or TALES FROM FROM THE GARRET
For The Patient Catholic Boys For Art
Twenty-six Septembers ago, or when Andrew Cusack was still a gleam in his father's eye, I was an art student at a posh school for girls on the North Shore of Boston. My mother had decided when I was only four years of age that out of all of her girls, I was the one who would attend a finishing school, even if I my IQ could proof yeast. (Yeast is proofed above 96 degrees.) So, in my junior year of high school, finishing school catalogues from Virginia, New York and Massachusetts began arriving in the mail. As I wanted to study art, I was made to quickly understood this is how I would be allowed to do it. Because of my love for the sea, Boston and because Harvard was just a mere 36 miles away, I chose the school with the oceanfront campus. It was a gorgeous campus full of natural beauty and architectural splendor because most of the dormitories were converted summer estates from the late 19th century and early 20th century.
The school was, in some ways, a late comer to the culture war that had ruined much finer institutions of higher learning. While we no longer were required to dress for dinner, we still had seriously old, little old ladies for our dorm mothers. Most of them had been dorm mothers for more than 20 years and had become quite adept at planning weddings. Boys were only allowed in our dorms for certain hours on certain days. They were allowed even less time in our rooms. The school did have a guesthouse on campus for them to stay in and they did check them in as well as check them out. We also were not allowed to drink. It was in this somewhat restrictive, but actually very pleasant atmosphere, that I first undertook the study of art.
My figure drawing instructor had been a student at the school years before. She was from a prominent newspaper family in Rhode Island which made her very liberal. Still, she was very nice and lived the downstairs apartment of a gorgeous old home in the old section of Marblehead. We began our figure drawing sessions by drawing the fully unclothed female. Since women do vary, our models varied too. One was even a nursing mother. We would draw the women in different poses for three hours at a time, taking the occasional tea break when the model got stiff. During our these breaks, we would compare notes over what we were seeing and try to figure out how on earth these women had ended up nude models in a school like ours. We never got any answers. These models though totally unclothed to us had completely cloaked their identities. After months of drawing the female body, our school felt it was time to introduce us to the male body.
Since the women we had spent months drawing were all attractive women, even the nursing mother, we were expecting the same from our male model. We came to class that first day, all dressed in our finest studio clothes, make-up applied and hair perfectly coiffed ready to meet, in our young minds, Michelangelo's David". Instead, we met "Richard". Richard was short, spotty, weak-limbed, and worse of all, dirty. He was, as we were told, a fellow artist. That fact quickly explained the dirty factor. Our disappointment was profound. But Richard wasn't disappointed at all. In fact, we could see that he enjoyed posing for 15 eighteen year-old girls. Thankfully, the school's male figure drawing policy did not allow us budding artists to see 'all' of Richard. According to the policy all female body parts were fine because we were girls ourselves. But a certain part of the male body was completely off-limits to us, no exceptions what so ever. When our instructor had explained this policy to us back in the days when we thought we were getting a David and not a Richard, we, budding young feminsists as well as artists, were outraged. We voiced our outrage quite clearly. Our teacher in turn, did tell Richard of our outrage. After seeing Richard and being raised to be polite young ladies, we did not tell our instructor we were glad the school required him to wear a thong.
Richard and his thong were with us for a long time. He was different than the female models in that at tea breaks, he did not put on a robe. He walked around the school clad only in his thong. Even in January and February. When posing, the female models would lie languidly on a couch or sit on a chair with downcast eyes. Richard really put energy into his poses and would stretch himself out in front of us. Once when he did an most revealing pose in front of me, (thank goodness for the thong) I took out a blue pastel and drew him a a big fat man, obscuring his thong by a large Buddha-like belly and gave him matching Buddha toes and toenails. My instructor stopped at my easel and asked, "What is THAT?" I replied, "Abstract art."
As the weather grew warmer, Richard decided that, for our budding artistic talents, we needed to draw him as God had made him. He went to our instructor and convinced her that this must happen. When we arrived at class one perfectly gorgeous, warm Spring day we were told that Richard was going to pose for us au naturale. Since it was against school policy, we needed to go off the school's grounds to do this. Richard had done some scouting and found the perfect place for us that was on the neighboring estate. Richard was already at the studio door with a black kimono on and he led us up into the woods. Eventually we came to a large clearing with a lovely piece of granite emerging out of the ground. Richard waited for us all to find comfortable spots and set up our supplies. When we were ready to begin, he strode out on to the rock and dropped his kimono. We began drawing. Our instructor sat on another very large rock, watching and telling Richard when to change his pose. By this time in my artistic development, I had gotten pretty good at drawing Richard without really looking at him. My roommate though, still spent a lot of time looking at him and because of this, I learned what happened to Richard that fateful day.
Richard was sprawled out across the rock, eyes closed and basking in all of his glory no doubt his mind full of what he was doing for Art's Sake when the afternoon sun decided to open up and bask his glory even more. The sunshine brought out fellow residents of the woods. According to my roommate, a small little honeybee flew out into the clearing and was buzzing along the rock until it landed itself right on Richard's boy parts. Then, the honeybee proceeded to walk around, very slowly. Richard, perhaps because he didn't want to ruin his pose, or because he thought the honeybee was a fly, without looking swatted the bee quite hard. It was Richard's scream that first cause me to look up from my drawing. I looked up just in time to see Richard jumping up, grabbing his discarded kimono and running off into the woods in the direction of school. Our instructor, who must have seen exactly happened, had us wait about 10 or 15 minutes without speaking, then said we were not to tell anyone what we had done and dismissed the class.
The next day, we were back to drawing the unclothed female on a couch in the studio.