So in the past week I've had a lot of modeling work. I modeled for the third year in a row for the big, twelve hour, all night drawing extravaganza. Sad to say there was nothing this year to rival last year's event, at least not for me. I also seemed to be knocked out by the 'all nightness' of it more this year. I think the excitement has worn off.
Wednesday night though, I worked at a new-to-me place called the Salmagundi Club. It is one of those old beautiful buildings on 5th avenue, a former stately home (I assume) that now houses a society of watercolorists, drawing classes, a member dining room, a library, and probably a whole lot else I didn't take note of. It's not often I get inside one of these places; funnily enough when I do, I'm usually naked. That sounds so much more exciting than it is. One serious danger to art modeling, I'm starting to realize, is it risks associating nudity with work. It's been so long since I was naked for someone who didn't have a drawing pad in his hand.
Moving on. I think it's cool when organizations like this get into these beautiful old places; they're probably better equipped to maintain the structure, and they make it more likely that a greater part of the general population gets to enjoy it. Most of my indoor life in NYC is spent in cramped, dimly lit living spaces, run-down, poorly lit rehearsal studios, or run-down, poorly lit classrooms. Oh, and sometimes black box theatres. With bad lighting. So being in an elegant, spacious, airy place is quite lovely and startling. It's odd to remember that for some New Yorkers, this is what the city is like. When I was a dog-walker, I saw the way some people live here. Believe me, it's a whole other place.
(As a side note, this is the neighborhood Henry James usually wrote about, when he set things in NYC. I read Agnes De Mille's biography of Martha Graham a few years ago, and it was funny to realize that when Graham and her contemporaries were starving artists, this area, around Washington Square Park, was where they found cheap apartments and rehearsal spaces. If you're not familiar with NYC, this area is now very pricey. Most of Manhattan is, but this is particularly so. There are no modern dance studios in the area that I'm aware of. Melissa, am I wrong? This process of gentrification is just part of the city experience, but it still amuses me to picture what this neighborhood must have looked like when it was 'the frontier.')
So that was one of the nice things about this Wednesday night class. The other was the fact that the students were all grown-ups, and serious artists. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy modeling for undergraduates. It's fun watching their progress from self-absorbed, insecure, criticism-shy waifs and grumps, to self-confident, analytical students with actual opinions. Not all of them make this transition, of course, but most do. Even at the start, some of them are very sweet. Most of the first-years (who I spend most of my time with) don't notice my existence at all, which is understandable, since they're 18, and if they're thinking about schoolwork at all (rather than just about getting laid), they're thinking about how much of it they have, and how little of it they want to do (since it interferes with the getting laid). Still, they're fun, and funny, and occasionally even develop an appreciation for what I do.
It's not until I'm in a room full of grown-ups though, that I remember what a luxury that is. And this was an especially nice bunch. There were more men than I usually see in settings like this; as I've mentioned before, the adult groups tend to be mostly very hip grandmothers, but this was an even mix of men and women, and a pretty wide range of ages. Seemed like a consistently high level of skill and talent too, from the glances I stole at their artwork.
Several of them were also unafraid to talk to the naked guy, which is always a nice surprise. One artist that I got to chat with, Ben Conrad, has a website and blog. I really like his work. The fact that I'm posting a link to his blog when there is a drawing of me on it is pure coincidence. He explores a variety of styles, subjects, and materials, which I find inspiring.
He was very gallant when informing me about the posting, reassuring me that it was an image I could safely send my family and friends. Ya'll can stop snorting now. He doesn't know me very well yet, and I thought it was very thoughtful. And no Mom, I'm not naked in EVERY play I do. There have been three. Okay, four. Four plays in twenty years though, okay?
I have browsed through most of Ben's galleries, and so far my favorites are the bird on wires, and the past-futurist series. The Birds on Wires series makes me think of Indiana, funnily enough. There's nothing about the images that says they couldn't be from New York City (indeed the plethora of wires would suggest someplace reasonably urban), but they make me think of wide open spaces, big sky, quiet surroundings, and the dry, dusty light of August. I also like how they suggest sheet music in some cases. Browsing through the blog, I've gotten the impression that Ben stays up on what is going on in the museums and galleries, something I'm very bad about. I'm bad at staying up on what is happening in the theatres, sad to say. It will be fun having an inside eye on the New York art scene.