Camille Watson: Posing for an Artist
I’ve decided to celebrate the fact that I’m in the first years of the second act of my life. Act I was spent growing up, marrying and learning to live and grow with my life partner, raising kids, scheduling, cooking, being responsible and being generally busy. As I am living and defining Act II, I find that, as much as I loved Act I, I want the second one to look different. So far, it does. I’m still celebrating life with my spouse, but the kids are grown and forging lives for themselves. Act II, so far, has been filled with new directions and a blossoming career doing what I love. Am I crazy for wanting more? I want Act II to be defined by art, travel, music, feasting and celebrations, and coming into my true power a a human being. I want to drag out the bucket list and make all those dreams come true.
There is a line item on my bucket list, among the entries “Travel to France” (check), “Go skinny-dipping,” “Travel to Scotland,” “Write a book” (check), “See the Aurora Borealis” (check) and “Hike the El Camino,” and it is “Pose for an artist.” This particular wish was born when I was in a drawing class in college.
I met the artist through my daughter. Dr. John McRae is a professor of architecture at the University of Tennessee, and former Dean of the College of Architecture at both UT and the University of Mississippi. When he is not teaching architecture, he can be found at his studio at Mighty Mud sculpting works of art. He has always loved the creative process, and has dabbled in art over the years. He began his work as a sculptor as he was thinking about stepping down from his position as Dean. His first sculptures were fantastic creatures. In 2010, his wife Sharon suggested that he try his hand at sculpting women’s torsos. Now, most of his sculptures celebrate the female form, but he also does male and animal sculptures. You can see his work in progress and some of his finished pieces on his Facebook page. John likes Raku glazing because if the serendipitous qualities - you never quite know how it will turn out. Raku pottery is fired with combustable materials, which causes an uneven smokey coloring to settle onto the surface and into the fine lines in the clay.
Clients often become interested in John’s work because they are going through a time of change or are wanting a new form of self expression. He has become a very good listener. Pieces look more generic in the beginning but, through his artistry, acquire the qualities of the person who is posing. Taking a cue from Leonardo da Vinci, he studies anatomy to ensure that his renderings of the human form aren’t superficial.
Working with cancer survivors has been a poignant and powerful motivator for John. He is honored to have the opportunity to work with someone who is currently struggling or has moved into being a survivor. Many have a desire to create an image of what their body was like at another time. One time he made a piece, and a breast fell off during the bisque firing process. He posted the picture on Facebook, and through that picture became connected to the breast cancer survivor community. Now he is associated with Save the TaTa’s and does pieces for fundraisers.
Art, especially nudity in art, was just not part of our existence in my childhood Southern home. So when I contacted John to begin the process for a sculpture, I was a bit uneasy. After all, my body isn’t what it was when I was nineteen. But my scars and imperfections are from living. Decades from now I’m sure I’ll be nostalgic about what my body looks like today. And, I wanted the sculpture to be a gift for my husband.
The time came to shed my clothes after a conversation with John to find out what I wanted my piece to look like. What else did I shed? Inhibitions. The restraints of my conservative past. Worry and doubt. I stepped out of my clothes and into the ranks of all the people who have ever posed for an artist. How did I feel? Liberated. Empowered. Strong. Beautiful. Worthy. When I commented on this to John, he said he many clients had expressed similar feelings in the past.
For me, a life well-lived is lush with adventure, art, feasting and celebrations. As much as my life’s work is about food and health, it’s not always about the food. I began this process as a gift to my husband (he loves it, by the way). It ended up being a gift to myself. John tells me that in architecture, the term “symbiosis” is used to describe the integration of elements into an organic whole. My art piece is beautiful - a symbiosis of my story and the artist’s ingenuity. She is a celebration of this particular slice of time, and she ushers in Act II in grand style.
-Camille Watson, Health educator, speaker and author of the book Eight Steps to a Real-Foods Kitchen