had been a model for my wife's drawing and painting classes. She introduced
me to Pegi, and the two of us started working together. At first, we created
more traditional figure study photographs. Then, I asked her if she would
pose with my painted plaster statues. I had been using the statues in
my work for a number of years. Pegi is very creative and always interested
in more cutting edge concepts, and agreed to pose with them.
I am particularly interested in the sexual
overtones that we created with the juxtaposition of the human and plaster
figures. I also like the relationship between religion and sexuality.
I feel that there is a theatrical or narative quality that Pegi gave the
Up with Jesus
nude for photographers provides an exhilarating alternative to the typical
toil of taking long, up to three-hour poses for artists painstakingly
trying to render the human figure in pencil, paint or clay. The fast work
of changing positions every few minutes for someone with a camera demands
a model have a full repertoire of visually exciting positions she can
take. When Wisconsin photographer Phil Krejcarek called me to pose for
him, I jumped at the chance. We'd worked together once in my living room,
and a print from the session now hangs on a wall. The shot shows me from
my nipples up, leaning against a couch with my head tilted all the way
back, exposing my neck. This time, Phil asked me to come to his home studio.
I clumped down his back stairs to the basement
and entered a room lined with a forest green backdrop. As I disrobed,
I took note of a collection of various plaster religious figures painted
solid, bright colors that Phil had arranged in a grouping on the floor.
A three-foot Mary holding baby Jesus matched a two-foot bean green Jesus
holding a rose. A slightly taller lime green angel matched two four-foot
saints. Phil had painted five smaller-scale plaster reproductions (one
I recognize as Michelangelo's Pietà ) a contrasting burnt
orange. Despite the gaudy paint, the statuettes managed to maintain their
dignity. Phil handed me a few willow boughs to hold. It was spring and
close to Easter. I spent three hours as one of the flock in the fold,
placing myself beside and between and around this rainbow of icons.
Toward the end of the session, almost like
a game of musical chairs, Phil removed figurines one at a time, till I
was left to mingle with a four-foot green Jesus. Jesus had one arm upstretched,
and he stood on a base resembling a small rock outcropping. The base elevated
Jesus so that when I kneeled next to him, the top of his head almost coincided
with mine. What a challenge! What should my body say in response? I stood
back to back with him, and stretched my arms aft to hold the folds of
his tunic; I crouched and peered out from behind him; I squatted in front
of him and hid my head. I got a bit bolder and pretended I was lifting
up his tunic to peak underneath. For the last pose, I lay down on my back,
my pelvis a few inches from the feet of Jesus, and my legs straddled him
on both sides. Phil clicked away.
Phil and I hadn't discussed the philosophy
behind his project before I came over to his studio. I assumed Phil painted
the icons as a mocking gesture, but I didn't know what attitude Phil wanted
me to present. At the time, although a disaffiliated Jew, I was taken
with Jesus. About once a month, I would devote Sunday morning to a church
crawl I mapped out ahead of time. I never actually attended any services;
I would simply visit four or five different churches to check out the
What satisfied me most were all the different
depictions in Catholic churches of the fourteen stations of the cross.
I would slowly travel the perimeter and follow Christ's journey from "Jesus
is Condemned to Death" to "The Resurrection of Jesus" in
mosaic or stained glass or sculpture. In the midst of a divorce, I felt
I had fallen and took great comfort witnessing again and again how Jesus
falls three times as he carries his cross to Calvary. If Jesus could fall
three times, then what might God allow me?
Regardless of Phil's intentions, I had no
desire to poke fun with my poses. Jesus meant something to me. Yet I also
felt disinclined to treat the object d'art as anything other than a cheap
yard statue. A plaster figure could not misconstrue or take offense at
any of my nude poses. I could touch and maneuver as I pleased. After I
got dressed and went home, I wondered what the photographs might reveal.
As a part of the courtesy between photographers
and models, a few weeks later I received in the mail the contact sheets
from our session. The prints caught the full range of my emotions, from
devil-may-care to adulation. Then I scanned to the final five shots Phil
took of my last pose. I was taken aback and brought the sheet up close
and scrutinized the images. Oh my. One of the rocks from the pedestal
of the sculpture jutted up between my legs. It looked as though I had
Walter Benjamin observes in his 1977 essay,
"A Short History of Photography," that the photographer engages
in an "optical unconsicous [sic], just as one learns of the drives
of the unconsicous [sic] through psychoanalysis." The divining rod
lens of Phil's camera exposed an ambivalence I thought I'd safely concealed
in my psyche.
My husband had moved out over a year ago,
but I was months away from a divorce. During the tense months before he
left, he called me a closet lesbian a couple of times. I should have ignored
this accusation, since I still wanted to have sex and he didn't. My who-the-hell-am-I-anyway
state of mind left me open to doubt. Though I hadn't slept with anyone
since he departed, a lack of finality kept me from instigating a liaison.
The picture revealed my loneliness and passivity. I wanted sex to come
to me as an unspoken prayer answered. My meekness in response to my own
desire made me question my sexuality too. Much to my chagrin, Phil captured
me more naked than I'd anticipated.