway and the bus, neurotic and paranoid that my depressive and, to some extent angry, mood would appear blatantly obvious for the whole class to see, either in my facial expressions or tense, irritated body language. How awful that would be.

Well, it didn’t happen. The warm and gracious monitor, and equally warm and gracious students, put me instantly at ease. I was posing in front of an art class, this is what I love to do, I reminded myself. These people are appreciative of my presence. On this rainy, President’s Day Monday, they had been looking forward to this class all morning. I could see it in their faces as they excitedly entered Studio 5 and set up their tables and filled their cups with water and unrolled their beautiful brushes. This was their art class . . . and it was mine too.

Enamored with my bright red sweater, they asked me to do a few five minute poses clothed. Fine by me. So I did them. Then we went to nudes. I did an elegant sitting pose on a low stool. When the monitor announced to the class that there were only five minutes left, the class groaned. Almost 20 minutes already?! Not enough time! They must have been so absorbed in their paintings. Kamilla and her monitor commiserated for a minute and then kindly asked me if I could hold the pose for another five. They didn’t demand or insist, they ASKED with all consideration for me and my comfort. The choice was all mine. “Absolutely”, I told them. Not a problem. And the appreciation that flowed from the class was indescribable. They were so grateful! Thank yous from every corner of the room. And I was so happy to do it for them. Tears welled up in my eyes . . .

After that we took a long break, and Kamilla gave thorough and informative critiques of the students’ work from the first half. Then she asked me for one long reclining pose until the end of class. Sure! I did my best one, and I say my “best” because I have done it before at Spring Studios to great acclaim, which is why I have permantly “catalogued” it in my repertoire. It has a sharp bend in the torso, with beautiful leg/arm placement. It is difficult for sure. Foreshortened to the max. Heck, I could never draw it! But it’s impressive, like most difficult poses are. Kamilla loved it, so we went with it.

The timer went off at the end of the class, and before Emily the monitor could even switch it off, she began to clap loudly for a round of applause, and spoke the exact words “Thank you, Claudia! You were sensational!”. And the students chimed in, enthusiastically, “Here, here! Great job! Thank you! Please come back! You must come back and pose for us again!”. Clapping. Smiling. Warm nods everywhere I looked. I nodded back, and I was crying . . . as I’m crying now writing this post. Just so you all don’t think I’m a total freak, please remember that I started the day in a fragile emotional state, the reasons for which are too complicated, too psychological, and frankly, too much of a downer for Museworthy. This isn’t that kind of blog, you know; one of those tedious, negative, ranting “bitchfests” full of grievances and complaints and creepy personal confessions. Let’s just say that I have, like ALL people, issues, and leave it at that. The main point here is that my work as an art model, once again, rescued me from sadness and insecurity. The grateful and sincere expressions of appreciation from the artists and instructors does considerable wonders for the self-esteem and sense of self-worth of a sensitive art model like myself. No, I’m not a compliment-hound or attention-whore. I’m just HUMAN. That’s all.

Dora Maar was human too. She is also the first famous muse I ever posted about here on Museworthy. Her picture (photo, not painting) really kicked this blog into gear. Her stunning and enigmatic face set the stage for our theme here; inspiration, and the interdependence of flawed, tumultuous, emotional human reality with the immortalized beauty, transcendence, and surreality of art. I try my best to remember and discuss that art is created by people, and people are, well, human. Isn’t this what makes art so fascinating? It’s the biography more than the technique which is most compelling.

One more image of Dora to close this post. But it’s an image of her without the abusive hand of her lover Picasso exploiting her sorrow. Instead, it is a fabulous glam shot picture taken by the photographer Man Ray. While the earlier images by Picasso reflect my own mood at the start of the day, Man Ray’s photograph reflects my much-improved, more confident mood after that lovely watercolor class at the National Academy. Although I must admit, Dora can work the camera lens a lot better than me! You go girl!

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Thank you all for reading, dear friends. See you soon . .

4 thoughts on “Depression and Redemption

  1. I stumbled onto your blog (Thank you Google images!) doing research on the Weeping Woman for an interactive ebook I am writing, about how to change the way we see the world through art. I am an artist and founder of a new art theory firs and foremost, though. I really appreciate this post. Never “saw” the modeling experience through the model’s eyes before. We took turns modeling (dressed) back in my special art high school, but since what I wanted to do was paint and draw, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Your post is a lovely experience for me.
    It seems you are correct about the pieces being apolitical. Picasso had not created a political or protest work before Guernica. I recall an interview he gave where he spoke of this and his prep work. Sorrow is sorrow, whatever the cause. But, as the Picasso paintings and your post show, it can be an inspiring emotion.

  2. Mark Cousins says:

    Can someone answer a question for me please? Handkerchiefs are usually soft to the touch. In the weeping woman Picasso has shown it to be quite different. Why did he?

  3. artmodel says:

    Judy,

    I’m not surprised you found my blog through Google Image search. I get a lot of traffic that way! But I’m most pleased that you found this post so helpful, and that it was a good experience for you. I can’t tell you how gratifying that is for me. And as you can obviously infer, it was a tough post for me to write on a personal level. I almost didn’t publish it because it was so candid and emotionally wrenching for me. That was a really difficult day. But in retrospect, I think I made the right decision.

    Your work sounds fascinating, and challenging in the best sense. Weeping Woman seems perfect for your project. I was, and still am, profoundly moved by those Picasso images. You said it so well, that sorrow can be an inspiring emotion.

    I really appreciate your kind words about Museworthy. I hope you continue to read whenever you can, and comment and participate. So glad you posted your remarks.
    Thanks Judy!

    Claudia

  4. artmodel says:

    Mark,

    How I wish I had a good answer to your question. What I can do is offer a terribly ignorant explanation and say that it’s a Cubism thing. Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

    “In cubist artworks, objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form—instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context. Often the surfaces intersect at seemingly random angles, removing a coherent sense of depth. The background and object planes interpenetrate one another to create the shallow ambiguous space, one of cubism’s distinct characteristics.”

    In that context, the handkerchiefs seem right. What do you think?

    Claudia

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