Arts & Culture / Mosaic / November 12, 2009

Going nude nothing new

Standing in front of a class can be hard enough. Then subtract the clothes and you could be looking at a common nightmare. This is not the case for the nude models in Knox College art classes like sophomore Sara Koehnke.

Koehnke got the modeling bug when a co-worker who was also a photographer asked to take some pictures of her. She did not start nude modeling until this past summer. The same friend that she previously worked with suggested nude photography modeling.

Koehnke says there was definitely some tension when she first started nude modeling, but it was not because of being naked.

“It was because I knew the photographer since I was a kid and I had to step back and see him as a photographer, not a friend,” Koehnke said.

Through the same friend, Koehnke progressed to modeling for art classes at The Art Center in Chicago. She described the typical class members as adults in their 30s and 40s wanting to practice their art.

She loved her experience at The Art Center but said it was really intense to stay still for so long.

“My whole leg fell asleep at one point but I had to just grin and bear it,” she said. Poses started out quick at the beginning of class to warm up the model and the artists.

Once class got underway, Koehnke would hold a pose for one hour and 30 minutes, take a 10-minute break and then hold the same pose for another hour and a half.

“You have to completely zone out and focus at the same time,” she said about the mentality required for modeling.

This year Koehnke made the leap to nude modeling in Knox College art classes.

“Back home, I didn’t even think twice about nude modeling because the artists were at an age where they don’t see the body as sexual anymore, they see it as art,” she said. She worried that modeling for her peers on a small campus would be much different.

Koehnke was pleasantly surprised to find out that they were all completely professional.

“They were perfect,” she said.

Koehnke explains that she had nerves at the beginning, but they were just general worries. She quickly realized however that there was no sense in worrying and just modeled.

Koehnke was born with only one hand, and she feels growing up with only one hand has made her more comfortable with how she looks.

“I have modesty, but I don’t really care what people think about my body,” she said. “I wouldn’t run around naked, but I’m comfortable with how I look.”

These were her feelings after her five or so times modeling at The Art Center. Modeling nude for Knox art classes intensified these feelings of comfort in her own skin. Did she feel like she changed more from the Knox modeling?

“Absolutely,” Koehnke said. “There is a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk.” By this Koehnke meant that modeling nude in front of peers shows that she really is comfortable with her body. In her words, it is one thing to think, I don’t care what people think, and another completely to stand naked in front of people with the attitude, “What you see is what you get.”

Part of why Koehnke believes her nude modeling experiences were so positive is that the instructors were so professional. Back at her home in Chicago she felt nude modeling for art could be very relaxed and her experiences in the Knox classrooms solidified her feeling that nude modeling was not something to worry about.

She explains that it is really important that the person in charge sets the right tone. If the instructor is respectful and briefs the class properly on how to interact with the model then the experience will go well.

Koehnke says that she will definitely do more nude modeling for photographers and art classes in the future.

“I have some gigs back home for over break and another photographer I am talking to,” she said.

Interactions with students are not what Koehnke expected either.

The day after modeling in a class Koehnke saw the student that had been standing right in front of her during the class. The student sat by her in Founder’s and started up a conversation. He knew her name and Koehnke said he was really nice and professional.

“It is great to see the students I modeled for on campus, because they are my classmates as well.” Koehnke said.

Jennifer Lloyd

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