Taking my Clothes off at BYU

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.]


  1. This is one of the quirkiest BYU stories I have ever heard of, and it brought a big smile to my face. Thanks for sharing. I had no idea such shenanigans occured on campus, which is probably for the best. It seemed like if certain factions of the student body ever caught wind of this kind of thing, you start reading about it in the “Letters to the Editor”. I’m always delighted to hear that the departments aren’t as stuffy as you’d imagine (even modeling in a speedo seems a bit scandalous for the early ’80’s).

  2. Matt Thurston says:

    And those Kevin Barney Nudes are worth how much today? And how much more if signed by the model?

  3. Mark B. says:

    I have no idea what Kevin looks like, but all I can think of is Jason Giambi in that gold thong.

  4. I LOVE it Kevin!! Life drawing is simply the best. Beleive me, as the artist, it’s weird at first, too- after a short while, you lose your vanity about the whole thing.

    Thanks, Kevin.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Mark B., think Borat.

  6. An ex-gf at BYU briefly attended a school in Washington State, where they would use just a sock. And my wife took an art class at North Texas, which was full nude. Her first day, she got to sit directly behind the 60-year-old female model and draw. She said that was when she appreciated BYU a little more.

  7. There were real nudes in the Springville art museum once a week and lots of BYU art students would go there to practice the real thing. (I had a friend who modeled there occasionally)

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    Interesting queuno. Maybe they had Red Hot Chili Peppers modeling there.

  9. A sock? Holy cow.

    Some of my favorite models for drawing from were the less-than-perfect; the older models and the heavier models were a challenge, and I loved that.

  10. The sock will always remind me of “photo-dynamic therapy” for psoriasis. (Imagine paying to do what Kevin did, with a sock, but in a chamber like a Star Trek transporter that emits bright laser light.)

    Kevin, Brigham Young salutes you.

  11. Cute story Kevin. Do you have one of those drawings of you? I was at BYU in 1980. I used to like to go to the Harris FIne Arts Center and enjoy looking at the various student art work. I remember the almost nudes. I was glad at the time BYU was so modest. Just think, I probably saw a likeness of you.

  12. I am shocked and appalled! (translation: delighted and amused)

  13. mondo cool says:

    me wonders if Kevin misses the old days? If he was so used to it then, would he be so now? Wow, things really are getting tough in the US these days.

  14. My sister was a model for the art department, so when I got to BYU she was telling me what an easy job it was. I applied to be a model there, but, alas, they didn’t hire me. Probably it was because I am not sculpted like Kevin.

  15. I read this post right after reading Ronan’s. This is one of the reasons I love BCC.

    I might have been offered such a position when I was a college student; I certainly would not be offered it now – unless students like Tracy M really wanted to practice on more-than-not-so-perfect physiques.

  16. I’m actually surprised you were allowed to wear something tight and form fitting as a speedo and not required to wear the long boxer style bathing suit. Much more progressive than I would have imagined back then.

  17. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 5

    That’s ridiculous, Kevin. You look like Brad Pitt compared to Sacha Baron Cohen; and let’s face it, I am uniquely qualified in here to comment on hunkiness.

    This post has Bloggernacle Scandal written all over it. Where are the photos???

  18. “let’s face it, I am uniquely qualified in here to comment on hunkiness.”

    There has to be a special Niblet category for comments like this one. There just has to be.

  19. You mentionned sitting still for three hours at a time. Did you ever get stretch breaks to move a little, ie to help prevent risk of blod clots? Maybe they didn’t do this back then but do they allow such breaks now? (yeah you were young but even young people can get a clot by not moving for prolonged times)

  20. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 19

    Nude Modeling = Death

    Consider yourself warned, Kevin.

  21. Kevin, what I want to know is whether the students drew the speedo into the drawing. It would be strange to see drawings at an art show of a naked man in a speedo. Did they cover that area with some artful shading? Place a fig leaf in your hand? Draw you standing behind a table?

  22. Norbert says:

    Or was this artwork the inspiration for the TK smoothie?

  23. HA!!

  24. Mark B. says:

    Re 19:

    Was that “blod clots” or “blog clots”?

  25. Randall says:

    Au contraire MikeinWeHo,

    Based on the thread from Kaimi’s recent posting, BCC is full of people who view orientation as a continuum rather than a dichotomy.

    Many of us can gauge hunkiness, but we do it with a hand over one eye.

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    Mike #17, what a nice thing to say. Coming from you in particular–as you say, you’re in a position to have a more finely attuned eye to that sort of thing than at least most of the other men in these here parts–I’ll treasure it.

    nita #19, yes, I got stretch breaks every half hour, and I used the time to try to get the circulation going again. I don’t quite recall, but I think at first I would put the robe on during the break, but very quickly (like maybe even during the first class) I gave up on that and just focused on getting my blood moving. It’s really amazing how quickly your insecurity and vanity goes away, as Tracy rightly says.

    Katie #21, my recollection is that the students just drew the speedo as part of the drawing. I honestly wish I had some of those old drawings (I don’t, as I wasn’t the creator of any of them). Maybe I would sign it and let Affirmation auction it off or something (grin). (But I didn’t look like those RMs in that recent beefcake calendar or anything like that.)

    My wife sometimes takes figure drawing classes at Harper College (although lately she’s been focusing more on sculpture and printmaking), and if they had a model not show up or something and were in extremis I would be ok subbing (no speedos there). I wouldn’t want to commit to something like that on a regular basis just because of the time involved, but if there were a genuine need in a specific instance I would be ok modeling nude.

  27. MikeInWeHo says:

    Fund raising idea:

    Men Of The Bloggernacle calendar.

    Better still, perhaps a competition to see who could raise more money. The calendar could compete with a video produced by another site:

    Feminist Mormon Housewives Gone Wild!

    All proceeds given to the Perpetual Chastity Fund or other worthy charity.

    (OK, enough joking around….I have to get ready for work. Thanks for indulging my tangent, Kevin.)

  28. Thaand let’s face it, I am uniquely qualified in here to comment on hunkiness.


    You know, I can’t help but think that some guy wearing a sock over his genitals would attract more groin attention than full nudity would. I wonder if some of the BYU students end up with a similar mental distraction, when the powers-that-be impose a speedo?

  29. (But I didn’t look like those RMs in that recent beefcake calendar or anything like that.)

    UGH! Too young, too underfed!

  30. Kevin Barney says:

    Mike, FMH would absolutely destroy the men, no question.

  31. Speaking of FMH, I’m glad to see that they’ve responded to Kevin’s post about taking his clothes off, with a full-blown series on porn. This seems like a good response, lest Kevin lead others, speedo-ly, down to hell.

  32. Steve Evans says:

    my eyes! The goggles do nothing!

  33. Yes, but the goggles do match the speedo theme.

  34. annahannah says:

    how does the sock stay on???

  35. Mark IV says:

    Steve, beer goggles won’t do any good in this case.

  36. Just an observation: all of the entries on the new comments list show as ‘handle: Taking my clothes off”. It appears as if there is some kind of orgy going on here!

  37. You know, with this new revelation about you, Kevin, you could probably fetch a handsome sum from that speedo on eBay if it’s still lying around.

  38. #37 – If it’s still lying around, I don’t want to meet Kevin anymore – or have my son model at BYU. Eww!!

  39. My ex-gf delighted in telling stories about the socks at her Washington school. We broke up the next year, after dumped me and then got pregnant after pulling on some guy’s sock… n/m.

    (Ahem. There was no sock-pulling where I was concerned.)

  40. Art Collector says:

    Interesting. Recently at Sotheby’s a semi-nude sketch of a Speedo-wearing twentysomething sold for something like $20k.

    If I recall, the artist was from Utah, and the sketch was titled “Reclining Semi-Nude #45” and subtitled, “A Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Man.”