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Issue 10 - A Journal of Letters and Life
Artist's Statement by Philip Krejcarek
Essay by Pegi Taylor


Pegi Taylor 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 work.

          -Philip Krejcarek


What Popped Up with Jesus

Art modeling 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 interiors.
     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 a penis.           
     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.

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