Bohemian New Yorkers make art sexy again
AFP - 1 hour 20 minutes ago
NEW YORK (AFP) - - You know it's no ordinary drawing class when the model, her long legs pointed skyward, begins sparking more than purely artistic appreciation.
"Sometimes its good to be attracted to what you are drawing and here you certainly are," said 28-year-old Maria Hooper as she sketched the model, a highly supple fetish enthusiast known as Mosh.
Hooper was one of about three dozen artists attending Dr Sketchy's, a self-described "anti-art school" that has spread around the world in a bid to restore art's bohemian roots.
Standard art school classes typically involve a nude model, but a sterile room and a silent, industrious atmosphere.
At Dr Sketchy's, taking place last weekend in a New York burlesque club called the Slipper Room, artists drank cocktails and sketched to rock 'n roll.
The fact that Mosh was clothed -- skin-tight mini dress, very small black panties and vertiginous heels -- seemed only to add frissons.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what other outfits she's going to put on," said Hooper, a theater costume designer.
Dr Sketchy's is the brainchild of Molly Crabapple, a precocious 25-year-old illustrator seeking to breathe life into what artists describe as an often staid drawing scene.
There are now about two dozen Dr Sketchy's clubs beyond the United States, from Glasgow to Singapore and Tokyo to San Francisco.
They all employ the same formula of strong drinks, hip atmosphere, and burlesque-style models -- a decadent mix that seems to hit the spot at a time of widespread economic collapse.
At the Slipper Room, students paid 10 to 12 dollars to work under an old-fashioned tin ceiling, while Mosh occupied a tiny stage bordered by a gold frame and heavy, tasseled curtains.
Over three hours, Mosh pulled herself into increasingly challenging poses, silently pouting at the audience, or looking out through huge, mournful eyes under a platinum blonde fringe.
"Dr Sketchy's is theatrical. There's more of a story," said Monica Hunken, 27, an actress using watercolors to paint a delicate version of the fetish devotee.
"It's very dynamic because of the costumes and the models are usually dancers or performers and so they have very dynamic bodies."
Hunken, her short dress revealing the tops of colorfully striped stockings, said standard live drawing classes are fine, but that anti-art school is spicier.
"There's an added context. It excites the imagination," she said.
Crabapple says her ideal is the romantic, bohemian seediness embodied by 19th century French painter Henri de Toulouse Lautrec.
With that goal, Dr Sketchy's encourages drink-drawing, raucous art competitions, rude jokes, and flamboyant behavior. Most important to the concept are the models, described by Crabapple as "sideshow freaks, rocker chicks, Derby girls, fetish models."
"At Dr Sketchy's, everyone's a serious artist but it's a way of engaging in a fantasy, a version of what being an artist was about," Crabapple said.
Huge rents and gentrification have threatened to make artist colonies an endangered species in New York.
Still, the Big Apple's creative set is resourceful.
Just across the street from the Slipper Room, near-naked performance artists danced in a former shop window, inviting anyone to scrawl messages on their bodies.
A steady trickle of passersby obliged, watched by gawking shopkeepers from the pavement outside.
This is the kind of impromptu "happening" that has always flourished in New York and even today somehow manages to find a home.
Graphic designer Benjamin Cerf, sporting a huge curly moustache and a flowerpot black hat, said at the bar of the Slipper Room that artists could get through the economic crisis without sacrificing freedom.
"I'm good at finding jobs, but I don't want only to work" Cerf, 36, said, as he bobbed extravagantly to the music. "I like to perform, I like to do weird stuff."
As a successful illustrator and head of the Dr Sketchy's empire, Crabapple, also a former model and burlesque performer, is a free spirit who makes a living.
"I used to be very broke but I made up my mind that I wouldn't compromise. I would not get a day job," she said.
Besides, with Wall Street titans tumbling and New York city's budget facing massive deficits, the tables might actually be turning.
"I always hope the rents will go down with this," Crabapple fantasized. "The rumors about giant yuppie towers becoming empty -- that fills me with glee."
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Mosh, a professional fetish model, poses for attendees of Dr Sketchys anti-art school drawing session in New Yorks East Village. Dr Sketchy's is the brainchild of Molly Crabapple, a precocious 25-year-old illustrator seeking to breathe life into what artists describe as an often staid drawing scene.
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