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Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object Hardcover – January 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Author, award-winning poet and professional artists' model Rooney (Reading with Oprah, Something Really Wonderful) uses everything from Roland Barthes quotations to sitcom episode synopses off the internet (specifically, on Growing Pains) to explore the myths and realities of nude modeling. Despite the fact that it largely consists of sitting still for hours on end, Rooney keeps work stories compelling: "with the sculptors continually approaching... to rotate you slightly... it's like you're on the world's slowest and most boring Teacup Ride." Posing for an advanced sculpting class working on life-sized renderings, Rooney merges her experience with a look at China's ancient Terra Cotta Army; elsewhere she tackles semantics, quoting art historian Kenneth Clark on the difference between "naked" and "nude." Happily, Rooney is perfectly willing to satisfy readers' curiosity upfront in order to move in more philosophical directions, going from awkward first impressions ("the first thing they ask is, 'Like, naked?'") to questions of safety and empowerment ("I feel safer from sexual predation naked in the art studio than I do... clothed on the street"). This esoteric, organic meditation on life as an art object is itself a model of personal writing, perfect for those on either side of the easel.
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"Ms. Rooney seems as compelling a talent in her future off the pedestal as on." Huffington Post "A compelling memoir that blends observation, personal revelation and scholarly inquiry." Los Angeles Times "A spirited and thought-provoking exploration of the human figure, Live nude Girl Beckons the oft-clothed to share the thrill of taking it all off." Utne Reader

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: University of Arkansas Press (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557288917
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557288912
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,616,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a three-person team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. A winner of the Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine and the Gatewood Prize from Switchback Books, she is the author of six books of poetry and nonfiction. She lives in Chicago.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mark S. Snyder on February 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Kathleen Rooney draws on her own experiences working as an artists' model, as well as on the stories of famous, notorious, and mysterious artists and models through the ages. Combining personal per­spective, historical anecdote, and witty prose, Rooney reveals that both the appeal of posing nude for artists and the appeal of drawing the naked figure lie in our deeply human responses to beauty, sex, love, and death.

As an actor who has performed naked on the theatre stage professionally and as a teacher of actors who has trained actors to work without clothing, this book immediately caught my attention because it is a subject that those who have worked in the nude rarely discuss publically. It is not that we are ashamed of what we do or have done but simply that to the non-artist to work without clothing or to be nude publically seems not an act of or a part of art but an act of, at best exhibitionism and, at worst pornography. Rooney lifts this veil and invites the public into experiencing what it feels to be naked publically and to be "the object of the gaze of a spectator" as well as to attempt to explain why she chose to do so.

While Rooney does go on at some length and possibly in too much depth for this type of book in balancing the life of "Phryne" -- a modeling sensation of ancient Greece -- with Madonna's nude photos for Lee Friedlander, and explains at length Greek versus Judeo-Christian approaches to nudity and highlights the difficulty people have distinguishing art modeling from prostitution ("There it is again," she notes, "this conflation of selling images of your body with actually selling your body itself."), thankfully, Rooney doesn't shy away from the personal.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Chapati VINE VOICE on February 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Live Nude Girl challenged me in ways that I haven't been challenged since high school literature classes. Rooney quotes ancient Greeks, references Leonardo da Vinci, sets her book to a soundtrack of indie rock bands, and shares her own thoughts on what it's like to be a nude model for artists. The book is much more about people's perceptions of beauty and of art than it is about Rooney's experience of being a model. Rooney seems to be trying to figure out why she wanted to be a model by writing the book, rather than share the actual experience with readers.

For example, there is a lot of talk on how Rooney wants to be perceived as "pretty" by the artists she poses for. And then she wonders why she wants them to see her as pretty. And why people, in general, want to be perceived as pretty. And then shares quotes from famed and esteemed philosophers and writers. It sometimes made the book difficult to read, as I would go into and out of quotes and deep thoughts and all the rest. But it was interesting, nonetheless.

I don't think this is a book one can read all at once- it may be slim, but it is dense. Each chapter can stand as an essay on its own, and in retrospect, I recommend reading the book in that manner so that you can better mull over the ideas Rooney presents. It's a thinking person's book- and it was fun to read it and be challenged by reading again, in ways I haven't been for so long.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Daniel H. Hawkins on March 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been a model for drawing and painting classes since 1984, so I was really interested in reading a fellow model's point of view regarding the profession. It is amazing how many parallels there are between the author's experiences and my own, especially in areas that brought us to modeling in the first place. Of course, I'm male, and the author is female, so our experiences differed quite a bit in certain areas. I usually only work for classes or groups while the author expanded into working with individual artists.

The book is full of anecdotes about the history of art modeling, specific classroom incidents, feelings regarding posing for a new group or artist, and what it's like to drop the robe for the first time. Once I finished, I immediately contacted a fellow art model with whom I have worked before and told her that she really ought to read this book. I'll be loaning it to her the next time I see her.

And on a personal note, another interesting parallel: the book was published by the University of Arkansas Press. I began my modeling career at that very university back in November of 1984...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on January 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A fascinating memoir, this. I have to admit being intrigued about the life of a nude model. I've often thought that I'd make a good model myself--not that I'm particular interesting to look at, but rather that I'd be very good at occupying my mind while holding still for long stretches, which seems to be a very important quality for a nude model. And, of course, I have enough of an exhibitionist streak to be willing to take my clothes off for an art class. But, despite Ms. Rooney's repeated assurance that art classes want models of all shapes and sizes, she can't hide the fact that the thin and beautiful are the most desired, and I certainly don't fit into those categories. Ah, brief mourning for a career opportunity missed.

Being thin and attractive herself, Ms. Rooney has no problem establishing her career by doing nothing more than answering an ad from a local art class, and expanding her work from there. She takes us through her learning curve as a model: what is required during a session, how to prepare and how to make it through comfortably. That alone would have made for good reading, but she is willing to dig deeper.

She gives us bits of history as she tells her story, taking us to the Greek roots of modeling as well as the artist/model/mistress paradigm of Western art. This is almost a distraction, however, from the examination of the different relationships she has a model. Though she doesn't always address things directly, we learn a lot from the varied experiences she has with public art classes vs. private sessions, sculptors and painters vs. photographers, pros vs. amateurs, male artists vs. female artists, and so on. Clearly, there is no single expectation a model can have.

Fortunately, Ms.
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