Being naked in front of a classroom full of your peers sounds like a nightmare for most people. But for nude models in higher-level figure drawing classes at the University, it is just a regular Monday.
Elementary education junior Molly Aiken, who has been modeling since her freshman year, said the experience is very easy to get used to after the initial disrobing.
“The first time, I was nervous because you’re showing everything to a bunch of strangers, but once you start doing it, you’re comfortable with it very quickly. Everyone is very mature and comfortable in class,” Aiken said.
Aiken was excited to try nude modeling at the University, especially since a high school acquaintance who had been a nude model and encouraged her to go for it.
Aiken currently models for one class, doing about one three-hour session per week. For her, the main difficulty is holding the pose.
“If you’re standing for a long time, you get tired or lightheaded, but if it’s a reclining pose, then it’s pretty easy,” Aiken said.
Aiken said the experience helped her become comfortable with her body, and she finds the final products rewarding, especially when looking at the artwork displays at the end of the year.
“You get to see how everyone interprets your body, and you see the beautiful artwork they make,” Aiken said. “And help someone with their college education.”
Biochemistry sophomore Quinn Blanchard, an alternate model, said she also enjoys modeling for art classes. Currently filling in for models for about three hours every other week, Blanchard said she feels confident in the classroom atmosphere.
“When you get naked in front of that many people, they’re all awkward so you have all the power in that situation,” Blanchard said. “They have to look at you and they have to draw you, you can just zone out and pretend they’re not there.”
For longer poses, she usually sits or stands. The longest Blanchard’s ever held a pose was 40 minutes, but Blanchard said most of the poses aren’t too physically demanding.
One of the things Blanchard thinks is most noteworthy about nude modeling is how much it normalizes bodies, reducing sexualization in a way she finds refreshing.
“Either way, you’re not there to be pretty or attractive,” Blanchard said. “You’re just there to be a human being, a realistic object that they can draw, and there’s something really nice about that.”
Administrative Coordinator for the LSU School of Art Jennifer Mayer said the program, which has been in place for about 15 or 20 years, is always looking for more models, both male and female.
The program gets about two or three applicants a semester, and each figure drawing class uses a main model and a few alternate models. Mayer stressed that the candidates must have commitment and professionalism.
“I really depend on students and sometimes you just get students who are not reliable,” Mayer said. “The professor needs someone who is going to be able to show up and be here when they need to be there.”
There are about 15 models and alternate models currently scheduled in the program, but with three additional figure drawing classes scheduled for the spring semester, more applicants are needed.
Since the hiring process is very difficult for external candidates, Mayer usually relies on student applicants. Alumni are also welcomed back if they want to model. According to Mayer, figure drawing is extremely important for art students.
“Studio sessions are great for learning how to visualize different scenarios and not getting so isolated on one certain figure,” Mayer said. “Sometimes you have the same model the whole semester, and [new models] give them an opportunity to see another body type.”
Possible future plans for the program include having two models for a classroom at the same time, expanding the program to get a larger variety of students and increasing the amount of dependable student models.
Overall, Mayer said the program is extremely important for arts-oriented students.
“Figure drawing is crucial if you’re going into the arts. It’s one of the things that is the hardest to learn, but once you learn that, you have a base to lead from and go from there,” Mayer said.