A Picture Worth 500 Words

nudefence small
How to Live With an Artist
Marjorie Carlson Davis

Grow accustomed to female nudity, fleshy blondes with skin like honey. Breasts, lips, and dimpled thighs will greet you each morning from a canvas next to your bed. Naked women's portraits hang throughout your apartment and their faces surround you at all times, watching while you bathe, eat, even when you make love with the artist. Your visual landscape will be the hills and valleys of women's torsos, the forests over their pubic bones.

Be warned that your artist may seem like a pervert. In the park, he'll eye women and hold up his fingers in a square, framing them as they throw their heads back in laughter or bend to pick a flower. When he finds one with the perfect skin-hair combination, uniquely perky or pendulous breasts, or some nameless, elusive quality only he can see, he'll approach her.

Because he's handsome-tall with toffee-colored skin-and speaks with a decidedly South American accent, she will almost always agree to pose. You must tune out the eagerness in her voice.

Sometimes, if he finds a deserted corner of the park, he can convince a woman to undress right there. His powers of persuasion amaze you. He is like a magician who can make people believe that rabbits materialize in hats, coins grow in ears. The artist could be a rapist or murderer and you his accomplice for all this woman knows. But he is gentle and patient, like someone coaxing his way past an anxious, territorial dog, or a lover with a virgin. He shows the woman his sketch pad and introduces you as his girlfriend. He seduces her with poetry and passion, rhapsodizing about how beautiful the painting will be with silvery green birch leaves behind her creamy yellow hair. You must turn away when the woman removes her clothes and drapes them over the fence because if you see her eyes-the way she looks at him with lust and hope-jealousy may overwhelm you.

Learn to ignore all of this. Appreciate the way he finds beauty in everything--a silvery tin can on the ground or the artistic drape of a discarded t-shirt. Value how he alerts you to juxtapositions you might miss, like dead, dried leaves scattered beneath vibrant, green ones. Know that although he loves parts of these women--the curl of hair like copper against a white shoulder, the delicate arch of a neck, the creamy swell of buttocks--he adores the living, breathing whole of you. Remember he uses a brush to paint his models, but he paints you with his fingertips, skin to skin.

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