Alana Bowden - Volante Online
October 19, 2005
University of South Dakota - Standing naked in a classroom with all eyes fixed on one's bare body is the type of story read about in trashy teen magazines under the heading "My worst nightmare." But senior Joey Feaster assumes this position frequently. And he doesn't even find it scary.
Feaster is a nude model and one of a handful of people who model in the buff for figurative drawing classes at USD. Nude modeling continues a tradition going back to Greek art, and if that fact alone isn't enough to entice prospective models to lose their clothes, the Fine Arts department pays $20 per hour out to models.
Feaster said the class helps him pay for college. As an artist himself, he wanted the perspective of being the artist's subject.
"It was a personal challenge," Feaster said.
People unfamiliar with nude modeling may misinterpret what is valued about the process. The original nude modelers, the Greeks, were idealizing the human body, art department chair Cory Knedler said.
"It's not that we love nudity," Knedler said. "Modeling is seeing the human form for what it is."
That type of honest disclosure can be intimidating for even the most uninhibited of souls.
Before entering the studio for his first modeling experience, garbed only in a robe, Feaster said five minutes prior to the disrobing, he started to feel scared.
"It's like a rollercoaster ride," Feaster said, "You're looking down at the top and you say, 'OK, now I have to do this.'"
Usually with nude models, the subject finds peace in knowing their identity is not revealed to the artists. Anonymity is not afforded to Feaster, as at least half the students he poses for are fellow art majors.
As Knedler explains, the artist-subject relationship is not one of contention but education and professionalism. With nude models, students are able to examine the skeletal structure and witness light and shading around the body. Students don't look at the models as a whole, but rather they focus on rendering specific parts and details of the body.
Knowing the many eyes on you are not judging but rather absorbing details necessary for art gives the models a welcomed sense of security.
"You forget you're naked because they are drawing … not just staring at you," Feaster said.
The models stand on a two-foot platform with the artists surrounding them. Usually there are 10 poses, 30 to 45 seconds each, then several five-minute poses. Feaster said occasionally models will do one pose for 30 minutes.
Models are kept comfortable and receive five minute breaks, usually when the artists critique their own work. One model was so comfortable one class period he actually fell asleep.
Even a five-minute pose can be a long time not to move. But there is a comfort in the routine.
"For the first while my heart was racing," Feaster said. "Eventually I'm just thinking of things like what homework I have."
Drawing a living, breathing nude model merely five feet away might be nerve-racking for the artist.
Senior Nile Eckhoff recalled his first time, when he drew a friend. While the presence of his friend led to uncomfortable feelings at first, those feelings were quickly overshadowed by feelings of accomplishment.
Would Eckhoff, an art major, switch roles with his models? For the moment, he is content to stay on the drawing side of the easel.
"One must be comfortable with their body, and I'm not completely comfortable with mine yet," Eckhoff said.
Focusing on the drawing for Eckhoff may be good for another reason too - as many artists agree the body is a tough subject to draw.
Senior artist Joe Jamison said certain parts of the body are harder to draw than others.
"For me drawing the hands and feet are the most difficult," Jamison said. "For my teacher it is the knees and elbows."
This year, to reach a wider audience to attract students and non-students to come in, the art department has information about nude modeling on the Coyote Careers website. Previously, the department only posted flyers around Vermillion.
Knedler said this change in advertising has been very successful.
"We've actually had more models than we can take," Knedler said.
Posing nude is not only important for the sake of art, but it can be an exhilarating personal experience. Feaster looks back with pride on the newfound independence he's found through nude modeling.
"My reward, would be my self confidence with myself, as well as my body," he said.