A Creative Challenge Ch. 09byPvidal©
When you look at most artist's drawings or paintings of nudes you can usually tell if the artist and the model had a personal relationship that was more than just an hourly fee.
Degas produced some wonderful paintings of nude women bathing and combing their hair – 'a la toilette', as they say in France. Yet they are all observed sensitively and with great subtlety from a distance, as if the women were unaware that they were being observed. They are beautiful and sensual, but objective and impersonal. Degas was a voyeur, someone who peered through keyholes, he was not a seducer of young girls. The pleasures of the flesh, for Degas, were best kept at arms' length, and experienced only through his eyes.
Modigliani's nudes, on the other hand, look like they are only being painted while the artist was taking a break from fucking their brains out. Even though the images of his women are simple and stylized, the way they are reclining, the way they are often looking directly at the artist, is very personal and intimate. There is one painting of Jeanne Hebuterne, who lived with Modigliani for his last few years, where you can almost hear her saying through her gentle smile "Come on, Modi, put that brush down, come over here and fuck me". Modigliani was a lover, not a voyeur.
I had always thought of myself as more the voyeur type of artist. My approach had always been much closer to Degas than Modigliani, yet the drawings Amy and I produced over the next few days were quite confronting in their intimacy. There could be no doubt in your mind when you looked at these images that the model was not trying to keep her sexuality a secret from the artist, in fact, quite the opposite. She was open and direct and available, wanting you to enjoy looking at the most intimate parts of her body, teasing you with her eyes, and seducing you with her attitude.
I have to admit that I was a little concerned that the work I was producing had overstepped the mark that separated 'art' from 'pornography'. I worried about this because I wasn't sure that I knew where that line was anymore – or even if there was any such thing as either art or pornography. Amy's initial challenge to me, and her willingness to go beyond that and explore her own sexuality under my artist's gaze without any inhibitions whatsoever, had blurred my own flimsily-held notions of which was which. I worried that Greta's corporate customer was just a lone pervert and that no-one else would want to buy my new more erotic works. I worried that Sally and Mike would come to the exhibition and be horrified by what their old man was doing with a girl their own age who was obviously encouraging him into making a fool of himself with his art as well as his life. And I worried that Amy would get bored with her old fool of an artist and move on as quickly as she had moved in. I knew that whatever the consequences with everyone else in my life I would do anything I could to not let that happen.
"It's time we stopped this", said Amy, stepping down from the dais without my permission.
"Why do you say that?," I asked quickly, anxious that she had been reading my thoughts, or that my own thoughts had secretly tuned in to what was already on her mind.
"Because you've been standing there with a frown on your face staring at that painting, and for the last few minutes you haven't even glanced in my direction once", said Amy with a smile. "I think you've forgotten I exist and it's time I reminded you."
"Pleased to meet you," I said, offering to shake her hand. "What did you say your name was?"
"And fuck you too, Sam", she said slapping my outstretched hand away, but laughing as she did.
"Sam, let's get out of this studio and go have some fun. You've been getting too serious."
"What sort of fun?" I asked.
"I need some new clothes. Let's go shopping."
I don't know many men, at least not heterosexual men, who would use the words 'shopping' and 'fun' in the same sentence without irony, but I had a feeling that clothes shopping with Amy was going to be a different kind of experience altogether, so I said that was fine by me, and we put some clothes on and drove downtown towards the city center. We parked underground near the big department stores. I would have thought that Amy would have been more the hippy boutique sort of shopper, but she wanted to go to the ladies wear section of the biggest department store.
It was late summer, not yet early autumn, but the shop was already full of winter clothes. I liked Amy in skimpy lightweight clothes, and wasn't too impressed that she was flicking through the racks of heavy woollen skirts and coats. She eventually selected a couple of what looked like very boring garments and disappeared into the changing room area. When she came out again, her low-cut jeans had been replaced with a knee-length fully pleated grey wool skirt.
"What do you think?" she said, twirling slowly. She was talking to me, but there was a middle-aged woman standing next to me, who turned and looked at Amy and the skirt like she would have as much trouble as me trying to find something complimentary to say about it.
"It would be a good look if you were my Aunt Bessie", I said, not hiding my disappointment.
"Really?", said Amy, grinning from ear to ear," I think it's great. Look." She turned around so that her back was to both of us, and for a few seconds she was obviously doing something to front of the skirt, but we couldn't see what. Then she spun around. The whole of the front of the skirt was bunched up and tucked into the waistband, displaying to both of us her smooth, bare pussy.
I thought the lady standing next to me was going to have a coronary. She gasped and stepped back like someone had pushed her in the chest, and grabbed hold of the nearest garment rack, spilling some of the clothes onto the floor.
"Very nice", I said, pretending not to be at all surprised, which wasn't very hard to do, as I had been expecting Amy to do something outrageous at least once while we were out shopping.
"Nice?" said Amy. "It's a horrid colour and fabric and style, but it's perfect for what we need. See, I could tuck it up like this to fuck you, but because of all the pleats anyone watching from the back wouldn't have a clue."
Heart attack lady gave a little strangled cry and walked away from us quickly, looking over her shoulder at us as if we were about to kidnap her and involve her in our sinful schemes.
"I think my heavy breathing and your grunting will be a bit of a clue for spectators, don't you think?" I said.
"Did you see her face?" laughed Amy. "I thought she was going to burst a poople valve." She paused as she realised what I had just said. "I don't grunt. Do I?"
"Like a feral pig. And what's a poople valve, for goodness sake?"
"I don't know, something people burst when they have a heart attack I suppose. It's what my mum says. And if you're going to be rude to me, we can go home now."
"Let me pay for the skirt first. Even an ugly thing like that looks totally sensational on you."
"That's better. If you're paying, you're forgiven."
"I think you should let the front of the skirt down now." Amy looked down at herself as if she had forgotten how exposed to the world she was.
"Oh, yes, I suppose I should."
But she didn't. She undid the waistband, let the whole skirt fall to the floor, and stepped out of it, naked from the waist down in the middle of the department store.
"Let's go get you a dirty-old-man coat," she said.
"I'd prefer it was a dirty-youthful-man coat", I said, but Amy was already on her way back to the changing room to get her jeans, watched by several other open-mouthed shoppers, and I was only talking to her rapidly receding bare ass.
The selection of winter coats in the menswear section was not as good. The main winter stocks were not in yet. I wasn't even sure what type of coat we were looking for, but Amy was on a mission, so I just followed her around the racks until she eventually found a display of leather trench coats. She picked the biggest one she could find and held it out for me to try on. It fitted great, and I loved it. I had always wanted the sort of coat you only see Nazi Gestapo officers wearing in old war movies.
"Das is wunderbar", I said clicking my heels and trying to look sinister.
"Nein, mein fuhrer, das is no good at all", said Amy to my disappointment.
"I didn't know you spoke German. Why not?"
"I don't. It's not big enough".
"But it fits me perfectly", I protested.
"Exactly. But we need something that will go round me as well as you – well pretty close to it, anyway."
She moved down the racks again, and pulled out an oilskin riding coat. It was heavy and voluminous, and about two sizes too big, but I put it on. It came down to well past my knees and had all sorts of pockets and flaps, with a big double-breasted overlap at the front.
"Perfect," said Amy, stepping inside the front opening and putting her arms round my waist. I wrapped the two sides of the coat around her shoulders and back, and it almost completely enveloped her. Over her shoulder in the mirror I could see there was only a small gap at the back where you would be able to see her, and nobody would have any idea what was happening inside the coat.
"I should have kept that skirt on", said Amy, rubbing herself against my crotch.
"Good grief, you'd fuck right here in the middle of the menswear department, wouldn't you?"
"Bit tricky wearing jeans, Sam. Even for me. But I'll have a go at it if you like."
"I don't think so," I said, unwrapping her and taking the coat off before she had a chance to undo her pants, or mine, or both. "I'm not quite ready for that. I know why we are buying clothes neither of us would normally be seen dead in, but I still haven't agreed to actually... do it."
"You mean fuck in public."
"It's your fantasy, Sam, I'm just helping you carry it out. Because I don't think you ever would if I didn't organise it for you."
"No, I don't think I would. But that's the thing about fantasies, you don't have to make them real. You can still enjoy them as dreams."
"I think you've forgotten how to play, Sam. You've lost your sense of fun."
"Maybe I never had one."
"Well, it's time you did. Let's get the train home, I'm feeling horny."
No, Amy, let's not go home on the train. Not today. Let me buy you lunch here in the city instead."
I didn't like saying no to Amy, and I thought she would be disappointed by the change to her plans, but she didn't seem to be bothered by my refusal as much as I had feared. While I paid for the coat, she said she still had a little more shopping of her own to do, so we agreed to meet a little later in the coffee shop downstairs.
It bothered me that I could not let myself be as uninhibited as Amy was, as carefree and impulsively exhibitionist. The idea of going with the whim of the moment and following her in her provocative and erotic behaviour was physically thrilling, but half a lifetime of being a responsible breadwinner and an example to two young children had definitely taken the edge off my ability to be spontaneous. As I sipped my latte, I made a promise to myself not to be such a boring old killjoy when I was out in public with my lovely Amy.