The Intimacy of Art

I answer a lot of questions about my personal life in the process of art nude modeling.  When asked, I’ve talked with photographers and artists about everything from my sexuality to my life goals to my non-conventional relationships—anything that might be relevant to the process of exploring deep concepts and making art. 

I thought I had heard them all, but I got a new question the other day.  I was asked when I was going to have a kid, because it would “ruin my body” for modeling.  

I was floored.  First, pregnancy doesn’t ruin a body, and I find the idea that it does to be beyond insulting.  It causes changes, yes.  But maybe we’d all be a little better off if we wanted to make art with bodies that look different from our societal idea of perfection.  Scars and sags tell stories—they don’t “ruin" anything.  Besides, I’ve known several models that have continued modeling after they have children.  It hasn’t destroyed their career; actually, it’s done quite the opposite.  

But I didn’t know how to answer his question, because my body can never be “ruined.”  I can’t have kids.  

Without going into the gory details, I had a medical issue which required a surgery that left me sterilized.  And I’ve had a complicated relationship with the question “Do you want kids?” ever since.  

I don’t regret not having kids.  Honestly, I never wanted children.  I decided when I was twelve years old that I didn’t want to be a mother.  I fielded comments about how I would "change my mind” all the way through high school and college.  But I never did.  

So no, I don’t regret being sterilized, but I do regret the choice being taken away from me.  I was forced to wait until it was a medical necessity, and that made it feel like it was out of my control, instead of my own decision.  I felt like I didn’t have a say in the matter.  I was required to go through counseling, even though I had to get the surgery no matter what.  I was asked by every nurse and doctor if I was sure that I wanted to go through with it.  They didn’t like flippant answers about how it beat bleeding out.  

That, however, is far too complicated to explain at a photo shoot.  I also had a feeling that it wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear.  So instead, I think I mumbled something along the lines of “who knows?” and went back to posing.  

I felt like I was hiding something, or like I had lied.

But I was ashamed of my answer.  I felt like I was hiding something, or like I had lied.  I also felt like he should have never asked me that question.

My reaction did start me thinking about the intimacy of art, and how much of my personal life I show to my fellow artists, collaborators, and audience.  After all, it’s not just my body that I’m baring for my art.  Previously, I figured that I should be able to write or talk about almost any topic.  I thought that any question could be asked.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Now I think some questions are inappropriate, and ought not to be asked in the first place.   Or rather, we should be careful how we ask them. 

I think his question was wrong for a couple of reasons.  It has nothing to do with the content—after all, I’m telling you guys all about it.  And I do think we should be able to talk about almost anything when it comes to art.  But I think how we approach those topics is paramount.  

First, I think it’s rude to ask an artist when they plan to quit making art, especially when you’re in the process of making art with them.  I don’t think artists ever plan on quitting their passion.  To presume otherwise is impolite at best.

But more importantly, this photographer was making assumptions about how I was going to live my life.  For him it wasn’t a matter of if, but of when.  His question presumed only one right answer.  It was as if in his mind every model would follow a similar path: we would get married, get pregnant, and then retire from modeling.   But not every model chooses to do that, just like not every woman chooses to have kids.  

I’ve chosen a different answer, too.  I’m already doing what I want with my life: I’m making art.  I don’t plan on quitting any time soon.  And no matter what happens to my body, I plan on continuing to make art with it.