Throughout her twenties, Kelley Swain worked as an artists’ model. The Naked Muse is her elegant, fascinating memoir of this time, meditating on art, travel, and how we accept, inhabit, and understand our own bodies. She describes her first experience disrobing for a class, modelling for international artists over six years, an intensive month being painted in Bruges, and posing as saints for a Sicilian chapel frieze.
Swain reveals how it really feels physically, intellectually, and emotionally – in the moment when “it’s my matter that matters, not ... what I consider to be ‘me’.” Both a flirtation with submissiveness and a wielding of power, Swain examines the model’s role in art’s alchemy, and tells the forgotten stories of women whose faces still bewitch us from gallery walls.
“A virtuoso concoction of life writing, meditations on painters and painting, body morphology, travelogue and researched investigation into the 'gaze'. Full of light and colour, Swain’s prose flows beautifully ... fans of Rebecca Solnit or Marina Warner will love this.”
— Richard Skinner, author of The Mirror
“An insightful, lyrical memoir which sheds light on the role of nude models ... illuminating both their immortality and invisibility.”
— Fani Papageorgiou, TLS
Kelley Swain was born in Rhode Island, 1985, and is now based in London, working as a writer, editor and educator in poetry, science, and the medical humanities. She is the author of Darwin’s Microscope (Flambard Press, 2009), Atlantic (Cinnamon Press, 2014) and editor of The Rules of Form: Sonnets and Slide Rules (Whipple Museum, 2012).
In 2013, Kelley worked with seven poets and one illustrator to create the anthology Pocket Horizon, which was launched in October of that year at the Science Museum, London. Kelley's verse drama set in 18th-century Florence, Opera di Cera, was published in March 2014.
Kelley's memoir of her years working as a life model, The Naked Muse, was published by Valley Press in May 2016. This year has also seen Kelley contributing to the VP anthology Guests of Time, after a residency at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
Date Published: 2016-05-26
Catalogue Number: VP0084
Number of Pages: 166
Cover design by Jamie McGarry
Cover photograph by Nicola Pappalettera
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