Fiction-Colleen Kolba

How to be a Life Model

Colleen Kolba


Only take jobs at the SAIC—old high school and college classmates play The Artist in master’s programs at Columbia and UIC. You don’t want them to just assume you’re poor.

Notice that it’s never as cold as you expect, that the draft in the studio dries your sweat, makes your nipples erect.

Don’t look at student paintings, drawings, or sculptures unless you’re ready to see that they’ve noticed your left boob is bigger than the right, that they’ve somehow caricatured your vagina to be as big as your face, or how some avoided drawing what they’d call your private parts.

Just take the goddamn shower. You’ve rarely regretted showering.

Buy one of the students’ paintings of yourself. Have it framed. Wrap it in postal paper and twine and put a bow on it. Give it to your parents when you’re home for Christmas. They’re remodeling again and need new art.

Think of Magritte. Ceci n’est pas un corps. To them, you’re a reproduction. But you are a body.

Hide in the bathroom during breaks and read Emily Dickinson on the toilet; when you go out for a cigarette, the students will want to ask about what kind of art isn’t making you money, your nipple color, will you go on a date with his friend Will (he’s in finance), have you ever been a stripper?

Notice the one with thin arms and a beat-up wooden brush box, a gift from his Dutch opa. He rubs his forehead and presses his thumb to his lip. If you say yes, his thumb might press your lips.

Wear your nice black underwear even though no one will see you wearing it and no one will see you take it off.

Recede into your mind after you change each pose. Remember age five, stripping bare in the backyard, dousing yourself with the hose; remember seventeen, bikinis and rash guards on the pier while in a cold Wisconsin lake with boys and rumors of fish that could get you pregnant; remember twenty-four, Field Three on Long Island—the nude beach—and a dare that didn’t require as much courage as you thought because it turns out you didn’t notice if anyone was looking.

Acknowledge that you can’t tell the difference between the artist who asks if you prefer non-dairy milk when he buys you coffee and the artist who says to his friends: “Men fuck; women are fucked.”

You’re given one instruction. Remain absolutely still.