In October 1979 I returned from my mission to Colorado. I worked for a couple of months at home in Illinois to earn some money, and then in January I headed out to Provo to resume my college career.
My good friend (who returned from his mission at the same time I did) and I went around visiting some of our old ward members who now lived in Provo, and one of those was a sister from my home ward who worked in the Harris Fine Arts Center. So we went by to say “hi” to her and talk about old times.
As we were talking, she kept kind of looking at me funny, as if she were sizing me up or something. Then she asked me if I wanted a job. It was recessionary times (sort of like now), and I did need a job. So what was the job? A model for the art department. (She was the department secretary.) What did I know? A job was a job, so I said “sure.”
As I recall, it was on the fifth floor of the Harris Fine Arts Center. There was a little locker room to change in; it was just like the little locker room at the hospital I worked at before my mission where I would change into surgical scrubs (I sterilized surgical instruments for about six months pre-mission). Well, “changing clothes” is a bit of an overstatement. Basically I just took my clothes off, slipped on a speedo (which the department issued), and put on a robe.
Yes, a speedo. In contrast to every other university art department in the country, on-campus art models don’t model nude, but in a speedo. (If art students want to draw nudes, they have to make special arrangements and do it off campus.) Seems quite silly to me, but whatever.
So basically when class started I would walk into the classroom, take off the robe, and the professor would tell me how he wanted me to pose for that session. And then the students would start their drawing. As I recall, I got something like a five-minute break every half-hour. The classes lasted three hours.
It was actually much more difficult than I imagined. I originally thought being a model would be a cushy job; just sit there for three hours. But it wasn’t that easy. Sometimes I’d get posed in a fairly awkward position, and you have to try hard not to move. As the time progresses you kind of feel your blood stopping in its circulation. It takes an act of will to sit there for a half-hour without moving. All in all it was an ok job.
Was it awkward? Sure, at first. Being basically naked in front of a mixed group of strangers in the BYU context is definitely weird. And one of the students in one of the classes was a girl from my new off-campus ward. So that was a little awkward at first, subjecting that poor sister to my mostly naked body in class. It didn’t bother me at all, but I felt sorry for her. It was also kind of weird to go to a student art show and see lots of drawings of myself mostly naked. But when you sit there basically naked for such long periods of time, your reserve melts away pretty quickly, and the awkwardness went away quickly enough. Before long I didn’t give it a second thought.
I don’t recall how long I had the job before I moved on to something else; maybe a semester or two. But I have to smile when I think about it; at the place that collectively freaked out about the prospect of Rodin’s The Kiss being on campus, my job was to sit virtually naked in mixed company for three hours at a time.
[This post is dedicated to Tracy M.]