Modeling Life

Art Models Speak about Nudity, Sexuality, and the Creative Process

By Sarah R. Phillips

Subjects: Cultural Studies
Paperback : 9780791469088, 157 pages, October 2006
Hardcover : 9780791469071, 157 pages, October 2006

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Table of contents

1. Assuming the Pose: An Introduction to Life Modeling

Life Models
Aesthetic Fashion and the Profession of Life Modeling
Contemporary Life Modeling in the United States

2. Returning the Gaze: Objectification and the Artistic Process

What Is Art?
The Model as Object
The Model as Agent
The Particular Case of Photography

3. “Stephen”
4. Defining the Line: Sexual Work versus Sex Work

Cooperative Interaction in the Art Studio
Separating Sexual Work from Sex Work
Establishing That Serious Work Is Happening

5. Maintaining the Line: Coping with Challenges to the “Serious Work” Definition

Challenges to the Serious Work Definition

6. “Denise”
7. Modeling Gender: Social Stigma, Power, and the Penis

Social Stigma
Power and Vulnerability
Gender and Erotic Experience while Posing

8. “Michael”
9. “Irene”
10. Being Present: Getting Good at It

From Whimsy to Intention
The “Good” Life Model
Being Committed

Research Notes

A fascinating consideration of the work of life models and the models’ own perspectives on their craft.


This is a book about life modeling. Unlike the painter whose name appears beside his finished portrait, the life model, posing nude, perhaps for months, goes unacknowledged. Standing at a unique juncture—between nude and naked, between high and low culture, between art and pornography—the life model is admired in a finished sculpture, but scorned for her or his posing. Making use of extensive interviews with both male and female models and quoting them frequently, Sarah R. Phillips gives a voice to life models. She explores the meaning that life models give to themselves and to their work and seeks to understand the lived experience of life models as they practice their profession. Throughout history, people have romanticized life models in an aura of bohemian eroticism, or condemned them as strippers or sex workers. Modeling Life reveals how life models get into the business, managing sexuality in the studio, what it means to be a "muse," and why their work is important.

Sarah R. Phillips is Associate Professor of Sociology at Pacific University.