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“Both of Djuna” – Fiction by Joel Enos & Angela Enos

Seated female nude - Amedeo Modigliani, 1916
Seated female nude – Amedeo Modigliani, 1916

Art and artists are always making us look at models, but in “Both of Djuna,” from our Winter 2015 issueAngela Enos & Joel Enos make us look through the eyes of a model who’s looking at art, and artists, and how they look at models. And art. And also maybe themselves? There’s a lot of levels to navigate here.

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IT IS ALWAYS MORE INTERESTING TO BE A MODIGLIANI than a Sargent. The artist’s model thinks to herself as she sits, unclothed, on the wooden chair as their eyes all perceive and speculate and adapt her pieces and parts. It’s the interpretation itself. The act rather than the actual. Or is it actualization? Actualism?

Not for the first time she wonders if her inward view is more or less intense a gaze than that of those who view her from the outside. She’s sat for this particular group before. But today there are more of them than usual, new faces, new adaptors and interpreters. She rarely allows herself to ruminate, while sitting, on the many ways she will eventually see herself though someone else’s eyes. But with so many new eyes upon her this morning, she can’t help herself. I must distract myself from the distraction of anticipation.

So she looks back at them.

The young one with the wispy mustache that isn’t quite there won’t know any better than to be realistic. He’ll document every line and crease until he’s pushed me into a hard middle age. He hasn’t yet learned to take liberties with the canvas. The fear of being incorrect leads to harsh premonitions about my life.

The one that looks like a sea captain, with the cap on to shade his eyes, he’ll paint with period flair and later realize that he’s made me look like a snapshot of his mother from before he was born. I’ll like it, even though it won’t be me. 

The academic, the one with the accent– Belgian? Germanic? From parts uncharted of Meso-Britannia? She cannot imagine him existing outside of the geography of this studio. He’ll paint me truly and honestly, with the angle of my nose unflattering and the curve of my waist in precise brushstrokes. It will not be beautiful, but I will recognize myself in his work, even through his fingerprints in the oil. 

There is only one woman other than the model in the room. She sits away from the other artists, her easel not part of the half-moon cluster around the model’s stage. The model knows that this woman will work quietly on her own in a cloud of honeyed tea and turpentine in china cups. I will never see her work, but she will thank me at the end of the pose and disappear even faster than I do.

And perched on all of the easels, whether clustered or not, are her cousins. The two-dimensional women all share certain familial characteristics in the shape of their mouths, the protrusion of ears, but they are all distinct individuals. The model feels unsure whether any of her cousins are actually a representation of her self. But she knows the women on the easels are inarguably the girl on the stage. They are all Djuna in this moment, before signatures and initials have been scratched onto their surfaces and varnished into permanence. My part in this process is questionable. I am at best muse, but I might not be art myself.

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