Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gerda Govine: Oh, Life is Full of Surprises, on modeling for the exhibition "Bodies Mapping Time: New Portraits of Women"

exhibition by J. Michael Walker
Avenue 50 Studio, Los Angeles, CA
May 9 – June 7, 2009

I walked into a studio flooded with natural light, draped and shaped by rich-looking fabric, festooned with a beautiful carved bench, welcoming chairs, delicate white flowers, rows and rows of books, striking art work and artifacts, a computer and small heater, and a camera and tripod operated by the artist. This setting created a “sense of place” where I began my body-mapping journey accompanied by the unknown and, at the same time, experienced suspended curiosity and disbelief. The notion and reality of being a model for anyone, especially for a figurative artist, was mind boggling. There was no script for me to follow here, no “how to” manual for proceeding.

Conversation with the artist ensued, a bit awkward initially, but this was softened by a hot cup of tea and then by more relaxed conversation punctuated by a lot of photographs and, at times, hearty good-natured laughter. As I slipped into my many poses, an amazing shift took place for me. I entered a space of organic self-confidence which allowed me to be totally present. I was in a timeless space, unaware of how many pictures were taken or how long the session was. I realized that I did not leave any part of me outside of the studio: I was fully present and accounted for. The following week I went back to see all of my photographs. I kept saying, “Who is that person?” It felt like an “out of body” experience enmeshed in the “twilight zone.” I experienced an avalanche of feelings: surprise, amazement, and wonder. I thought, “This is how other people see me.” What most stunned me was how I felt looking at my own body. It was daunting, yes, but it was also an opportunity to see myself free of dissection or criticism.

This experience has shifted my perception about how I look so that I now fully accept and appreciate myself. I understand that being “as is” is perfect. I also feel free and unencumbered by my physicality. Getting an “up close and personal look” at myself is a gift that continues to empower me. I am glad that I made the decision to pose and that I gave myself permission to enter J. Michael’s studio and experience – such a rare opportunity, which is now part and parcel of my life as I recently celebrated my 67th birthday. Letting myself out and letting myself go, that’s the ticket!
Now comes the “rubber hits the road” part, as I anticipate mingling with friends, family and acquaintances at the opening. Am I ready? Yes. Am I curious to get their feedback? Indeed. Do I have any regrets? Not a one.


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