Nudity has been an important motif in art for millennia. Artists express aspects of their life through their images. For me the the lines between life and art are hopelessly blurred. Perhaps it all started when a professor in graduate school at the University of Colorado asked me to pose nude for her. At the time I was both intrigued and terrified, very uncomfortable with my own body and body issues, but found the prospect titillating at the same time. Terribly nervous, a month later, we met and she shot several hundred photos, after which I felt so liberated and exhilarated. Thinking back, if I dared ask one of my students now to pose nude, I'd surely be fired. A boundary was certainly crossed when other students told me that they had seen the photos my professor had taken of me as studies for her paintings. But I as I matured, I find those boundaries are harder and harder to define. Embolden by the experience, I became an art model, first in Denver where I would be a stranger. Later my modeling brought closer to home where I ended up posing for colleagues, and occasionally a former student would be present and even current students. As a substitute at a different school teaching an all day figure class and a no show model, I ended up both posing for and teaching the same class! In fact, My eventual teaching appointments at 3 different colleges all began with me meeting the faculty as a figure model first, my eventual bosses having seen me work nude many times previously. Students in one program, once stumbled into a gallery on a field trip with many nudes of me hanging on the wall. But I've never tried to hide the fact that I was a model, my employers of course knew from experience, so it was inevitable.
As a gay man in a small town, most of my friends and acquaintances have all seen each other nude at some point or another. Not only sexually but socially, such as at nude beaches or parties. Many professors at the university socialize naked and don't sleep with each other . It is a part of the culture. For years, I have managed an erotic figure drawing group that I occasionally pose for. It stated with a group of friends. For the first years, models might pose provocatively, but if I posed, it was simply in the nude with no erotic expression. It took about 4 years before I had the courage to express my sexuality through my poses in front of friends and colleagues. By then I had been posing nude for nearly 20 years. That long journey "...makes me feel angry that we are all taught that nudity and human sexuality are in any way shameful. I have a magical body, I have a right to express it. I have a sexuality and I have a right to express it too." (Thanks to my artist friend Jonathan for those last few lines.)
In those earliest years as figure model, I rarely was asked to pose for a photograph.. I thought of nudity as a kind of a costume I put on and I become almost like an actor or a character as I collaborate with the artist to create an image. Nude I revealed none of the clues about me that my clothes offer and I can explore all kinds of personas and ideas. I really feel like and actor and my posing is a performance. Looking at the artwork people produced was entirely different than seeing myself in a mirror or photograph. I could get out of my critical head and finally see myself as others did, without my own warped filter. Later I did heaps photo work for classes and artists. As a figure model, I come alive in front of the camera. With my clothes on, I am myself and don't know what to do.
Now in the nude I can present my most vulnerable self. I like edgy boundary pushing imagery as well as classical and graceful images that are primarily about beauty and form. As a model, I collaborate with other artists, coming up with ideas for images, or posing for a class, I teach with my body in a different way than I do as an instructor. I make art and teach with my body as a model and I make art and teach with my mind with my clothes on. I create art about my experience and desires using the nude body. All the lines and boundaries are blurred. It is the culture and experience of the artist, model and gay man. My art, life and work are all mixed together and lived as one, my naked body moves through all three.