My Body, My Conscience

I am not generally prone to apocalyptic thinking. I try, with varying success, to avoid buying into doomsday scenarios. I’m definitely no pollyanna, but I do my best to think positively and maintain hope that the human race will sort out its conflicts and rectify its fuck-ups. Given recent events, I think I’m done with all that.

The Gulf oil spill is now clearly visible from space. Think about that for a moment. From space. When I saw this photo, part of me died inside. And more parts died when I watched this video from NASA. It is heartbreaking. Maddening. Obscene. And completely immoral. I apply that last word without hesitation. When I see pictures of that vile, nasty filth, spreading throughout the waters, polluting an entire ecosystem, I grieve. Not just for the marine life, which I care deeply about, and not just for the families of the eleven workers who were killed, and not just for the Gulf residents, but for the entire human race. I lament over the human race. I am infuriated with the human race. I wish I could inflict a giant bitch-slap (a rough, hard, violent one) upon the the human race. We are disgusting. We are selfish and careless and ignorant. That oozing mass of sludge is there because we put it there. This is how we pay back Mother Earth for all she gives us. Mother Earth which sustains us. Mother Earth who provides us with air to breathe and water to drink and food to eat and places of beauty. This is how we show our gratitude. A catastrophic chemical disaster that, in the worst case scenario, could render significant parts of the Gulf of Mexico no longer biologically viable. Well done, humans! Well done. Drill, baby, drill!! 👿

Quick pose sketch of me by Bruce Williams:

It’s at times like this that I draw enormous comfort from the pure, uncomplicated, and innocent nature of art modeling. Yes, it really is innocent. And civilized. And harmless. In a quiet atelier uptown or a funky studio downtown, tucked away in a little corner of the city, some creative soul is just . . . drawing. Or painting, or sculpting. And we models are there for them. Nude, posing, accommodating, befriending, sharing a laugh, drinking coffee. Everyone’s happy and no one gets hurt. It’s a warm, safe, benign little bubble.

The extreme opposite of we poorly-paid, no health insurance, no job security, riding the subway to work art models, are the power people of the world. The lying, greedy douchebags who are engaged in million dollar deals, bribes, cheating, inflicting misguided, potentially destructive decisions on the unsuspecting masses and the precious planet. Both politicians and private sector bigwigs fall into this category. Everyone pretty much hates the corporate leadership of BP, which is thoroughly deserved. We also hate the corrupt and irresponsible government “regulators” whose incompetence is now exposed for the whole world to see. I guess they don’t mind everyone knowing that they were either sleeping, fucking, getting high, or jerking off when they were supposed to be doing their job. Assholes. How do they look at themselves in the mirror?

Drawing of me by Fred Hatt:

What’s amusing to me, and ironic when you think about it, is that a life model who poses nude (oh my god . . . NUDE!!) is probably not at the top of most peoples’ lists for “wholesome” professions. But it should be. If morality is the barometer for good and evil, then art models are saints! What we engage in on a daily basis is completely natural and free and honest, utterly without guile. It’s generous, gentle, and pure. We don’t pollute, we don’t steal, we don’t cheat. Instead, we spark artistic inspiration and celebrate the human form. And we have nothing to hide, literally. Conversely, BP is barring journalists and photographers from covering the spill. Oh, we can’t let the public see the tar balls and the dead sea turtles now can we? These are contemptible individuals, and those they enlist in their treachery – PR “spokespeople”, and assorted flunkies – are complicit enablers, actively trying to cover BP’s ass. They are therefore equally contemptible. To those people I say, you’re ALL guilty you motherfuckers.

As it has many times in the past, art modeling will console me in its loving, soothing embrace. It will reaffirm my place in the world which may be small and inconsequential in the large scheme of the things. But that’s precisely what’s so comforting about it. I’m posing on Saturday at Figureworks Gallery in Brooklyn. A small space, a small, intimate group, quiet and calm. My sanctuary. I can’t wait 🙂

27 thoughts on “My Body, My Conscience

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s times like this when I wonder what chance the future of humanity has. THe deck is stacked against us, taht’s for sure.

    • artmodel says:

      Keith,

      Yes, it’s terribly bleak. It’s almost as if we’re hard-wired to commit destructive acts against both the environment and each other.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Claudia

  2. Mark says:

    Given our apparent desire to wipe ourselves out then at least take consolation in the fact that nature and the earth will still be here when we as a species are long gone. We can do some damage but everything will be healed in time. I don’t feel sorry for the earth as much as I feel sorry for and take pity on us for our highly selective morality. We are all worm food and the sooner we accept that reality the better we will be.

    • artmodel says:

      Mark,

      I could not have expressed that better. “Highly selective morality” is absolutely right. I don’t get this attitude that humans are “number one”, and somehow superior to all other life on earth. I hear that a lot and it has yet to make sense to me, especially given the mountains of evidence to the contrary.

      I agree with you that if we simply accepted the reality that we are “worm food” as you put it, our perspective would change dramatically for the better. it’s our arrogance and entitlement which perpetuates this behavior. A strong dose of humility would do us good.

      Thanks so much for your great comments.

      Claudia

      • Mark says:

        Unfortunately this very public incident pales into insignificance against the reality of the hidden atrocities we commit daily to support our false society and the needs it drives within us. We are all culpable, it cannot be denied because to not be would mean living outside of accepted society which would be nearly impossible. I wish there were answers, for our children’s sake, but when they grow they will also in the main abandon youthful opposition and conform with the rest of us to pay off their mortgages and debt supported SUVs and plasma TVs.

        I think it ironic that so many people I have spoken to feel sorry for the animals and marine life that are dying because of this but have no thought for the 60 billion animals (excluding marine life) that are needlessly slaughtered annually to support a protein myth. But I guess that is a different discussion.

  3. Gavin says:

    I’m ashamed to say that on this side of the pond, the talk is mainly about how the disaster will affect the share prices of BP. I know it’s a major taxpayer and important for the British economy etc, but I find it a bit distasteful that people are trying to work out the best way to make money out of this;(

    • artmodel says:

      Gavin,

      “Distasteful” indeed. But it’s certainly not exclusive to the British by any means. It’s the human race and our depraved, self-serving values which are, sadly, universal.

      I actually wish it had been an American company, since we’re the ones who are most vociferous about free markets and limited government regulations, etc. Well, what I really wish is that it had never happened, but you get my point.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Claudia

      • Gavin says:

        It is universal, sadly. I just wish there was more on the news here about the fact that it’s an environmental disaster, and less about how it will affect pensions;(

        I’m glad you juxtaposed it with the life modelling. I think I’m guilty of doing a lot of second guessing about my motives for modelling and for drawing from life; Why do I do it? Am I just a bit weird? But when I remember that destroying the planet for profit is considered normal, I’m happy to be weird!

  4. “They are therefore equally contemptible. You’re ALL guilty you motherfuckers.”

    OK, Claudia, I’m guilty. I heat my house with oil, etc.. and frankly, I’ll continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

    I don’t, fully, agree with you take on the spill or who’s at fault. I do think we could do far better figuring how to avoid/minimize such disasters rather than finger pointing. Yes, I understand it’s an emotional issue, but none the less…

    ..and oh yea, two really great drawings of you!

    • artmodel says:

      Jim,

      First let me clarify; the “guilty motherfuckers” are those who enable BP in their crimes and their lies, NOT my readers!! Oh my god, I hope that’s not what everyone’s thinking! When I wrote “you” I was addressing the people I described in the sentences leading up to that. I feel terrible now! I might have to go back and edit to clarify as I really don’t want that misinterpreted. Anybody who reads this blog regularly, as you do, should know that I would NEVER call my readers “motherfuckers” 😯

      As to your concern about finger-pointing, I have to respectfully disagree. Frankly, I feel there isn’t enough finger-pointing in situations like this. For a calamity of this magnitude, why shouldn’t we point fingers? This disaster has enormous repercussions that will go on for years. But we can’t point fingers? If we don’t, then we are essentially protecting them from having to own up to their mistakes, and I have no interest in protecting millionaire oilmen who act with wanton disregard toward safety, human lives, and the environment. It seems like we’re not allowed to hold people responsible for their actions anymore. I doubt anyone has any problem pointing fingers at a car thief, a murderer, or a serial child rapist. I see no reason to exempt white collar criminals from having to answer for their crimes. I say MORE finger pointing, and much, much more accountability.

      I purposely used the word “conscience” in the title of this post, because I find it more and more depressing every day when I realize how little it means to far too many people. The people responsible for this disaster have no conscience, and I won’t lose a wink of sleep over having pointed my finger at them. You say that we should figure out how to “avoid/minimize such disasters”? Well its those people responsible who fight tooth and nail to block regulatory actions, bribe their way out of things, take cost-cutting measures that put workers’ lives at risk, and feel they can get away with things. Finger pointing? Bring it on.

      Claudia

  5. Ron says:

    Terrific and thought provoking post. I, and I’m sure just about everyone else, agree with you about how appalling the oil spill is. I’m not sure I agree with your indictment of all humanity. While we all use oil, we don’t have any real choice in the matter unless we decide to move to the back woods and go totally off the grid, which I don’t think is a practical solution for too many of us. Does that make us complicit? I don’t think so. What choice do we, as individuals have. Stop using oil generated energy? I don’t think so, at least in the short term. No cars buses, trains, electricity, computers, internet, blogs, etc. Nuclear power? An alternative but with its own set of obvious risks. Solar and wind? Promising but in all the years of development, they don’t seem to be able to contribute more that a small fraction of our energy consumption.

    I don’t mean to turn this into a discussion of energy policy. I just want to point out that the fact that none of can avoid the consumption of oil does not make us all equally guilty.

    As for your comments about art modeling I of course fully agree. It’s so ironic that an activity so innocent would appear to an outsider to be so outrageous. Taking off your clothes and standing stark naked in front of strangers?!?! Appalling! And yet as you point out, no one gets hurt and everyone benefits. The artist, the model, and of course the ultimate viewers of the artwork. Of course those are two wonderful poses and pictures.

    Pose baby pose!!

    • artmodel says:

      Ron,

      I really must work on my writing skills! Once again, I have to clarify like I did with Jim above; the “complicit” people I was referring to are those actively assisting BP in its deceptive PR, ineptitude, and coverups. That word appears in a larger context just prior to the use of that word. Didn’t anyone read the entire paragraph???

      Anyway, I agree with you 100% about us not having any choice in our energy sources. I’ve complained about this for years. But alternative energies are a threat to the fossil fuel corporate stranglehold. They own Washington, so it’s not surprising that we still have few options in the year 2010. By the way, where I live, not only do I not have any choices in the source of my energy, I don’t even have a choice in the provider. Everyone in my part of Queens, and much of NYC I believe, HAS to use ConEd for gas and electric. There’s no competition whatsoever.

      On the other hand, I still believe that the public must bear some of the responsibility. Americans, for example, stubbornly resist making changes – or worse, being ASKED to change – their wasteful habits. We hate being told that our behavior is flawed in any way. We are rigid in our lifestyle and complacent about it because we don’t really have to confront our own habits in any tangible way. Perhaps a carbon tax would do the trick?

      So while we, right now, have no options for home heating, etc, we can still make adjustments to our daily habits that would have a significant effect on the health of the planet. My own mother hates coming to my house in the summertime. Why? Because I don’t have air conditioning. That’s by choice.

      Check out this great link that doug rogers posted in his blog comments:
      http://www.oxherding.com/my_weblog/2010/06/use-less-oil.html

      Ron, I think what upsets me so much is my main gripe about how mankind views it’s place in the world. On this planet, we act like we are the “landlords”, when really we are just “tenants”. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But we need to indulge our fervently-held concept of “dominance”, of “ownership”, of “I’m at the top of the food chain so I can whatever the fuck I want” kind of crap. It’s repulsive. And we continue to drill more and more holes into the earth’s crust, deeper and deeper holes because the shallower ones dried up, to extract resources we think are infinite. Then that day will come when there’s nothing left to suck out. Then what will humankind do?

      There’s a saying I heard once, but I can’t remember the exact wording. It went something like, “Only when the last fish dies, and the last river runs dry, will we realize that we can’t eat money.”

      Thanks for your comments, Ron, especially “Pose baby pose!!” 🙂

      Claudia

  6. dougrogers says:

    And the covered head, covered eyes, hidden head thing in the poses and drawings seem so appropriate: despair, sadness, anguish, not-looking, head-in-the-sand, not-me, kinda thing works

  7. While we are not going to immediately switch from fossil fuels to alternative energy we could certainly do more to ease our dependence. Why does every third American have to own a gas guzzling SUV? When you go to Europe and other parts of the world you see smart, fuel efficient vehicles.

    There’s a kind of arrogance in this country, as if freedom of choice goes hand in hand with consumption. That’s why I don’t buy this cynical look that it is impossible to change.

    • artmodel says:

      keith,

      It’s definitely not impossible to change. I just wish more people had the will to change. It’s that arrogance you mentioned which stands in the way. Throw in the insatiable consumption and you have a troubling mixture.

      Claudia

  8. Vishinsky says:

    Fred Hatt captured you perfectly, and with what dougrogers said.

    • artmodel says:

      Vishinsky,

      Thanks so much! Fred sure did a great drawing, and the pose with the arms covering the face is “active” to good effect.

      Claudia

  9. fredh1 says:

    Technology has allowed us to separate ourselves from direct contact with our environment, but if we fail to see ourselves as dependent components of the whole Earth, and vital resources as fragile and finite, we are headed down the well-worn path of many once-great societies, as described in Jared Diamond’s “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.” Unfortunately it doesn’t look good now, and the stakes are higher than ever because the society in question is the global industrial civilization. And we seem to have set up the system to encourage greed as the primary motivator for people!

    Make art, not money!

    Fred

    • artmodel says:

      Fred,

      Agreed, agreed, agreed with everything you said. Unfortunately, the part about us seeing “ourselves as dependent components of the whole Earth, and vital resources as fragile and finite” is a completely foreign concept to many. I’ve had discussions with people who truly feel that the earth and everything on it, BELONGS to us, and exists solely for us to do with it whatever the hell we want. They absolutely believe that the earth is here for us exploit, manipulate, and profit from. It’s very disheartening.

      I want to read that Jared Diamond book. And thanks for getting in on the discussion! I knew you would 🙂

      Claudia

  10. Lisa says:

    I have such a hard time relating to people who don’t see this oil spill as so scary and tragic. Nothing like this has ever happened ever. I hate that I drive a car, there are no non-evil gas stations..at least not where I live.

    • artmodel says:

      Lisa,

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Most people I know do recognize the severity of this disaster, but I’m aware that there are people trying to minimize it, which is nuts. And I don’t think “non-evil” gas stations exist anywhere!

      Thanks so much for visiting and commenting.

      Claudia

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