Off The Record

by Jilian Gundling | 1/23/09 6:03am

On the first day of Amber's job as a nude art model, she was nervous.

"I was walking there trying to calm myself down and prepare myself for it," she said.

Several minutes after the robe came off, however, she relaxed.

"When you're there you're holding a pose, you don't have time to look at yourself."

Amber started modeling this year, and said it is something she has always thought about pursuing.

"Most people wouldn't even consider doing it," she said. "I've had friends who've done it. I'm pretty comfortable with my body, and I thought it could be an interesting experience; to see how people would approach me."

According to Amber, part of the reason she is comfortable with modeling is because she has a different conception of nudity than most of mainstream American society.

"In our society, if you are nude, you are equated with being vulnerable. It's not the case in this job. You're not eroticized, you're basically an object," she said.

Within the classroom, Amber does not believe that her nudity provokes awkwardness, it's simply "an exercise."

Outside of the classroom, however, is where attitudes shift, Amber said.

"The dynamics change, guys see girls as girls, not as objects, hopefully," she said, laughing. "Sometimes, if there was a guy in the class I've modeled for, if I see him outside of the class, he will not make eye contact with me or pretend he doesn't see me, whereas girls usually say 'Hi,' and are friendly. It's a weird dynamic."

However, though Amber said she does not usually feel uncomfortable in class, she chooses only to model for advanced classes.

"I don't do beginner classes, just because some kids might not be as serious and make a bigger deal of it and not act as professionally. I choose to work only for upper-level classes," she said. "They are people who understand the purpose of models."

Amber said she is grateful for the general attitude of these advanced students.

"The thing with art students is that they're usually not going to talk about [my nudity]. I don't think many of them are the type of students that would be overly-concerned, which I'm very appreciative of," she said.

When deciding to model, Amber said her largest apprehension was that students would think her modeling was immoral.

"I don't think it is [immoral]," she said. "All the great artists use art models. A human is the hardest thing to draw. I'm doing a favor to the growth and development of the students as artists."

According to Amber, most students are open-minded when they find out she is an art model, and only an occasional few react immaturely.

"Some people are like, 'Wow, you stand around naked.' It's not like I'm in a frat, slutting myself out. There are people who do far worse things on this campus."

Amber believes that being an art model makes her more, rather than less, comfortable with her body.

"I think a lot of the reason people are uncomfortable is because they are afraid to be judged. If people see your body for art and appreciate it for a good purpose, as a way to develop their skills, it makes you more confident."

But, though Amber has gained more confidence through this job, she said some inherent self-assuredness is also necessary.

"You have to really, really be confident about yourself. If not, you could feel exposed. I think a lot of people connect the two: exposed emotionally and physically, but they are different," she said. "Even though I'm naked, which equates to being bare, I'm not, because I'm not vulnerable in any way."

Along with confidence, another key attribute to being a nude model is "the realization that what you're doing is not bad."

To Amber, the attitude that a nude body is a "bad" thing is just the remnants of a "puritanical" society.

Amber is also emphasized that being an art model allows for self-reflection.

"You're standing there in a pose, or sitting, and you have to think of something. You're wondering, 'I wonder how their perception of me has changed.' [The art students] would see me in Collis, or in a class, and think 'She's just some girl,' and they might think after seeing me in art class, 'Why is she doing this?' How does their perception change? Or people who haven't been in a class, but just hear about it. Do they see me as more sexualized? Do they see me as weird? Do they see me as more confident with my body? It's an interesting observation to make."

Beyond thinking about how her peers might react, Amber also reflects on her own motivations.

"I do ask myself why I do it. I think it could be something about me wanting to show that a naked body is nothing dirty, it's something beautiful."

Another aspect of the job that Amber enjoys is the inventiveness it involves.

"It's definitely a creative job," Amber said. "They don't tell you how to sit, you have to be very comfortable, to be able to move, to know how to stand, to know how a certain curve on your body shows and how to twist yourself to make an interesting composition."

For Amber, this aspect of modeling came naturally.

"I do black and white photography, and I'm pretty good with shadows and contrasts," she said. "I also do yoga. For me [being an art model] was very intuitive."

Ultimately, Amber wants to make the distinction between an art model and an exhibitionist.

"Some people would think it's something an exhibitionist would do. I definitely don't consider it to be that. If I was an exhibitionist, I would streak finals. It's just a really great job for self-reflection," she said. "Not everyone is capable of being honest with themselves, not everyone is ready to take the criticism and judgment."