Imagine this: Center stage. All eyes on you. You are not able to make any eye with your audience. It’s a cold, stark room and only the sound of pencils scratching can be heard. White walls with harsh light echo a mini space heater that blows vapid air upon your legs; an attempt to keep warm. An old man stands in the corner gazing intently upon the classroom, while 30 art students attempt blindly to transmit what they see onto paper. And you are completely naked.
It sounds a bit like a nightmare. A narcissist’s dream, perhaps? For three hours, you, the model, are wide open on a stage, and while shame is not allowed in an art class, for the models, every single pimple and bruise and ingrown hair is almost audible.
For Sasha*, “it’s actually the MOST interesting job I’ve ever had, hands down,” she says. Let’s lay it all out on the table….
Everyday, Sasha leave work feeling refreshed, stimulated and physically confident. “Bathed, lotioned, and as pristine as possible, this position forces me to take care of my body.” Yoga, diet and healthy living should all be priorities in our lives, and modeling, certainly helps keep one even more accountable.
Posing as an art model for KC Art Institute students has furthered Sasha’s mission in life (as a muse) with this unexpected part-time job position. As an artist, dancer and model herself, Sasha considered a lot of options when looking for a part time job. Making ends meet was getting tight. Sitting behind a desk = not an option. Stripping? Not really her ethical background. “Gotta pay the bills somehow… and I refuse to compromise my own art for the sake of others. So I decided to model,” Sasha says, nonchalantly.
And with that decision came something unexpected: time. A resource Sasha never knew she desired so intensely. Three hour sessions give her time to confront her own insecurities, for one, while providing a chance for art students to brush up on their life drawing skills. This position also offers her, an endless variety of invaluable opportunities she did not foresee.
Opportunities to not only become a ‘prop’ for the art institute, but to be a symbol. An image. A vision. An icon even? (#AndyWarhol) Meanwhile, the internal opportunities to grow as an artist are endless. All the while, combatting this pull of the narcissist vs. the muse.
Narcissism. A term that originated with name of a Greek Hunter, Narcissus (meaning sleep or numbness) in Greek mythology. Narcissus fell in love with his own image he saw reflected in a pool of water, and the ego was born. Currently the word is used to describe the pursuit of gratification from vanity, or egotistic admiration of one’s own physical/mental attributes.
Continuing along the methodology of the Greeks, the Muses were nine goddesses who symbolized the arts and sciences. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths. Today, a muse is a person who serves as an artist’s inspiration. As a verb, to muse is to consider something thoughtfully. As a noun, it means a person — especially a woman — who is a source of artistic inspiration. So what does a muse and a narcissist have in common, if anything? And what would inspire someone to get up naked in front of people for extended periods of time? Is the battle of the ego really the battle of a narcissist vs the muse, inside our heads? Or are the two mutually exclusive?
This is the sort of existential internal dialogue Sasha weighs in her head during a typical day at work. To think, or not to think, is really the question when it comes to this profession. “If you think too much, your purpose loses its rush when it comes to being a muse,” Sasha says. “You have to just let go, and let it flow, like with any art.”
So what does one do with three hours, naked, on a platform in front of artists in training? Well for starters, “I begin with yoga poses. Stretch it out a bit,” She says. She tries to move as much as possible during the one-minute gesture drawings that typically start off the sessions. As the longer poses take hold, so begins the internal dialogue, taking note of every part of the body and how open it feels to be so comfortable, so naked in such a space. Observing the room (without making eye contact with students…a big no-no).
“Sometimes I try to remember detailed memories of my past. Usually, I spend a good 40 minutes singing Hindu and Buddhist Kirtan chants. Meditation and breathing exercises are key. I daydream of my lover, process events from the week, send prayers to my friends and family and focus on what I want my life to look like as an artist – the manifestation of my dreams.” She describes this time as “sacred”.
Staying still is not one bit as easy at it seems, for the mind or the body. The ego screams “Why DO you feel the need to be naked in front of people in such a fashion? Is this worth $15 an hour? What WOULD your mother say?” Meanwhile the inner muse allows for the greatest inner peace to take over, so the real work can begin: the work of meditation, observation, peace and artistic production, which is now flowing both ways. “I am an object and a symbol,” Sasha says, “along with a ‘goddess’ who is being documented in her purest form. I am wide open and the creative energy is abundant!”
It is sacred space. Invigorating. A time to cherish. As an artist herself, to further the art of others whilst meditating and bettering her own morale, there is no greater gift to give for Sasha. She is a muse. For the students, and for herself.