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    Everything changes when you get naked in a classroom. What you’d have called a nip in the air when you had your clothes on counter-intuitively becomes a sweat-inducing heat, something especially unpleasant when every pore in your body is on display in the light, which is sometimes harsh. There’s a stage or a pedestal or maybe a chair or a mattress, on which you’ll want to lay the towel you should have brought with you. You should also bring a robe and some slippers — things that may or may not be provided for you. Sometimes there’s a pole to lean on. Sometimes it’s just the floor. And then there’s a teacher and all the students, maybe 10 in an advanced class and about 20 in an introductory course. That’s how they do it at U of L, anyway, where Olivia Klotz has been landing occasional gigs as a nude model for art classes since about 2011, before she completed her bachelor’s in biology.

    The class will be long. Like three-and-a-half-hours long. Drawing classes will start with short sketches of different poses — two seconds, five seconds, 10 seconds — and work up to longer poses of 20-plus minutes, though 30 minutes is the general maximum for standing poses. Sometimes there’s a timer. Sometimes the teacher calls out when the model needs to shift positions. Sometimes the model counts Mississippis in her head. If it’s a longer pose, it will likely be a reclined or seated one, and if it’s long enough that a model might need a break partway through, the instructor will put tape around the contours of the body so the model will be able to reassume the position. Klotz is really good at that. She considers it a source of pride.

    Klotz was not exactly proud, to begin with. “I didn’t love myself. I didn’t like myself very much,” she says. So she decided to do something about it. “I was like, I’m gonna face this head-on, and if I can do this, then I’m gonna learn to grow and be OK with who I am in this body that I’ve been given.” It was affirming. Having her body scrutinized in a way that, rather than passing judgment, implied its normalcy. Classes want all types of bodies: big, small, young, old, male, female — though, according to Klotz, the school has a harder time recruiting men. She especially liked the teacher who focused on anatomy, pointing out bone structure, the telltale contours of various muscles.

    Klotz has a background in bellydancing and a deep love of dance in general, so when the opportunity arose to start dancing in a burlesque group early in college, she took it, and art modeling followed. “I wanted to take away the taboo,” she says. “I wanted it to be OK.” She has also modeled for classes at Spalding and 21c; one time, she brought in a pet snake as a prop.

    One thing about nude modeling, according to Klotz: It’s boring. The shock of it wears off when you’ve been standing around for an hour, during which time you should not, under any circumstance, lock your knees — a lesson Klotz learned the hard way. Sometimes, she tries to find something in the room to focus on, but she usually forgoes her glasses, making it impossible to fix her eyes on much of anything. It helps that she can’t see students so well; eye contact isn’t great for her or them. “I feel more for the students (than myself),” she says, “’cause sometimes this is the first time they’ve had to draw naked bodies. This is them being around another human when it’s basically been ingrained in their mind that it’s not OK to be naked. Or to see other people. Or that the jobs that require people to be nude are not good jobs.”

    As an art lover, Klotz sounds a bit like a student when she talks about her experiences modeling. “I love the art community, whether it’s dance, music, actual physical painting — whatever it is,” she says. “And so I really enjoyed watching the teachers, listening to what they said, watching their progress.”

    This originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline "The Naked Truth." To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

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    About Dylon Jones

    Web editor Dylon Jones is an award-winning poet, essayist and journalist.

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