The Models Were Here

It was shiny. Freshly printed. Laminated. Brand new. And, above all, legible! It was my new photo ID card for the Fashion Institute of Technology, better known as ‘FIT’, New York’s City’s popular design, fashion, and art school on Seventh Avenue, and the institution where I have been modeling longer – continuously – than any other school after the National Academy, who were the first to hire me 🙂

When the security guard handed me my new photo ID I compared it to my old one; a faded, beat-up relic carrying ten years of wear and tear. My face in the photo was nearly obliterated, as was the lettering. The old card also holds a stack of stickers, as we are given a new one for each semester. I never scrape off the old ones but just stick the new one on top of the last one, resulting in a stump of stacked stickers that protrude a quarter inch off the surface of the card, like a mini mountain. So when I ran my thumb over the sticker stump of my old card, I got a little sentimental thinking of all the times I flashed that ID to enter the FIT campus, all the times I rode up and down the elevator, all the times I tossed off my gown and stepped onto the various modeling platforms on the 6th floor of the D Building, all the booking sheets I handed in and teachers I worked with and and countless undergraduate students I modeled for in my many years at this excellent school.

My new FIT ID card. Will this one carry me for another decade? We’ll see!

I have something of a fascination with ephemera. Over the years I’ve held onto a good amount of ticket stubs, postcards, letters, handwritten notes, business cards, etc. I’m not a thrower-outer. I still have the little pocket notebook that I used to record my early modeling contacts when I was first starting out. Almost every page is filled with the name of an art school, a model coordinator, and phone number; “Art Students League … talk to Sylvia”. Some cross-outs, some arrows and stars and underlines. It’s especially interesting to see the name “Minerva Durham” scrawled in my loose handwriting with the additional notes, “Spring Studio, life drawing 7 days per week, tryouts on Sunday. See email. Don’t be late!”. Little did I know back then, when I jotted down her name before ever having met her in person, how important a figure Minerva would become in my career, or that her studio would become my favorite and most gratifying modeling venue.

When you work as a freelancer – a professional with no true ’employer’, no pension, no benefits – the feeling of not existing ‘on paper’ or in official business records – can be a little odd. Apart from a biweekly check sent out from a payroll department, where are we? Who are we? Did we just drift down out of the ether, some nameless warm body who just poses and leaves? Eighty years from now, would there be any incontrovertible proof that an artist’s model named Claudia Hajian ever worked in New York City? It’s a strange thought I know, and I apologize for being dramatic, but I wonder about these crazy things sometimes. I imagine that we all care, to some extent, about our legacy, don’t we? Especially when we devoted our lives to something passionately.

I took this photo at the “Artists and their Models” exhibit at the Smithsonian in 2014. It’s a booklet documenting Florence Allen’s membership in the San Francisco Models Guild. She was, in fact, one of the founders of the Guild which still exists today as the Bay Area Models’ Guild. The pink stamps indicate her paid monthly dues. Flo Allen is something of an art modeling legend in San Francisco history. Her obituary in the SF Gate  is quite a good read. You can click and enlarge all these  photos for better viewing:

A model contract for Cleo Dorman at the Carnegie Institute, October 1937, with her hourly pay (75 cents) and class schedule. She was booked for Anatomy and “Dwg III” (Drawing III):

Various business cards of professional working models; in the center, Marguerite Bouvé of Boston, circa 1910, Richard M. Samuels’ card with a modeling photo of himself, and pouty lip print by Anna-Lisa van der Valk;

Most professional models I know have business cards, as they should. And a journal of all contacts is also recommended. Chronicle your careers, models. You’ve been working the circuit, putting in your time and sweat and dedication. It matters. For posterity? Maybe, maybe not. But you never know who might gaze upon your image someday in the future and find themselves curious about your existence, perhaps even your biography. You never know if your handwritten work notes will be displayed in a glass case at the Smithsonian 😉

After my father died, when my mother, my brother and I were going through his personal things, I jumped at the chance to keep his journal of work contacts. My father was a professional musician for over forty years and, at the time of his death, had not yet owned nor used a personal computer. His black, hardcover journal contains the name and phone number of literally every single musician/bandleader/booker contact he acquired over decades of work as a NYC musician, each written in small, clear penmanship. That was my father. And the journal is something I cherish to this day. My Dad, a fellow freelancer – keeping notes and recording his livelihood.

I suppose one could argue that today, in the Internet age, with everything digitized and easily transmitted and ‘saved’ as files, people’s lives are recorded and documented better than ever. And that’s a solid argument. Because the printed cards and handwritten journals – anything on paper – can fray, get lost, get burned in a fire, thrown in the garbage, and so on. So what in God’s name am I fretting about? My blog is firmly online for, well, as long as I keep it here. And artists post their works of models on their Facebook pages and Instagram accounts with our names, like “Rachel reclining” or “Standing Luke”. Which brings me to this – artists? Keep records of your models. It’s a nice thing to do. We are, and always have been, indispensable, bona fide members of the art world. –> No art student anywhere, at any time, learned life drawing without us. That’s simply a fact. We were here. We are here. We are an essential component of your education and your inspiration. Remember us. Let’s all remember everything … if we can.

Ten Days on 8th Street

For artist participants, it’s an intense and challenging learning experience. For artist’s models, it’s an arduous but highly worthwhile gig. It’s the renowned Drawing Marathon hosted by Greenwich Village’s own New York Studio School, presided over by the school’s Dean, Graham Nickson. I was honored to be one of the six models – with Julie, Morgan, Marie, Erin, and Juliana – working in three different studios for ten days, doing long poses in group set-ups amid sounds of staple guns, paper cutting, rag smudging, and the occasional object falling to the ground. The marathon has dominated my work schedule for the past two weeks, and on Friday we concluded with a wonderful final day, replete equally with grimy, fatigued bodies and fortified spirits. Old acquaintances were renewed, new acquaintances were formed, and enough charcoal soot was produced that could bury a Buick. I took some photos to share with my readers.

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In addition to drawing from the live models, Marathon artists also did transcriptions of old artworks, with each person creating a section and then assembling them all together. This is Pieter Bruegel’s The Blind Leading the Blind. The students did incredible work here:

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And another transcription, from a 15th century engraving by Antonio del Pollaiuolo, a Florentine painter, sculptor, and goldsmith:

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The mother of all modeling platforms. Big, padded, suitable for both art posing and break naps 😉

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This exercise involved drawing the figure, and then drawing only the forms and space around the figure:

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Artists can always learn something from the great Matisse, which is why a work of his provided material for one of the day’s lessons:

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I really like this smaller drawing of me. The artist is Heejo Kim:

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Warm and sincere thanks to all the artists for their kindness toward us models and their expressions of appreciation for what we do, to the class monitors who did a terrific job, to Graham Nickson for his graciousness and inspiration, to his outstanding assistants Sarah and Rachel, to my old Spring Studio pal Audrey who was among the marathoners and made me laugh every day, to all the models for rocking it like the pros they are, and, last but definitely not least, very special thanks to Roxy, who is beautiful inside and out, and whom I’ve been privileged to know for years on my art modeling odyssey.

Hope you all enjoyed this little photo essay from your NYC art model muse.
I’ll see you right back here on Saturday, September 24th, when we’re gonna do one of these celebrations again. Until then, have a fantastic week everyone!

Who is H.M. Hartshorne?

When I was posing for a portrait class recently at Grand Central Atelier, a pencil drawing in the studio caught my eye. The artwork on the walls of GCA is a combination of student work and high resolution copies of academic figure drawings from books. But this one was a genuine, original framed drawing from days past. My eyes kept glancing over at it, hanging on the far side of the room, as I was really struck by the model’s statuesque pose, as well as the artist’s skilled rendering. I told myself that once my break came, I’d walk over to get a closer look.

The photo I took with my phone isn’t great, as there were studio lights glaring onto the glass and objects reflecting. But I think you can see pretty well the excellence of this piece. I’m quite taken with it. The artist was looking at the model in an upward angle, and the shadows under the chin and breasts are beautiful. And her pose … so expressive. A contrapposto with a turned head and elegantly active arm/hand gesture. Well done. Just ignore the flash spot on the thigh!

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The signature in the bottom right reads, “H.M. Hartshorne. Paris 1896”. The artist’s name wasn’t familiar to me. Have any of you ever heard of him? I turned to Google and the results were mostly unproductive. No Wikipedia page, no bio anywhere, no listing in any of the art resource sites I use. I was able to find out that H.M. Hartshorne stands for Howard Morton Hartshorne, and that he was a New York based artist who worked from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. This AskArt page is the closest I could find to any kind of bio. Then, I came across this –> the drawing! On an art auction site! There she is.

I assume that the drawing was acquired, at some point, by Grand Central’s founder and director Jacob Collins. I suppose I could ask him about it the next time I’m at the school. It’s easy to see how this figure drawing fits in perfectly with Grand Central’s classically-inspired tradition and commitment to the timeless aesthetic of figurative art. We models would be unemployed without it 😉

Rock Model

I rarely have the opportunity to merge the topic of art modeling with a Music Monday post. Actually, I don’t think it’s ever happened. But a little art world item that came up last week fits the bill perfectly, and I couldn’t resist sharing it here. Rock icon and punk pioneer Iggy Pop posed nude for a life drawing class at the New York Academy of Art. Yes.. Iggy Pop. And the drawings produced during that session will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum in the fall. I got such a kick out of the story, and my initial reaction was, “Yeah! You go Iggy!!” Then, I was completely won over when Iggy posted this perfectly succinct tweet to his Twitter account:

Going fully nude isn’t exactly a daring stretch for Iggy Pop since he hasn’t worn a shirt since … 1972? And we all know that flamboyant shirtless rock stars possess the requisite exhibitionist tendencies involved in nude art modeling. Iggy Pop is 68 years old now. After a lifetime in rock and roll, his body has endured much “wear and tear”, but that’s just fine for artists. Remember, models for art classes are life models – individuals who bring their lives, through their physicality and presence, to others who seek to create, explore, and glorify their fellow human beings. Iggy Pop has experienced a lot over many decades. It took him 68 years to make it to “art model”. Better late than never. Welcome to the club,  Iggy 🙂

So you want some more Iggy? Ok, I’ll give you some more Iggy … that is James Osterberg from Muskegon, Michigan. Here he is in his younger and more flexible days, with The Stooges. This is “Hey, Peter”:

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“Are you a real pirate??!!”. That was the adorable question posed to me by one of the kids in Martha Bloom’s Art and Drama class for children ages 5 – 9 at the National Academy. The little girl’s inquiry was perfectly reasonable since I had already changed into my pirate costume 🙂 Children’s art classes certainly don’t make up the bulk of an art model’s booking schedule, but on the occasions when we do pose for the little ones it’s a welcome departure from the adult classes. No offense grown-ups, but kids are more fun!

Martha Bloom has been fostering the imaginations and creative spirits of New York City’s children for over three decades. Her classes are the starting points for the superb young artists’ education offered at the National Academy. With the help of goodies from the prop closet, Martha set up a makeshift mast for my pirate boat and put a treasure chest at my feet, with a rubber rat crawling out. “Blimey! Thar be a rat in me booty chest! Walk the plank ye little scalawag!!”

As the late afternoon sun streamed into the National Academy’s elegant Stone Room, the children set up their markers, crayons, and papers. Martha took this photo of me during the pose.“Ayyee aye matey! I am a pirate wench!! Give me a bottle o grog and we be swashbucklin’ three sheets to the wind!”

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This is Sasha’s drawing:

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And this is Eliza’s drawing:

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The class Halloween show was just around the corner, and Gemma was assigned the task of designing the invitation. She created this excellent illustration:

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We went down to the office and made copies, which came out great. And a poster to go along with them.

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At the end of class, when I emerged from behind the changing screen dressed in my street clothes, Gemma exclaimed “You’re NOT a real pirate!!”. I think it was my NY Mets shirt that gave me away 😆

But Ratty the rubber rat managed to get over to the window of the Stone Room. Unless someone carried him over there … a pirate wench perhaps? Hmm …
The last time I saw him he was taking in the view of East 89th Street, gazing at the Guggenheim:

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Snapshot

Sculpture is more divine, and more like Nature,
That fashions all her works in high relief,
And that is Sculpture. This vast ball, the Earth,
Was moulded out of clay, and baked in fire;
Men, women, and all animals that breathe
Are statues, and not paintings.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Grand Central Atelier, sculpture studio:

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To my Museworthy friends – have a splendid few days and let’s meet right back here on Thursday for our annual blog celebration. See you then! 🙂

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 😆

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”.