Making Art in Texas

I’ve spent the last week in Texas on a modeling tour, and the three days before that driving there.  I’ve been traveling through God’s country.  There were tiny places with names like Goodnight where everybody knows you’re from out of town as soon as they see you.  Places surrounded by cotton fields where country boys held the door for me and called me ma’am while they looked down at their feet.  I can only wonder if they’d be so polite if I wasn’t blonde, or if they knew my profession or my sexuality.

There were billboards everywhere, too.  “Jesus Loves You” billboards in every possible wording, and even one proclaiming “Vaccines Can Cause Autism.”  And of course, Trump signs wherever I looked.

I was in Texas over the election, and modeled for the days before and after.  (I voted absentee myself before I left).  The presidential race was on everyone’s mind, so how people were voting came up a lot.

One of the things about modeling nude is that it implies a certain openness.  I’ve had discussions with photographers concerning sexuality, lifestyles, and politics that I otherwise would never have with someone I’ve just met.  Over the course of the week, I talked to Trump voters, Clinton supporters, independents, and people who didn’t know how they were going to choose.  

Previously, I’ve felt like a sort of ambassador, that my art is a way to reach other people.  It’s a way to express ideas like “the female form doesn’t need to be sexualized,” and “nudity is not inherently wrong.”  Under this, art becomes a sort of protest against the norms that view it differently.  I’m making art to fight, to build, to change minds.  I’m trying to affect both the people I work with, and the people that view my art.  

But on this particular trip, I worked with people all over the political and artistic spectrum, much more than usual.  I posed for people that wanted straight glamour, and people that wanted fine art.  I worked with incredibly gifted artists, beginners, and old friends.  I didn’t agree with all of them—either with their political stances or their artistic visions.  But through the process of creating art together, I got the chance to understand them, just like they got the chance to learn about me.

Art isn’t a lecture. It’s a conversation.

For me, the reason modeling in particular—and art in general—is so important is because it’s about human connection.  Art isn’t a lecture.  It’s a conversation.  It’s not just a medium for self-expression; it’s something I learn from.

I think making art matters for exactly this reason, particularly right now.  Driving through cotton fields and reading billboards was picturesque, but it didn’t give me a feel for other people.  Nor did just talking with them.  So yes, I’ll be making art as a form of protest.  I’ll be yelling at the top of my lungs about the things I disagree with.  But I’ll also be using it to connect to other people.  Which I think we may need even more.