books, Reading

“the naked muse” by Kelley Swain

“Painters radiate around me: I am the focal point, the centre of this small, temporary universe. But it’s my matter that matters, not my personality, not what I consider to be ‘me’. Over my years of modelling, learning that my body and looks are appreciated in a way that might be considered objectifying helps me to embrace myself as a whole being, rather than a disembodied cloud of thoughts. Rather than unmake me, becoming a subject and an object, being looked at and sketched out, has helped to merge my mind and my body. By being taken apart into pigment and light, colour and shape, I feel more coherently assembled.”

71-9781908853677Kelley Swain is a wordsmith, a poet, a professor; she has also been, at many points in her life, a life model. In “the naked muse”, Swain thoughtfully deconstructs the experience of being, well, deconstructed.

“And the young woman, Sarah, is no longer looking at me, but seeing me. Under her trained painter’s eye, I’m beginning to break apart into shape, shadow, texture, colour.”

As a model for artists, Swain participated deeply in the artistic process, exploring the other-worldly experience of being stared at until one’s body is shape and shade, of being seen but not seen, of being known intimately and yet being a total stranger.

“I am meant to be here, but not here. I am meant to be available, but not available. I am meant to give myself wholly, yet remain at a remove.”

“the naked muse” is introspective, musing. Swain is charmingly cerebral, unpacking not only the emotional and physical tolls of this kind of work, which are many, but the intellectual impact as well. She draws the attention of those of us who appreciate visual arts to the muses – who are the people whose bodies and faces have been used to tell us stories and touch our souls?

Thank you to Jamie McGarry and Valley Press for providing a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.


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