Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object [Book recommendation]
“Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object” is a lively meditation on the profession of nude modeling – that ‘spine-tingling combination of power and vulnerability, submission and dominance’ – as it has been practiced in history and as it is practiced today. Nude modeling is so far afield from anything most of people ever do. Except for sex work, as far as we’re concerned. Rooney is also quite knowledgeable of the history of art modeling and this easily transpires from the beginning.
Often considered an intelligent companion for Peter Steinhart’s “The Undressed Art”, Kathleen Rooney brings a fine sensibility and a studied historical perspective to how the artist’s model is perceived and the challenges involved in nude and costumed modeling. It’s not literature for the sake of literature, it’s an educationally dense material worthy of fine art connoisseurs, fashion and art critics and even erudite fetishists. Each chapter can stand as an essay on its own, forcing the readers to re-evaluate their feelings about self-image, nudity, and sexuality in general.
By the very act of writing about the experience of nude modeling, Rooney becomes both the subject and the object simultaneously. She is in “estatic cahoots” with herself. Several themes are covered in the book; and I cannot list them all: exhibitionism, eroticism (or lack of it), private acts in public spaces (much like the demeanor of a physician in an examining room, there are all sorts of jointly understood but unstated rules to nude modeling), temporal social/professional connections, eternal life through art (or death obsession), the coldness of photography versus the warmth of the brush, etc.
“Kathleen Rooney boldly and bravely dissects what it means to disrobe in the name of art – and money. For anyone who wants to know why a woman would prefer to be nude rather than naked (and what the difference is), read Live Nude Girl and find out.” – Rachel Kramer Bussel, editor of Best Sex Writing 2009.