Do you love art? Do you like stepping out of your comfort zone? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a figure model? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might enjoy the latest installation from the theatre company, Paper Chairs.
When I originally discovered the Art/Model Show: Subject event, I briefly glanced at the description and thought it would be interesting to view commentary on art and modeling. Later, I reread the description and realized what I was getting myself into. Full disclosure, I was intensely intimidated by the thought of well… full disclosure.
The show is an exploration into the mind, soul and fully-revealed body of a figure model. Figure models pose completely nude for artists. The installation is a combination of projected testimonies and live monologues. The commentary is almost all from the model’s perspective.
So I decided to try it out. I had no idea what to expect.
The show was presented in the Art.Science.Gallery. at Canopy Art Center. The small room was tightly packed with about 40 audience members looking down on a tiered stage. The performers include painters and sketch artists on the floor aimed toward the models on stage. The intimate setting helped cultivate a relationship in this extremely intimate situation.
I arrived about 20 minutes early to ensure I could find the gallery and get a good seat. Everything went very smoothly. I checked in and was surprised to be handed a sketch book. Every audience member could sketch and doodle to their heart’s content during the show.
The pre-show included videos and short films about figure models. A few of the films were in French with subtitles. Most of the films were satirical and helped start the conversation on the taboos of the situation.
Four females and one male model graced the stage and disrobed. As a student of theatre, film and art, I’ve seen my share of tasteful nudity. However, I have to admit there was some initial awkwardness. I felt uneasy and wasn’t quite sure where it was appropriate to …..look.
The show began with pre-recorded audio of the models describing their physical characteristics like height, weight and skin color. The recordings overlapped over one another in an overwhelming way. I was thrust into a foreign auditory and visual experience.
My sensory overload began to calm down when the full-figured model made a joke about her size. The other models addressed the crowd and discussed their views on image in today’s society. While they spoke, they posed as if it were an actual figure drawing session. Every so often, they would switch poses. I started to feel actually empowered as the models described their imperfections, vulnerabilities, struggles and triumphs. It was delightfully refreshing to witness such honest confessions.
I appreciated the perfect balance of comedy and drama throughout the performance. While dealing with such sensitive topics, the models were still able to laugh at themselves. I give them huge credit for their confessions. The honest delivery created a sense of community. I felt like I was part of a group therapy session. It was genuinely cathartic.
Interwoven throughout the show, were tiny art lessons. The instructor explained four basic techniques for sketching including figure drawing, squiggling and contouring. These small lessons reminded me to look at the canvases of the artists in front. It was fascinating to watch the blank page turn into a unique artistic interpretation.
After the show ended, I took my poor excuse for a sketch and returned the sketch book. However, I wasn’t as insecure as I was at the beginning of the performance. I left feeling motivated for more honest discussions. I felt motivated to promote the body-positive movement and encourage others to embrace their own vulnerabilities.
I think Art/Model Show: Subject provides an excellent opportunity to learn from others and address topics that aren’t always welcome in general conversation. The performers are well-rehearsed and profoundly honest. The production value is minimal, but almost as a reflection of the show itself, it’s not what’s on the outside that matters.
It goes without saying that the show is for mature audiences only and includes explicit content. I recommend attending only if you are willing to step out of your comfort zone. Are you ready to discover the naked truth?
Thurs, Fri, Sat, Mon at 8pm (Doors open at 7:30pm.)
Sunday performance at 3pm (Doors open at 2:30pm)
The show is about 1 hour 30 minutes long with no intermission.
Tickets start at $15.
Painting used in header image by Karen Maness.