Through the Looking Glass

Hello friends. I want to advise the readers/subscribers of this blog to save my email address if you don’t already have it. You can find it on my Contact page. There’s a strong chance I may move Museworthy to another host, or just archive it, or take a chance and write freely about a certain topic which could very well get this blog taken down. WordPress, this blog’s current platform, has recently engaged in purging actions that I simply cannot stomach; aggressive censorship of voices – women’s voices – which are, frankly, chilling. I can tolerate a great deal. Like everyone else, I’m able to hold my nose and accept some degree of the noise, madness, and ridiculousness which contaminate our time. But this recent issue with WordPress has pushed me over the edge. I apologize for being oblique, but I’m just trying to exercise caution until I figure out what to do. I want you all to know that I have, over these past couple of weeks, tried with great mental effort to move past this issue in my mind. But I can’t. The thought of continuing to blog here after what happened disturbs me to no end. Perhaps my feeling can still change, but I doubt it.

This month marked 40 years since the Jim Jones mass suicide in Guyana. I was ten years old at the time and remember my parents watching in horror the news reports on TV. A cable channel last week aired a documentary about the Jones cult and as I watched it all I could think about was the famous quote from Voltaire, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” I grieve for the 909 souls lost at Jonestown who died the most agonizing, horrific deaths from cyanide poisoning. The expression “drinking the Kool-Aid” has become part of our lexicon, and while those people should be acknowledged for the searching, hopeful individuals they were – however tragically misguided – the expression is as fitting and descriptive today as it’s ever been.

We have among us in our society, truly sinister figures. Orwellian manipulators, idolators, and Josef Mengeles. Gullible enablers repeating mantras, doublespeak, and talking points. Is no one capable of critical thinking anymore? The train is pulling into the station and we’re soon to arrive in Crazytown. I want to get off.

Portrait drawing of me by Jean Marcellino:

Girl Crushes

Helloooo helloooooo friends! Well gee, I took a longer blogging hiatus than I intended. My apologies darlings! If the reasons for my absence were interesting in any way I’d certainly share them here, but alas they’re not. Just modeling, scheduling modeling, commuting to modeling, coming home from modeling and resting from modeling. Sounds monotonous I’m sure, but I wouldn’t have it any other way to be honest. Throw in the occasional drinks with friends and yoga classes and that’s my life summarized. I can’t complain.

Also, lately, I’ve been inspired and impressed by the actions of young women I’m privileged to know. Both of them are teenagers. One is my niece Olivia, and the other, M, is a girl I know from my church. Without going into any details I’ll just say that they’ve demonstrated the admirable ability to assert themselves, and push back against uncomfortable situations, in ways I was never able to do at their age. I envy them. And I applaud them. For far too long we’ve raised girls to be people-pleasers, to be “nice” and to “smile”, to “find a husband”, and be “supportive” and prioritize other peoples’ happiness while neglecting our own. That’s a toxic recipe for a life as a future doormat. When I was 13 years old my grandmother told me that I’d repel men if I had too strong “opinions”. In a family full of old country Armenian immigrants, in which sons and men were valued far more than girls, the message wasn’t exactly subtle. If you’ve never been a girl raised in that environment you can never understand. And even though I’m a grown woman now who has moved well past all that shit, I’m still thrilled to see young women taking the reins of their own lives and standing up for themselves, without getting ‘permission’ first.

Me in watercolor by Sylvia Ryder:

Happy 11th Birthday Museworthy!!

Here we are again, friends. Observing another “blogaversary” for this little modeling/drawing/painting/sculpture/music/animals/museums/NYC online journal called Museworthy. We reached the ten year mark last year, and that was extra special of course. But it’s all special to me. Meaningful in a way that is both a comfort and an enrichment. It’s an opportunity for me to connect with you, my wonderful readers, and share various incarnations of art, life, and beauty, both visual and verbal. I’ll repeat what I always write on this annual post, and that is a heartfelt thank you for your visits here, whether they be regular or sporadic, and for your emails, comments, contributions, and friendships. It all means a great deal to me. And to you ‘quiet’ visitors who subscribe and read, I know you’re out there. I see you and I thank you. Blessings to all …

So Fred Hatt and I did it again with our yearly photoshoot, this time at my house instead of Fred’s studio. He loved the natural north light of the bay window and felt strongly that we should take some shots there. We agreed on using this one for the blog. I like it because it’s a little strange, with the eye, the hair and the hands on the wall.

Perhaps because I turned 50 years old this year I’ve been plunging heavily into nostalgia these past few months, recalling the music, the trends, and the cultural and historical watersheds that I and my fellow Gen Xers lived through as children of the 80s. We had no Internet, no smart phones, no Netflix, no 24 hour cable news, no social media, and definitely no blogs! But as the ‘bridge’ between the postwar era and the digital age, my generation learned how to adapt and fend for ourselves; the latchkey kids weaned on MTV and afterschool specials, having the shit scared out of us by the AIDS crisis and Three Mile Island and the ‘War on Drugs’. We managed to come out on the other side as free thinkers, improvisors, and entrepreneurs, with a dose of slackerdom mixed in. Winging it into adulthood. Cynical but not nihilistic. Finding our way to rewarding, productive lives if we could. Art modeling came to my rescue after years of Gen X-style wandering. Better late than never! Where we go – where we ALL go – from here is anybody’s guess.

Which brings me to our music selection for today. In addition to the blogaversary, today is also a Music Monday, and the song I chose very much reflects both my personal mindset these days and the indelible song memories of my youth. In my junior year of high school one of the coolest bands ever, Talking Heads, released their album Little Creatures. I bought it and played it as soon as I could and had a blast. This is the video for the song “And She Was” and I hope you listen and enjoy its catchy, cheerful, imaginative vibe. The video is great fun, kind of like a surrealism mixed media artwork. Many days lately I feel like the girl in the song, ‘floating above it’. Other days I pray for the strength to float above it. Here’s David Byrne and Talking Heads.

With love and gratitude, Claudia 🙂

Dream Makers

In an Artist’s Studio – Christina Rossetti

One face looks out from all his canvases,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens,
A saint, an angel – every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more or less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

Seated Model in the Artist’s Studio, by Paul-Gustave Fischer:

Lifeline

This has been the busiest summer of art modeling that I’ve had to date. It’s almost as if God or the spirits or the cosmic energies of counterbalance are aware of how much I desperately need this gratifying work to keep me from stumbling into the abyss of personal torments. I’m sorry if that sounds hyperbolic, but it’s the only explanation that makes sense to me. From sculpture at the New York Academy of Art to joyous sessions at Minerva’s drawing studio, summer pre-college portfolio classes at FIT and Molloy College and ‘Figure al Fresco’ at Battery Park, I’ve been an artist’s model this summer far more than I’ve been a sunbather – and that’s saying a lot because I love sunbathing!

Amidst all this summer work the highlight, without a doubt, has been private modeling sessions with Steven Assael, the living master of representational art. Besides the great pleasure of getting to know him as a person, it’s absolutely mesmerizing to watch him work. The steadiness of his hand, the precision of his fingertips rubbing as he blends and shades, and the focus of his gaze, are in themselves a display of ‘art’ in a way. Creation in action, unfolding before your eyes. While posing for the drawing below I felt almost in a trance!

And these are some sketches of my short poses by Steve, in different tools and paper, from my very first session in his studio. Love these 🙂

And a quick note for my New Yorker readers; the exhibition “Armenia!” is opening at Metropolitan Museum next month on September 22nd. It sounds amazing. This Armenian girl is looking forward to it!

Model Musings

Greetings from a recently baked and broiled New York City! The hellish heat wave has now passed, thank God. Still, summer is in full swing, and for nude art models working during this season it means no need for studio space heaters 😆

Speaking of art modeling, Museworthy reader and model Dave kindly sent me an article that I thought was well written and enjoyable. “The naked truth about nude art modeling” by Robin Eileen Bernstein. One of the models quoted in the article, Alan, is a good friend of mine. The piece has lots of good insights throughout. Folks interested in the subject as either artist or model might want to give it a read. Thanks for sharing, Dave!

And since we’re talking about posing nude, here is a work-in-progress of my torso from an ongoing summer gig, Sculpting the Figure at the New York Academy of Art. By Matt White:

Love, From Modena

“People think I’m disciplined. It is not discipline. It is devotion.
There is a great difference.”
Luciano Pavarotti

His mother worked in a cigar factory. His father was a baker. And the north central Italian city of Modena was the place where he was born in 1935. Seventy-one years later, after touring the world, touching millions, popularizing the art of opera like no one else, and reaching the highest heights of fame, Pavarotti would die in Modena, his birthplace, a contented man. Mighty medieval province of Modena. It is the sports car capital of the world – Italy’s “Motor City” – with Maserati, Lamborghini, and Ferrari calling the town home. Enzo Ferrari himself was born and raised in Modena. And then there’s the balsamic vinegar, which the artisans of Modena have been fermenting for hundreds of years. Sexy sports cars and balsamic vinegar are great of course, but Modena, Italy will forever hold as its most esteemed legacy, giving to the world the greatest tenor who ever lived.

The orange stucco rooftops of Modena:

A couple of weeks ago, I posed for open life drawing at the National Art League in Queens, a modeling gig I’ve been doing for over a decade. We turned on WQXR classical radio, as we often do, as a musical accompaniment. During my second 20 minute set, the transcendent voice of Pavarotti surged out of the speakers, and my eyes began to well up with tears. My reaction was not just the emotional response to his magnificent voice, although that certainly played a part. It was more than that. It elicited complex, painful feelings in me about what’s been going on in my life, namely familial relationships and revelations about those relationships that I still can’t fully accept or process. My mother no longer contacts me. She has, incredibly, removed herself from the sphere of my life and has, instead, decided to consign all her motherly love, loyalty, and attention over to her son. Her manipulative, self-serving son. He has brainwashed her, and it’s been distressing to witness over these past several months. It’s as if my mother has forgotten that she has TWO children, and whatever genuine, loving bonds used to exist in this dysfunctional family are now circling the drain.

Pavarotti’s voice is affecting not just because of its raw power, but also because of its purity, and by purity I mean love; the love that propels it through melody and dramatic arcs, in recording after recording, and live performance after live performance. Pavarotti stated many times in interviews that his sheer love of singing and desire to spread joy through music are what animated him. As I posed that night at the National Art League and my emotions stirred and tears dropped from eyes, I became intensely aware of the moment – where I was and what I was doing. It too was about love. I was modeling. Engaged in the livelihood that breathed new life into me 13 years ago and that I love with every fiber of my being. I was also in the presence of friends that I love, specifically my longtime friend Paul who was monitor for the session that night. Paul has shown me, in ways I won’t go into, what a thoroughly decent, upstanding, and genuine person he is. It’s an honor to know him. He is full of love.

At the Opera by Georges Jules Victor Clairin, 1900. I had to post this not just for the opera theme but, girl, those gloves! Rocking the whole outfit 🙂

Pavarotti’s quote about devotion strikes a chord with me in that it distills achievement, success, happiness, gratification  – whatever you want to call it – into a kind of simplicity.  And simplicity shouldn’t be a bad word. Relationships between people function best when the essence of their connection is solidly simple. How often do we hear of a break up because things “got complicated”? Or that someone felt the need to abandon a career because things “got complicated”? Devotion is love, and once love grasps us in its arms, our vision, purpose, and dedication become clearer. I don’t love art modeling because I’m good at it. I’m good at it because I love it. As a child of a working class family in Modena, Pavarotti could have become a small farmer, shoemaker, or vinegar fermenter. Those are all fine vocations. But his love steered him to singing, and it’s wholly evident in his voice. The love that once existed in my family has become tragically compromised – and made complicated – by one toxic person wielding his self-interest like a weapon. If only the simplicity of love had been upheld, and fought for, and acted upon free of bias, we wouldn’t be in this situation. But here we are.

In February of 1972, a 36 year old Pavarotti secured his place in opera immortality when he performed the aria “Ah! Mes amis, quell jour de fête!” from Donizetti’s comic opera La Fille du Regiment at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The aria contains a near impossible nine high C’s, which Pavarotti executed with inspired, love-drenched gusto. With devotion, if you will. The crowd went wild, and the young tenor was summoned back onstage for a record 17 curtain calls. Let’s listen to Pavarotti singing that aria for our Music Monday. It is not a live recording of that momentous night in 1972, but Pavarotti’s love and devotion are in full force. You can skip ahead to around 4:40 to get to the magic 🙂