Last fall in Paris the Musee D'Orsay's exhibition "Masculine / Masculine. The Nude Manin Art from 1800 to the Present Day" was a visual ode to the nude male form captured in paintings.  The landmark exhibition was the first of its kind and raised questions about artistic representations and societal perceptions of the nude male form.  Taking a page from the Musee's book, we wanted to explore body politics at the Academy.  And since we are equal opportunity figurists, we sought out the naked truth from one of our many male models to see if their experience differed from a female's. While this interviewee shall remain nameless, his body and face are quite familiar to our Academy artists in residence.  The insight he shares reflects the Academy's viewpoint that all nude forms are beautiful and not gender specific.  
Q: Tell me about the start of your modeling endeavor. How did it start? How long have you been modeling? What was your first experience like?
A: I've been modeling on and off for a few years.  The first time I modeled in a professional setting, I was filling in for a girlfriend on a morning when she was violently sick!  It was a morning of short poses (which I prefer!) at Janus Collaborative.  I became a regular there, and other jobs came along through various connections like this one at the Academy. I enjoy the energy here so I stick around.   

Q: Can you describe your typical day as an Academy model?  How many hours do you pose? For how many students? Which classes?
A: A typical day for me here is like a 9 - 5 working day - which means I'm commuting with all the day-jobbers, which is very strange for me, since as a freelance artist I'm able to avoid rush hour under other circumstances.  The morning session and afternoon session are both three hours - I mostly do multiple week long poses, where I pose for 20 minutes at a time.  The monitors are very good about keeping track of my breaks.  I've mostly done painting classes here but I've done a few drawing classes as well.

Q: While you are posing, do you think of anything in particular?  What thoughts run through you mind during a session? 
A: At the best of times, I practice Buddhist meditation.  At the worst of times, I silently shout at myself about my physical discomfort.  At the medium times, I write entire shows in my head, and jot them down in notes during my breaks.  I prefer the medium times.

Q: Anything out of the ordinary happen to you while modeling?  Any funny anecdotes to share? 
A: Oh goodness, I imagine my sense of "ordinary" has changed a great deal while modeling.  One of my favorite gigs though was getting to model at Will Cotton's drawing party at the Academy.  It was very glamorous, with music playing and great catering and wine.  It was a lovely party where I just happened to be getting paid to stand very still and naked.  I definitely spent that gig thinking "can every day be like this?" 

Q: Have you ever tried being on the other side and drawing/painting a model?
A: I never have.  I've always been very interested in drawing and the visual arts, but my passion for performing has always taken up all of my time!  I really barely know anything about the visual arts, and not much about anatomy for that matter, so it's interesting for me to listen to the instructors - most of the time I have no idea what they're talking about, and occasionally I'll get a flash of insight like "ohhh he's been talking about my shoulder."

Q: How do you maintain a sense of privacy?   In your opinion, what’s most beautiful about the human form?
A: My sense of what is private and what isn't has changed over time.  In regards to nudity, it's become a non-issue to me. Nudity just feels like another costume!  I've performed in burlesque shows, and my clown character loves trying to take his clothes off at every opportunity he has.  I think the most beautiful things about the human form are the things we have in common.  When you see people naked, you realize we're all just the same silly primates.

Q: Are you interested in the outcome of the work?  What advice would you give to artists about capturing the delicacies and beauty of the body? 
A: Oh, yes, I like to see drawings and paintings of me progress.  Advice to artists?  Um, I like it when your work is flattering!

Q: What do you consider the breakfast of champions?  What do you/can you eat before you model? 
A: The breakfast of champions is remembering to eat!  I need to eat, drink coffee and be well rested before I model. Otherwise I am very unhappy!

Q: Finally, how does modeling fit in with your other work?—(a chance to promote yourself here)
A: Since I'm a freelance performer, modeling fits very well into my schedule, since I can accept gigs on a case-by-case basis!  I'd like to think I have a very high kinesthetic awareness from my training as a performer, and I bring that physical awareness to my modeling. 


Are you an Academy student or alumnus looking for more opportunities to work with a model?  Join us for Friday Night Modeling Sessions on April 18th, April 25th, May 2nd, May 9th and May 16th from 6:00pm-9:00pm.  You bring materials, we'll have a model set-up and ready to pose for you.  Please contact Katie Hemmer (khemmer@nyaa.edu) for more details. 

To learn more about modeling, please contact Jessica Augier (jaugier@nyaa.edu), our model coordinator.


Zoë Suenson-Taylor was one of two Academy students to try her steady hands at stone carving last summer.  Part of the Carrara, Italy residency, Zoe created a sculpture that will make its American debut tonight at ABC Stone's Brooklyn headquarters.  Hours before the unveiling we caught up with Zoe to get an insider's view of the residency and experience in Italy.  This is part one of the two part post.

NEGOTIATING HISTORY in CARRARA by Zoë Suenson-Taylor (MFA 2013)

Every morning we were expected to be at the Corsanini Studio and stone yard by 8:30-9:00am, so we were up for breakfast by 8:00am. After changing into work boots and a respirator, ear defenders and shaded safety glasses, we got to carving.  The set up was perfect.  The stone yard is outdoors and is open on all sides so there’s always a breeze. There is a spectacular view up to the quarries and a grand sense of space.  There were cranes and forklifts and lots of strong muscles that made the stone seem weightless.  After working for a few hours, all the artisans from the studio ate lunch together upstairs.  Lunch was always a gorgeously, simple Italian meal of pasta and sauce, a salad picked from Massimo’s garden, sometimes cheese and meats or a home cooked meat dish, a small glass of red wine, occasionally chocolate and a shot of grappa to conclude the meal.  I always left the table with a spring in my step.  We then carved until last light, about 7:00-8:00pm.  Marina de Carrara is very close to the coast so we’d refresh in the sea with the very last rays of sun and then sample a pizza place with their own special secret family recipes for dinner until going to bed from sheer exhaustion.  This was my routine, six days out of the every week, for the two and a half weeks I was there.  Needless to say, it was the most demanding art experience I’ve had.

Many people have said how hard they believe stone carving to be. I have always revered it and treated it with such respect that I was almost afraid to try. I needed to get better at everything else before I could manipulate a precious piece of marble.  In Carrara there is so much marble they pave the streets with it. Marble as big as a suitcase can be thrown in the dumpster as an offcut. The very first day, we sourced  and  heaved a piece out to become our first fledgling attempt at carving. We bumped and stuttered and fumbled through the first steps. I was in a state of constant perplexity. How do you keep your eye protectors from fogging up while wearing a dust mask? I was always readjusting my mask placing it higher or lower on my face.   I ate a lot of marble dust and got a lot in my eyes. But then with the right tools held in the right way, it became almost effortless, like a hot knife through butter.  This was immensely satisfying. On that random offcut we were free, not afraid of making an error and making things up as we went along.   Working on the primary piece for our time here was different; it was much harder!

The greatest challenge was measuring. Using the huge angle grinder while  shifting so much heavy material. It took a while to wrap my head around trigonometry again.  I had to translate the bozetti (Italian for maquette) to the marble block and match up the four cardinal points.  At that stage, there was so much to learn and we were also holding the carving tools for the first time.  We came to learn that the angle of the point you are trying to reach needs to have two known points at a 90-degree angle on the same plane as the point, and the cala, or depth measurement, should be as perpendicular to the point as possible. That information is vital and it didn’t sink in easily.  I really freaked out when the very first point we went for was the tip of the nose, the center of the face. One day I took the whole day to get two points. Another huge challenge was just negotiating the position of the head. The head is slightly inclined to the right, and turned to the right and tilted upwards. Your eyes always want to correct this and level the face. I wish I could have tipped the 300lb block right up to the bozzetti face but I’m not that strong.  After removing what felt like mountains I was only half way.

Having the head on the angle and the right arm raised meant it was also extremely hard to get access to the neck and clavicular region.  I didn’t start with a very good bozzetti. I actually took two maquettes to Italy, as I thought they both had accents of the idea I was trying to reach; An idea of a sneeze and what controls it. I enjoy the ambiguity of the lost yet hopeful moment one has to resign all control in an anticipation of the impending relief.  We began putting mastic points on one bozzetti and I’d say, “Oh, that needs to come out”, “There’s actually going to be a bit more there”, “Yeah, I don’t want it to quite be like that."  I saw all of the imperfections amplified as I went.

I thought after ten days on the residency my carving was really looking like my model. Two days later I stopped measuring points and steadily unified masses blocking out the larger forms and constantly drew on the piece. By the end of our time in Carrara my fat head with a sock on it was almost finished. An educated estimate proposed it might take another three to five weeks to complete.  I'm sorry not to have completed it in Carrara.  Before coming home, I was already dreaming of when it would be shipped back to the States so I could finish it.

For the last four days, Heather and I decided to visit Florence and Rome, a hard decision because we wanted to keep carving. But not visiting would have been sacrilege.  After our experience, we had a new and amplified respect for all things carved in stone.  Literally EVERYTHING becomes incredible at the Borghese; my master of sculpture, Bernini had us in awe.  Somehow we were not asked to leave and stayed sketching throughout the staggered entry times. They must have seen how inspired we were.

With my next stone carving I will start from a fully realized piece. Something that is ordered in it’s dimensions, thorough in its proportional relationships, designed to the smallest degree the formal relationships and completely evoking a soulful style complimentary to the idea. I now see how important it is to be committed to the formal construction, so accurate points can be taken as it is scaled up. The sculpture will naturally evolve with the amplification of size so there is more space, more area of possibility and more decisions. Once the key structural positions have been reached in the carving, I think it is important to work freehand.  By having a fully investigated guide in the form of the fully realized bozzetti, I will save so much time!

Stay tuned for the second part of Zoe's reflection on her experience in Carrara. 

To learn more about the Carrara residency please visit the Residency page on the Academy's website

Class of 2015 Interviews Part 2: What are your inspirations?

Looking at the Inside - Class of 2015 Interviews (part two)
How is it already March?! It’s amazing to think how quickly this first year is going at the Academy.  We’ve got lots of exciting things happening in the next few months as we wrap up our first year.  But before it’s over, I wanted to introduce you to a few more of my classmates – to share their oeuvre and the interesting background that each of them come from.
I asked them a few simple questions: 
What inspires your work? 
And who are you inspired by?

Washington, DC
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
Painting has been away for me to rescue my experience from the flow of time. To hold it out, so it can be revisited. Not necessarily to be revisited by me, but for someone else to have an opportunity to see or feel something the way I do. I think painting, particularly in the west, was almost intuitively invented to delay the fleeting reality of sensual experience. Lately, my paintings have been fueled by my fascination with mystery and wonder. I am amazed to be located on this planet, a ball of rock rotating around a spherical fire. It is a very odd, but common situation, and the more I look at things I can’t shake the feeling that my existence is quite weird. When I paint, I don’t think of subject matter or content, I try to let the meaning of the painting reveal itself to me through the process. I don’t know what question to ask when I set out to paint. But it’s not exactly a question that I’m wondering about, it’s a feeling that I have. I cannot formulate the question that is my wonder. When I open my mouth to talk about it, I suddenly find I’m babbling non-sense. But that should not prevent wonder from being the foundation of painting.
An artist that has constantly been on my mind since first seeing his paintings is Caravaggio. Before seeing his work I had my mind set out to become an abstract painter. Caravaggio’s compositions pulled me in, the way the shapes fit together and activate each other.  I have always been fascinated with the slight ambiguity that is in his paintings, which is hardly noticeable at first. When looking at his paintings one is never quite sure what is happening, it is always on the edge. As art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon noted, Caravaggio’s paintings “border between the sacred and profane.” 

Shaina Craft (MFA 2015)
Philadelphia, PA
Maryland Institute College of Art
I talk about existence by painting the figure.  Before I came to the Academy I was layering the figure over itself as a way to discuss the various levels on which we experience our lives and ourselves.  Now that I'm here, I've decided to pursue that same topic by other means.
Work by Shaina Craft (MFA 2015)
Veneers of painted flesh mingle on my canvases, blending the borders between figurative and landscape, portrait and abstract.  My deepest desire is to create provocative artwork that challenges the foundations of figure painting by continuing to blur the boundaries between digital and traditional work, pushing color, and recontextualizing traditional subject matter.  I wield my palette as another means of pushing limits, experimenting with extreme and unfamiliar hues for the human form, creating something recognizable and yet entirely alien, like landscapes comprised of bodies or fluorescent faces fading in and out of existence.
I don’t like the word ‘inspiration.’  To me that word conjures images of artists sitting around waiting to be struck by lightning so they can have a great idea and make work.  The body of work I made before starting at the Academy came by looking hard at the work of other painters, figuring out what I wanted, and experimenting with my medium and process until I came up with something that worked for me.  Starting in 2011, it was a year of research and trials before I made a decent painting.  I suppose that’s why these pieces are titled as ‘Experiments.’
Work by Shaina Craft (MFA 2015)
I use myself as a model frequently.  People mention it less with that past body of work, maybe because it’s difficult to recognize any one face or person in them.  But, I wouldn’t say I use myself as a subject.  I’m not painting me.  I’m painting the human experience; the faces and bodies are just stand-ins.  I work from photo-references most of the time.  I took a bunch of photography classes in high school and college so now I can very carefully stage and light my shots.  I've even shown some of that work in exhibitions.  For me, there isn't much of a boundary between what I consider reference material and what I consider the finished piece.  If an image seems to need a painted surface, I give it one; if it needs pastel, I use that.  I grew up with a metal sculptor as a mother so some of my earliest memories are of her explaining to me that form follows function.
Shaina Craft (MFA 2015)
I read constantly.  All kinds of things – poetry, philosophy, memoir, fiction.  I'm pretty obsessed with Sci-fi and urban fantasy.  My favorite contemporary fiction writer is Charles De Lint.  He combines myths and folk tales from cultures all over the world into these beautiful stories that take place in present-day cities.  The thing about science fiction is when it’s done well it’s always a reflection of modern culture, like looking in a distorted mirror.
An artist I’m currently looking at a lot is Justin Bower.  Bower is painting about all of the things I'm interested in; The state of human beings in this age of technological evolution and pop culture overload and what a slippery subject that can be.  It’s a new phenomenology, not what is being, but what have we become? I love his loaded brush strokes and crazy bright colors. My favorite painting by Justin Bower (it was really hard to pick just one) – “Architecture of Infection,” 2010.

Istanbul, Turkey
Ringling College of Art and Design
Work by Gokhan Gokseven (MFA 2015)
I was born in London and raised in Istanbul. I am the only child of an Opera director and a pharmacist. 
When I paint, either in the studio or during classes, I always try to design a general atmosphere for that painting. Now, that plan rarely succeeds - very often the result I get is something different than the initial feel I design before the painting. But usually those kinds of paintings of mine were turned out to be the most successful ones. And whenever I don't have that initial plan-they usually fail. So for me, having an idea in the beginning is the key, whether that idea later will be shown in the painting or not, does not matter. I like how after watching a horror movie, usually a creepy scene gets stuck in your head. I think that is sometimes the feeling I want to get.
Work by Gokhan Gokseven (MFA 2015)
I'm inspired by pretty much everything, and they constantly change. But mainly, I draw inspiration from the negativity. They don't have to be personal negative matters. I draw inspiration from the music I listen to, the neighborhood I live in, the other art I look at, what is going on in the world, being far from the country where I am from, all these kinds of things. I try not to listen to music much when I paint. I always put on a political talk program from a tube channel or a discussion about existence of UFO's or something like that. 
Work by Gokhan Gokseven (MFA 2015)
If I have to think of one name in the history of painting that had the biggest inspiration to me, without thinking twice I would say Hammershoi. I was introduced to his work by a teacher of mine when I was in my junior year in college. I was very influenced by how one can paint such simple subjects and invoke unsettling feelings on the viewer, and repeat this and never be repetitive. That is a very hard thing to achieve. His paintings are anything but epic. They don't beg for your attention, they just say “this is me. Like it or not, I don't care.” I think this is a statement that only the bravest artists can have. Maybe his influence on my work doesn't show directly, but it certainly made me much more mature in terms of how I approach to picture making.

Houston, Texas
Maryland Institute College of Art
Work by Gabriel Zea (MFA 2015)
I’ve always been drawn to the elegance of the human form and its ability to reflect our personal history. Bodies and faces typically reflect our lifestyle and I like the idea of being able to understand aspects of a person’s personality based on a sensitive observation of their physical features and gestures. The face especially reveals more and more of our temperament as we age, and it’s in the process of trying to duplicate the nuanced features of a face through elements of line and value that I find my most consistent inspiration. In devoting myself to recreating someone else’s attributes I feel that I’m able to meditate on their personality as a reflection of mine. Hopefully, through both consistent observation and introspection, I can make both our vulnerabilities evident on the surface of their figure.  In this world of unceasing flux I want to convey the steadfast brilliance and uniqueness of a person’s personality, and how against time and tribulation their individuality is their protective armor.  
Work by Gabriel Zea (MFA 2015)
As of late, I’ve been trying to integrate moments that are rendered monochromatically into my paintings, as a means of magnifying the symbolic power of a single color (in the context of a figure), and also in an attempt to simplify my images and give them an iconic quality. 
An artist I’ve been interested in for a while is James Jean.  Originally an illustrator, he transitioned into fine art several years ago and his work has since walked a line between an illustrative and fine art aesthetic. While his style can vary a lot, I admire his way of combining wonderful draftsmanship with very expressively and boldly applied chromatic colors. His use of color effectively imbues a sense of madness over the controlled elegance of his line work. One of my favorite paintings of his is entitled Lovers, 2011.  It aptly combines an overwhelming superficial beauty with clear themes of anxiety, chaos, and violence. The four round panels and overall circular composition evoke the idea of beauty and suffering being components of a circular process.


Camila Rocha (MFA 2015) will be blogging here throughout the year about her first year at the Academy and moving to New York City.  Check the label "First Year Experience" or "Camila Rocha" for more posts about her first year at the Academy. 
If you have any questions for Camila or her classmates, please leave them in the comments section of the blog.

All images are courtesy of the artists.


By Megan Ewert (MFA 2013)

I knew I wanted to be a teacher the first time I walked out of critiques in my Painting I class in undergrad. Fairly shattered by the less than stellar feedback, I remember asking my painting teacher, “Am I just not cut out for this?”
To which she replied, “There are all kinds of artists.”

There are also all sorts of teachers, whose outlook on art is shaped by their education and experiences.  I decided that I wanted to be a teacher capable of offering my students a variety of ideas and perspectives about contemporary art theory and practice.  During my undergrad years at Kansas City Art concept was king and my studies focused on the expansion of the idea of painting often through interdisciplinary means.  When it was time to choose a graduate school, I chose the Academy knowing it would be drastically different than my undergraduate education and I wanted to be a part of a community of artists that valued not only a figurative tradition, but also its community of painters.

During my time at the Academy, I was determined to gain teaching experience.  I started out as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for Continuing Education (CE) classes assisting in beginner courses.  At the beginner level, I was able to offer practical demonstrations, give feedback on the CE student’s work while observing the instructor’s teaching techniques. After graduation, I decided to continue to pursue teaching and gain more experience by becoming a Teaching Assistant in the MFA Program. I signed up for a variety of courses ranging from studio to seminar classes, expanding my repertoire of subjects I would become qualified to teach.

I  wanted to go above and beyond what was expected of me. I set out to build relationships with students and extend my participation outside of class.  I set up one-on-one meetings, edited research and thesis paper drafts and gave personal studio critiques. For each course, I committed an additional four hours a week to further interact with students and create resources for their benefit.  One of these projects included the creation of an online image data base: ART and CULTURE: Images (Art and Culture I: IMAGES and Art and Culture II: IMAGES). To help expand students' knowledge of artists, both historical and contemporary, I compiled every artist’s name mentioned during each class and uploaded images. This database is an art historical resource that also helps students discover new artists to reference in their studio practice.

As a side project to a class I am currently TA-ing, I am developing an online community that would act as a resource and forum for information regarding studio/group critiques (http://critique-critic.tumblr.com/). CRITIQUE-CRITIC (CC) will be a resource for information about different approaches to art criticism while examining institutional art critiques. This website will not only be a compilation of different perspectives but a place to post student work—in progress or otherwise—to get feedback from other students in programs nationwide. As a direct outcome of this project, I hope to create a platform that showcases emerging artists and writers. 

To date, my work as a TA has allowed me to work with several amazing artists including John Cichowski, Bonnie DeWitt, Catherine Howe, John Jacobsmeyer, and Jean-Pierre Roy. Being a Teaching Assistant has not only helped me improve my ability to demonstrate and communicate the knowledge I acquired at the Academy, but also to create connections with current students, faculty, and alumni outside of the classroom. It has allowed me to pursue my goal of becoming a teacher while also allowing me to give back to the Academy community post graduation. 


Interested in becoming a TA at the Academy?  Please contact Katie Hemmer in the Academic Office khemmer@nyaa.edu.

To learn more about Megan Ewert visit her website www.megan-ewert.com