Monday, January 26 2009
Many people have mentioned their favorite painting was "Thinking."(pictured to the left) It was purchased some time ago. When I shipped it out I sent along a short story about how it came to be. I realized that story should be much longer and went over into a story about the model and a series of paintings I did of her.
No reason to mention her real name but it all started when a photographer friend of mine told me he had met this young girl who wanted to be a model. He gave me her phone number so, of course, I called her. When she came to the studio it turned out she was just 5 feet tall and 20 years old. She was pretty in a rough sort of way. She had long dark hair, almost black and it fell to below her shoulders. It was very thick but never really combed or styled. Just sort of there and she always looked as if she just got out of bed, which was true too much of the time. She always wore pants and a boy's shirt. Never ironed. She had very deep eyes, which could have made her a very lovely woman, but she had such a chip on her shoulder all the time it never came out as attractive, at least not to me. She was short and slender, with a very nice figure. She had a tiny waist and was rather well endowed for her height. She had very pale skin from never going outside except to my studio or after dark.
After her first time to the studio we agreed to have her come by regularly and we would just see where that took my work. At the time, I was married and my then wife never did like my having models. I really don't blame her but for the most part it was harmless. Contrary to the opinion of her and many others I didn't necessarily end up rolling around the floor naked withe every woman that came to my studio. Then wife, hated this model more than any. She affectionately called her "That Slut" not to her but to me and anyone else she could find to tell.
We started working together by my taking about 100 photos of her and asking her questions about her life. She had no problem talking about it, which made my job easier, but it was difficult to keep her focused. She didn't have a clue as to how to pose and or much care what I wanted her to do. It became very obvious she had a real trailer park attitude. She lived in a small town of about 20,000 that was known for its unemployment and lack of class. (I know I sound like a snob.) She lived in a small apartment in the worst part of town.
She said she lived alone but really she lived with the stud de jour and never really knew who was going to be there from day to day.
She came to the studio three days a week for three hours each time. I paid her well, since she didn't have any other job. She would arrive, get out of her clothes and wrap up in one of the many drapes I had in the studio. She would spend her time either walking around or lying around on the modeling stand I had which was covered with a sort of thin mattress.
She talked on and on about how hot she was and how all the guys were after her and she had them all jumping through hoops for her. The truth was she was the doing the jumping and they only stayed around until they either got bored or found a new toy. Every one she mentioned was either unemployed, barely employed or just out of jail.
She came from a traditional family who were mostly appalled by her and her life. They rode her all the time about what she did which made her do it all the more.
Each time she was there I would take about 50 B&W photos of her and let her talk. She would look at the photos I did the last time, which was way back when I had to process them in my darkroom after she left and pick out all the good ones. She would talk about how she wanted to be painted. This was, of course, all new to me. I've had many models and they did what they were told and were really only a figure to express what I saw in my mind or dreams. They helped me say what I wanted to say but weren't really in charge of it and even though all were an inspiration at times it was still a singular experience for me.
After listening to her for a week or two and doing several sketches of what I thought I wanted to do I realized I wasn't getting any inspiration from her but was finding myself sort of wallowing in her life. I listened each time she was there to what she felt she would look best as in paintings. So, rather it was a brilliant decision on my part or more likely just the only option left I decided to let her pick the photos and tell me what she wanted to be in paint. I did the sketches as per her almost instructions and then went to the canvases. She saw herself as this elegant beauty that would or should be a sort of female star as a vision of beauty or goddess. She was really a pathetic little girl who had surrounded herself with trash that thought nothing of her but let her think she was a very hot babe.
I did a number of paintings of her as she saw herself. A few of these are pictured below. I wanted to keep the compositions simple and just about her. The backgrounds not important as anything more than to accent her. I love to paint in a very old traditional manner with glazes and deep shadows. This gave me an opportunity to do just that and at the same time depict this young girl as she and many other women would want to feel or see themselves.
I had a few paintings of her in my studio and in those days I was more open about letting people visit me on weekends. I ended up selling a few right from the studio. After a few months and a dozen or so paintings I was asked by a gallery to have a solo show. I got the idea of having the show be all about the one model. Painter's models usually don't get recognized and often aren't even at a show or opening. I wanted this show to be all about her and less about me. Just to see what would happen. So I set up the show by putting in the paintings she chose and displayed them, as she wanted. I then set up a high directors chair where she sat for the opening.
It was sort of fun. She went on and on about herself and took offense of anyone saying anything about her nudity or of her being my model and it not being all JUST her. I just stood in the corner and let people come up to me as always and talked about the work but tried to keep them going back to her for answers. As for sales, the show was a total failure. I didn't sell a single painting.
Soon after the show she showed up to model and sat there very down and sad, or at least, quiet. That wasn't her style. I finally got her to talk and found she was pregnant and didn't know exactly who was the father. I was taking photos as we talked and from this came the painting "Thinking." I painted it almost completely from the photo because she didn't like it. It wasn't too long after I had finished it when she showed up one cold and rainy day in an old heavy coat and ball cap. She looked just like the person she really was. It was about this day she told me she was turning 21 and even if she was pregnant she was going to go get good and drunk just the same. It was who she was. So, from a photo of that day I was able to create "Turning 21" (pictured to the right) which she hated and never wanted to have to see again. I wanted to capture the simple frailty of this sad little girl who was in a world she didn't completely understand. I wanted to show her vulnerability but at the same time, using the coat and hat as a metaphor for her struggle to hide her true self.
I started to do some paintings of her during her pregnancy but life was getting complex for her and to be very honest I was not just bored with her but so offended as to how she was now conducting her life I just didn't want her around.
I didn't see her again but I've been told by a person who bought one of the paintings of her she is now working as a security guard and told her, if she saw me, to tell me she was happy now and finally got to carry a gun. Great. Now I am scared.
I really enjoy reading about the paintings and about the models. This one is sort of tragic but I guess they can't all be just fun. Thank youfor sharing.
Posted by Alice on 01/26/2009 - 10:25 AM