On Saturday night, I attended an art reception called “Naked in New Hope”, an exhibition by 92 artists from PA, NJ, and NY (and one from Fort Collins, Colorado!) centered around the human body. One of my favorite works, and I’m not just saying this in hopes that she reads it, was of Claudia, a NYC-based figure model and author of the Museworthy blog.
The artists were required to submit photographs of themselves, and doing so required, well, some doing, as described here by Chris Carter. You’ll notice that she doesn’t publish the picture she took of herself, and instead shows one of the lovely paintings she entered in the show.
I attended the reception with two other Lehigh Valley figure models, Elizabeth Stetson and Patricia Sonne. Pat has been modeling for over twenty years, and Elizabeth and I each for about two. Between the three of us, we have been to most of the art schools, colleges, universities, and open drawing groups in the area, and spent quite a while sharing opinions and occasional complaints about mutually-known students, instructors, and private artists.
We stuck together as a trio for the evening as we wandered around the reception and then ventured into downtown New Hope, an art-and-food mecca about an hour southeast of the Lehigh Valley, exploring its streets and stores before settling into a microbrewery for dinner. During this time we laughingly referred to ourselves as “The Three Graces,” a reference to Greek mythology and the embodiment of feminine ideals that in turn frequently shows up in the visual and performing arts. (Don’t worry, I didn’t know that either until, umm, Saturday night.)
One of my favorite moments in the evening, though, came while we were still driving toward our destination. We stopped on a moment’s notice for ice cream cones at an iconic parlor called “Oh Wow Cow,” while cherishing the fact that figure models aren’t expected to maintain an artificially low body weight. A little while later, we came to a three-way intersection that had low visibility and quite a bit of traffic. Earlier, I had turned the radio off to be able to hear Pat and Elizabeth talking; as we sat at the intersection, a quiet fell across us, with no music, no car noise, and a lull in conversation.
There was no opening in the traffic after at least thirty seconds, and I began to try to break the silence. I often do this in my family by saying, “The angel of silence has swept over”, which somehow both acknowledges it and ends it. But on Saturday night, I stopped myself from talking before I actually began, and instead let the silence continue for another moment, before I was able to make our turn and we were again on our way.
It was a pause that could have happened in any group, of course. But I wondered if part of what made it a comfortable silence – almost a pretty silence, if you can imagine that – was that we are three women who spend significant amounts of time, while in the presence of others, wordless. It can be a pleasure not to have to fill every moment with conversation, chit-chat, and ideas and plans, and to instead let quietude have a place.