Nora Byrne
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Words

Arts, Arabic, Adventures

The Shirtdress Comes Off

I am a young woman with an Art History degree who models for artists. Yes, it's nude. Yes, it changed the way I think about art. It started at age seventeen, when I took a drawing class at the University of New Hampshire. I had known that eventually we would work from nude models and had spent an excessive amount of time wondering how in the world someone could possibly stand in front of an entire room of people completely naked and it NOT be weird. When the day came we were to start with gesture drawings, drawing nothing but the "shape," the "essence" of the pose. Needless to say I was not thinking at all about how I was going to capture this essence, but more around the lines of "holy lord this girl is about to lose the towel what the hell..."

She lost the towel. I started drawing random lines on newsprint that may or may not have had anything to do with the poses this girl was taking. It took about a minute before I realized that this wasn't a naked girl. We had spent months already learning about measuring, seeing values instead of line, all the things you learn in an introductory drawing class. This person was a series of shapes and values that fit together and if I put them in the right places and made them the right size it would make a picture of a naked girl. And it wasn't weird. The entire class was in too much of a frenzy trying to get everything in before the pose was over to care; from the 30 second "essence" poses to the last five minutes of the twenty minute poses when you realize all you've drawn is a leg.

It was after this class I decided that THAT was what I wanted my college job to be. Unfortunately I chose a college so small they chose to get models from the community rather than have select students have been seen without clothes by 50% of the school population. I figured it wouldn't come up again, and enjoyed my job watching Food Network on the flat screen TV at the student bowling alley and telling visitors that no, I was not going to change it to the Cav's game.

Four years later, my intensely pregnant family friend decided to stop modeling until she had the baby. I had honestly not thought about it since my short-lived long high school love affair, but as a girl about to lose her summer internship, I offered up my inexperience to any artists who were interested. She assured me that they were mostly unassuming, older women, and that I would be perfectly comfortable. Weeks later I had given up on getting any job when I received a phone call from a man with a french accent so thick it took me about five minutes to realize he was calling about modeling. I gave some non-committal answer and immediately called Kalika to see if he was trustworthy. No answer. What could a about-to-burst pregnant woman have to do that was SO important she couldn't call me to reassure me about a job she had gotten me?!

Thus, on a late August day in Portsmouth, NH, I left the house after emailing three of my friends the exact address of where I was going, telling them that if I didn't text them by 10pm to call the cops. I got to the house, realized I was completely unprepared robe-wise, and dug through the goodwill donation boxes in the back of my car until I dug up an old shirtdress of my mother's. I went inside, was directed to the bathroom, and after changing sat around looking through books of poses, trying to memorize every one that I liked, at this point more terrified of being a bad model than of being naked.Luckily, I met Philippe a week or two later at an art opening I was working. I was working with two other interns, one a young conservative, the other fondly nicknamed "Christian Boy." Philippe introduced himself then asked me if I could give an concrete answer. I finally stumbled out with a "sure," then had to proceed to inform my coworkers of what I had just agreed to do. CB was dumbfounded, and I spent the rest of the night trying to explain how a philosophy of "why not try everything?" didn't have to apply to heroin use.

The shirtdress came off. Every single pose I had been studying for the past five minutes flew out of my head. I made it up. And I loved it.