by Zina Petersen
It’s simple. I am going to take off my clothes and my
watch and my glasses (so that even if I could see what
time it is, I couldn’t see what time it is), and go into
a studio that is seven degrees, and hold absolutely
still for a million years. And Marc the artist will forget
that I am anything but a collection of tones and values and shapes
and shades, and he will also forget that he is not responsible for
what I look like.
Mumbling, he looks at me , not the canvas; he says, “I don’t
like what I’ve done with you. ”
I do things to pass the time. I count to a thousand by fives. My
brain does things with pasta, designs a better alphabet, adds lyrics
to the jazz on the radio-bad idea; rhyme destroys Sanborn. ·
The artist I’m working for now is Marc Whiting, with a c
because it’s short for Marcel. He ‘s not French. He’s from Colorado.
He has a beard, and a sweater instead of a smock, and a huge
collection of colors and brushes, and paintings of me .
Because I’ve worked with him for over a year, so he has me
memorized; he knows me naked , only. He can’t seem to find a
model he likes any better. He knows nothing about why . I do. I
am a terrific model because there is so much more grace in my body
when I am in love and composing poetry about it. He knows
nothing. We don’t talk, we art. He’s very decent and professional.
This sometimes is wonderful. Sometimes it gets hypnotic,
instead of tedious, and I can feel what is going on in the colors,
and I can feel which of my shadows he’s moving, and I can feel
that something like my own skin is growing onto the canvas, but
not quite flat or tied down in two dimensions. I feel something float
over a surface-I remember being seven , having my hair braided
by someone now faceless, and the kind of relaxed it did to all my
muscles and all my concentration, not destroying it but relaxing it
into place. My hair had nerves then, and the air, the paint, have
nerves now. Marc paints and I can feel what he’s painting without
I can usually tell when something isn’t coming out of the
canvas right, too, because Marc starts saying things like , “talent”
and “wrong, here,” and “nope, nope, nope.” Usually as he ‘s
putting one brush down and picking up another one, or mashing
the bristles of a brush into the turpentine cup. He says it to the
canvas, and then he walks from foot to foot and squints.
When he gets frustrated like that I break my pose. Shaking my
left leg, and my right leg, finding out which parts of me have fallen
asleep. Calves, usually. I twist my neck aroun:d till the vertebrae
The living part of his apartment is maybe six hundred degrees
warmer than the studio. I think of going out there and my goose
bumps go down . I want to get some sensation back in my calves.
Pain, even, anything. But I try not to flex the muscles that have
fallen asleep , because they hurt too much.
The calendar is Dali prints. He tried something like that once. I
know because it’s still propped up and dusty in his studio instead of
in some hyper-expensive gallery, like a lot of his work. Very awful.
Very seventies. Like a raspberry becoming a radio. A digital watch
giving birth to a little pink dumptruck. But he does figures now.
There are . . . studies and sketches and oils of me, gazing at
people from all over the walls of those galleries. I wonder if Marc
enjoys selling my image for money. Never, never. He doesn’t think
about it; he has a manager. I feel an itch run through my hair and
cast a spell in my head at the manager, who sells me. I think, ” Art
Models From HELL.” Like a movie ad with slime hanging off
Here goes. I fantasize that Marc strips the paint off the dump-
truck /raspberry painting and there is a painting underneath of me
with my clothes on . It’s almost too much .
If I tried to walk right now I would move like the little
The modeling stand is five feet square and about two feet off
the floor, made of particle board painted black, with hundreds of
chalk marks where I and other models ( over a year ago) have had
hands, feet, hips, elbows traced to remember our poses after a
break. The stand is warmer than the cement floor. From it I can
see out the window, which is dirty . The sky is dull blue, no clouds.
I don’t want to be still anymore, because I have a song in my
head. I think, “All of me, why not take-” I want to sing it, wrists
cocked, elbows in , shoulders tense. I want to celebrate something
I will come again tomorrow and the day after. I will convince
him that there is something to celebrate about me. I’ll come wearing
a big blue sweater: clothes, Marc , look. Look at all of me.