Navel-gazing

Posed the other day for an art class held out of someone’s house – I guess the homeowner hires an instructor and then gets a bunch of her friends to come learn with her.

One of the artists was chatting with me after and said that I’m the best model the group has ever had. She loves the poses I choose and she says I get into pose faster and hold way more still than most people. I said it was really nice to get that feedback because – since I haven’t been on the other side of the easel in about twenty years – I don’t know what other models do, really. People react to me as though I’m doing something different from other models but I don’t understand in what way.

She said that aside from the practical aspects like holding still really well, that there is something about me that sets me apart, but she can’t articulate what it is. I think she said something about an energy I give off (and she’d be the second person to say that).

I really think what it is about me is that inside my head, when I’m posing, I’m imitating art.  Like thinking about old paintings of aristocratic ladies and courtesans and all that stuff and trying to channel the attitudes I see in them. It’s not just about holding still, it’s about using my entire body to project that I am being contemplative or elegant or haughty or whatever.

Anyway it was really nice to hear someone say such lovely things about my work.

Also, as someone who has a lot of issues with anxiety and social awkwardness and very much lives inside my head, I am continually surprised to realize that I actually enjoy being a performer. Not only that but I’m good at it.

There have been hints of this in the past. There are many Hallowe’en photographs of me through the years, costumed and mugging furiously for the camera. As a kid I enjoyed doing impressions of my favourite tv characters, and people told me I was good at it. I took a drama class or two in high school and liked it.

But. I wasn’t very physically coordinated, hated being stared at, couldn’t emote* to save my life. I had no idea how I came off, physically; the impressions I did were just vocal imitations, not an imitation of anyone’s mannerisms, because I sort of didn’t know how. Those Hallowe’en photos were the only time I could even remotely cope with being in front of a camera – I am not photogenic and usually to this day my face will freeze up in anticipation of how grotesque the picture will look, but in costume I could be a character and not worry about looking pretty (as you might guess, I was never the type to wear a slutty-whatever costume. I liked to be non-slutty animals and monsters, preferably involving masks). In costume I could be grotesque on purpose. Steer into the skid, as it were.

I think maybe I felt as though paying any attention at all to my physical self was conceited. Or maybe just pointless, since I was a clumsy spaz anyway. So I just didn’t even try. My balance has gotten a lot better since I started modelling and it turns out that the secret to good balance is just noticing whether I feel like I’m about to tip over, and adjusting for it. Before I started modelling it’s like I was metaphorically covering my ears and going “LALALALA” at the very idea that I had a body. I would randomly fall over, like Maggie Simpson. I wouldn’t notice aches and pains unless they got huge. I didn’t know when I was hungry or tired.

I’m starting to actually live in my body now, finally. And I like it.

 

*This is what happens when you grow up with an abusive father who will scream at you for having the wrong look on your face. And are bullied in school constantly and if you show any reaction it gets exponentially worse. Having a totally dead face was my survival strategy and it’s hard to let the habit go.

 

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