Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Art Class Proves To Be a Revealing Experience

What a disruption it would be if I were to stand up in the middle of a classroom and disrobe! A single in-class stripping would likely spoil an entire semester for my classmates and send my social standing into a cataclysmic decline.

How strange, then, were the events that transpired around me in a Walsh classroom last week.

You see, this semester I am engaged in the production of art, as the art, music and theater department demands of art history majors. For one term, we are required to practice the techniques perfected by the masters, a process that invariably ends with humbled students appreciating the labors of artistic creation.

The experience also underscores a reality that art history teachers universally neglect: It is hard to look at a naked man.

Indeed, behind every painting, drawing and sculpture of the naked human form (of which there are many – in one six-page section from the art history textbook, Modern Art, 14 nudes are represented, along with one man wearing only underpants) there is a model.

So it was that my class met Karl (name changed to protect the naked), a member of the unclothed fraternity that has shaped the art world through stillness and muscular control.

And this is exactly what my entire class was trying to practice when Karl climbed barefoot onto the knee-high wooden platform in the middle of the drawing studio. His green Umbro shorts were a bad omen – nobody wears Umbros anymore! – but there is no way to be prepared for a man to stand in front of you and quickly and smoothly pull down his pants with a practiced nonchalance.

What an awkward moment followed! Eyes darted about, and a few giggles slipped into the classroom, where time, along with all other earthly regularities, ceased to function.

The tension died down a bit once Karl assumed his first pose, which resembled the posture of a discus thrower out of the ancient Greek Olympics – it was as if NBC’s 15-hour time delay had changed into a 2700-year time warp.

I was vaguely surprised to realize that my first drawing had been completed with the wrong end of the pencil.

The act of drawing involves an intimate study of the subject. This is easy when the subjects are bottles, flowers and other inanimate objects. It is harder when the object is a middle-aged man with a slightly balding head, the first 15 pounds of a beer belly and no sign of muscular definition. I cannot describe Karl further without referring to body parts I wish I never saw.

But ask me to describe Karl’s eyes, and I cannot do it; in this strange state of affairs where a man stood in the middle of a circle of students, took off his clothes and stood there, I found something so pitiful that I couldn’t bear to connect with that man in the most basic, human way. I would not look him in the eyes – to look at his body was one thing, to look inside it, I would not dare.

I had plenty of questions for Karl. I wanted to know how he got into modeling and how much longer he could stand it. I wanted to know how he felt to show his body to a group of college students who would, out of sheer incompetence, distort it in strange and unnatural ways.

But there was no way I could ever ask him these things, not if I couldn’t look him in the eyes.

Karl and I forged a relationship based entirely upon his nudity. If I saw him again, I would recognize him as “the naked guy,” but I’m not sure what he would think of me. In that classroom, he represented a means to an end – by standing unclothed, he helped my class develop our artistic skills. But, from his standpoint, the class itself was an end – his job.

I worried his employment was not as passive as it seemed. I watched, as the sweat trickled down his brow, lingering on his eyelids before falling into his eyes. I wondered why he was sweating – he spent the class sitting and standing in a comfortably cool room without any clothes on. Was Karl shedding more than his clothes when he set foot on that platform?

I take some comfort in knowing that Karl is a good model, which means he can stand rather still for a long period of time. However, he did have a six-foot metal pole that he screwed together and held onto to help keep his balance. I couldn’t avoid thinking the pole was just something to hold onto so he wasn’t all alone on the platform – but if anyone deserves a security blanket, it is a man who takes off his clothes in a room full of college students.

On his platform, encircled by the class, Karl was at once a spectacle, an exhibit and a sensitive individual. I kept hoping that he was able to cloak his spirit from our peering eyes.

On some level, even though I knew nothing about his psyche, I worried Karl was close to the edge. I feared he would explode with the rage of a caged beast, attacking anyone around him.

But my fears were unfounded and unrealistic. No one had drafted Karl into the modeling business – even if such things occurred, he would be an unlikely choice. He had to actively seek out the opportunity to engage in a career defined by nudity.

And even if his pent-up frustrations exploded into a violent rage, I have little doubt that I could take him.

The thing is, he’s not that big a guy.

Tim Haggerty is a junior in the College and Senior Guide Editor of The Hoya.

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