Naked at 9:00
asically, it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful experience. The things that I loved about it the first time: the stillness, the quiet, the focus are the things that I love to this day. I’ll admit that there are some days that the stillness is really hard, but it’s rare. I think it’s the stillness that’s my favorite part. When I’m completely still, I can feel my emotions and thoughts very clearly. They’re pure and clear. It’s a powerful experience. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Sometimes my thoughts lead me to a really strong feeling, and it rushes through my entire body.
That’s how I approach modeling. The first, most important thing to me, is a
. . Before every pose, I try to ask myself “Alright Pige, what’re
you feeling right now?” and, then I try to avoid my logical mind and let my
subconscious show me the pose. Either I’ll get a picture of it in my head, or literally
let my body just fall into it. Then it’s, “Can I actually hold this?”. It can be challenging
to predict what’s going to be hurting two weeks from now, and something is going
to be hurting two weeks from now; it’s just a question of what’s tolerable discomfort
and what’s too much pain. Yes, pain! Often people will say to me, “But you’re
just sitting there”— and it makes me laugh every time. It’s true, sitting down for
twenty minutes doesn’t hurt normally because every time a part of your body is
fatigued, it moves automatically. Not moving for twenty minutes can be quite
uncomfortable, especially if three-fourths of your entire body weight is thrust onto one little part of your body. And, if you’re twisting— forget it— then your nervous system starts going crazy sending incessant messages to your brain: “Move dude!!! What’re you doing?! This is crazy! Move your leg right this instant!!!” At this point, you know you’ve got about 13 minutes left of the pose. It’s in this moment that I smile and think to myself “What a weird job.” All of a sudden, the only thing my life is about is fighting every instinct I have to move, not letting the pain show on my face and making it 13 more minutes, just 13 more minutes... Finally, the timer goes off and there’s a burst of joy until I realize how much it’s going to hurt to move out of the pose! Then, I think to myself “Wow. People need a truly compelling reason to do this because it hurts sometimes".
Just the act of using my body to express my feelings and my state of mind all day is incredible. The relationship between model and artist (subject and artist) is so intriguing to me. The gaze, for one thing, is powerful. The act of being looked at, really looked at, sounds intimidating and sometimes it is. A fair amount of the day people are intently studying my face, or trying to understand exactly where my knee is, or what my bones are doing. But, they also see what’s happening inside of my thoughts and feelings. It’s communicated somehow, even if they don’t realize it. Mostly, in the classroom, the student is not consciously trying to depict the model’s emotional state. However, almost every artist I’ve worked with privately is extremely conscious that they are relating to me and my experience. They are describing their perception of that through their medium, to the viewer.
Our bodies are constantly communicating what we are thinking and feeling. Always. There’s no way to escape it. Essentially, every gesture describes at least one feeling or emotion. I love that the body has a truly abstract way of doing this, especially if I’m feeling a lot of different things. It’s sometimes hard to verbalize what the gesture is saying, but we can just “get it” on a gut level.
When I get on the stand, my first concern is showing my current emotional state. People often assume that it’s the nudity that’s revealing, but to me it’s allowing my true feelings to show. It’s not just the gesture that reveals the internal state of the model, it’s their mood, it’s their vibe. It’s the look on their face. I try really hard not to hide. I want to reveal everything I'm feeling. This is where I appreciate the nudity. The body has such a brilliant way of expressing emotions.
The sensation of my ribs descending into my pelvis is extremely meaningful for me. I realize that
probably sounds a bit ridiculous, but it’s true. And, there are so many ways the torso can express an
attitude or feeling. So many feelings: awkwardness, sadness, confidence, trepidation. And that’s just
the torso! The pelvis alone can say a lot with just the smallest movement. And, again, the nudity is so
key here. With clothes on, I feel like most of my vocabulary has been taken away. I can express much,
much more if my bones and muscles are available to me. That said, the gesture of a drape can be full
of emotion as well. I just adore the purity of BOOM—here’re my ribs, here’s my pelvis, here’s my
attitude. Be it demure or bombastic; nothing contrived or premeditated:
"Here’s the truth right now- draw it".
I’m getting excited just thinking about it-can’t wait to get on the stand today.
One thing I do want to say about posing clothed that I like is that the focus for me is less on the overall gesture and expression of my body, and more on what’s coming out of my eyes, or my overall “mood” during the pose. And again, absolute stillness is essential fo me because that’s when the emotions are the most potent and intense. I am always trying to keep my thoughts on something emotionally engaging because whatever is on your mind will show on your face. After a few years, I decided that revealing my true feelings— al allowing my actual feelings to come through on my face is the best way, the only way. I’m constantly saying to myself, “Don’t pose, don’t pose.” Meaning, whatever I am actually feeling, I want it to pour out of my eyes. Because that’s what artist’s are looking for, right? Someone who’s experiencing life. So, that’s my job: to show people how I’m responding to life in this moment. God, it’s beautiful. And when they relate to what I’m feeling, or at least what they perceive I’m feeling, it makes a powerful piece of work. Because then the viewer can feel it too. I think it only works if we’re being honest, and sometimes I have to really fight with myself to let my true feelings show. But, I have to or it’s just not the same.
I could go on and on forever trying to describe what an experience it is to art model. I often become overwhelmed with the romance of the gesture. It’s the subtle things that push me over the edge— the way the fingers just barely wrap around the back of a chair, or the toes curling under shyly. Or how my neck is pulling away from the rest of my body and how my head tilts tells me everything about how I feel right then. Is it dreamy, languid, irritated, confrontational, searching?
Basically, it’s beautiful. Being painted, sculpted, and drawn is a deeply powerful experience. My favorite thing from the beginning was the stillness. And, it still is. The stillness, the quiet, the focus. Feeling a moment over and over again, going deeply inside of myself in that moment, and holding it is powerful.
A firsthand account of what it's like to model in a live art class.
(originally published in "Lines" from
the Art Student's League of NY)
Pigeon posing at Sadie Valeri's