ARTILLERY MAGAZINE,VOL 4 ISSUE 2, JANUARY 2010, PAGE 38
ART SCHOOL BURLESQUE
Drawing live models has traditionally been the most pitiless and yet necessary challenge of an artist’s skill. This test of artistic mettle often results in a competitive academic atmosphere that neutralizes the mind-boggling and bizarre nature of the event. Instead of marveling at the spectacle of a naked woman or man, many artists are paralyzed by their fear of failure. There really is nothing worse than a botched figure drawing, and under that kind of pressure, life drawing becomes aesthetic torture.
The Gallery Girls is a group of attractive artists’ models in Los Angeles that do their sexiest best to destroy that fear and loathing. In this third presentation of a life drawing session at the Robert Berman Gallery, the Gallery Girls posed in high heels, lingerie, and in one case, stockings that had been airbrushed on the model’s legs. Presented in multi figure tableaus, the girls stood together on the stage but neither their stance nor their costumes jelled to create a scene; they were in effect posing solo together. Once on the stand these girls looked far more sultry than arty, accentuating the poses with their peignoirs and pouts.
Alpha model and organizer Jennifer Fabos Patton bases her presentation methods on “renaissance thinking” where attractive bodies are the traditional source of rendering, but ironically, complete nudity is taboo. One of the models named Natalia claimed a professional ancestry to Kiki of Montparnasse, apparently preferring such quaint sexuality to the modern amped up come-on of Bettie Page. There seemed to be no sisterhood between these models in the gallery and strippers in a club, even though both experience admiration from an audience set at an unbreachable distance. Perhaps that is due to the bad experiences of a model that received a charcoal pencil and not a dollar bill in her g-string.
The Robert Berman Gallery was an appropriate venue for the exposure of intimate body parts as the artworks on the wall were the erotic paintings of Alejandro Gehry. DJ Jason Savvy spun his “nude music” tunes like “This is Hardcore” by Pulp and occasionally mixed in moans and breathy squealings from porn movie soundtracks. An open bar and buffet kept the artists sustained in their endeavors and created a party atmosphere between drawing sessions. Freed from the immobility of a twenty-minute pose, the models paraded around, examining their likenesses on the paper and computers on which the artists labored. Convivial and chatty, the girls’ friendly attitude helped dispel the embarrassment that any of the artists may have felt at a sub-par rendering. But once the models got back up on the platform, the atmosphere became somber and churchlike as the artists got busy trying to get it right. One artist worked on a large sheet of butcher paper spread out on the ground; smearing the ink and charcoal with his hands, he genuflected by gesture at the high heels of the erotic trinity.
Patton has reinvigorated one of art’s most staid tests of observation and as a result removed some of the pain from painting. It’s definitely not your father’s life drawing class, but he’d still love to be there.