Nude modeling proves to be ‘pretty normal’
Published: Friday, October 25, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 25, 2013 00:10
Thirty-one college students are sitting on the third floor of the Paul Creative Arts Center and one of them is completely – and shamelessly – naked. Quickly, blank canvases begin to reveal the charcoal vestige of junior Patrick Haigis’ posed body in all of its boundless glory. This isn’t weird, though; this is art.
The concept of the nude model has been around for centuries. Perhaps the quintessence of the male form revealed was through Michelangelo’s rendering in his statue of David. This Renaissance masterwork engendered global fascination with scale, precision, detail and the delicate question of when to start working on the penis. Worlds later, college students across the globe are refining their art skills by reimagining human aesthetics from its root, and that means drawing from live models.
“I was a little bit nervous,” Haigis said of his first time modeling nude for UNH art students, “because it’s weird being naked in front of a lot of people.”
Everyone can empathize with the uncomfortable feeling associated with standing out, and that feeling, compounded with the inherent awkwardness of being naked, is not something many students partake in willingly.
“I think it’s only weird if you make it weird, though,” Haigis said, reasoning that the art environment changes the context of an otherwise inappropriate act. “Everyone in the art department is really nice and they’re there to get better at art, not to be weird.”
Some people are uncomfortable with being naked in general and would, therefore, never dream of bearing all in front of complete strangers. For Haigis, donning the suit his mother gave him was no big deal for one reason: the Benjamins.
Haigis said that once he saw how generously students were compensated for modeling, it was a no-brainer. Last semester, when Haigis was working for the arts department, models received $15 an hour. This is more than twice the $7.25 an hour minimum wage in New Hampshire. This semester, students applying for the position will get a handsome $18 an hour, a 20 percent pay increase from just last semester. Clearly, boldness pays.
The arts department is, of course, not just giving these celebrity-level salaries to just anyone willing to drop-a-robe-and-spread; they are looking for professionals.
Haigis had experience, having nude modeled in the past for a friend of his at the Massachusetts College of Art.
“She had a studio and we just hung out for seven hours and had milkshakes,” Haigis said.
This casual, milkshake-drinking approach to modeling proved an asset to Haigis when he continued his craft at UNH because it enabled him to make peace with the nudity.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” Haigis said of posing naked for hours at a time, but he continued to explain that you almost forget. Haigis said there were times when the work became so casual that he would move around or look out the window, forgetting that he was being drawn, and then quickly have to reposition.
Although Haigis is able to clothe his anxiety in boldness, other students have concerns, not about their actions, but the actions of others.
Junior Quinn Hughes got a job nude modeling last semester, but had to quit before she was able to model due to a schedule change. Regardless, Hughes explained that her primary concern going into it was the fact that students had access to their cellphones.
“I had heard horror stories of people [fellow nude models] who had their picture taken,” she said.
Hughes said students had their phones out on their laps the entire time she audited a class. As smartphones grow in ubiquity, it’s a growing generational conceit that what happens in private does not, in fact, happen in private. It would take a flex of a student’s thumb to snap a picture of a nude model and then send that picture all over the web.
Fortunately, Haigis did not experience any malicious behavior from the art students drawing him. The worst part of the job he said was the auditing. First-time nude models are required to audit at least ten minutes of another model’s work to get an idea for what is expected of them.
“Auditing was really weird,” Haigis said, “because everyone else was drawing, and I just had to sit there and look at a naked person.” Adding to the awkwardness, Haigis had to field judgmental looks from the art students who, as Haigis put it, “thought I was just there for the show.”
Asked if nude modeling had changed his life in any noticeable way, Haigis was reluctant to arrive at anything definitive. “I don’t know. It was kind of liberating, but I don’t feel any different,” he said.
He did add that the most rewarding part of his time working for the arts department was being able to break social norms.
Haigis and his naked compatriots find satisfaction in pushing the envelope of what’s considered socially acceptable.
“Everyone thinks it’s freaky,” Haigis said of the nude modeling perception, “but it’s really just pretty normal.