My husband Sabin Howard has become enthralled with the inspiring video lectures on ted.com. I understand why. Sabin and I are seekers of enlightenment, and that spark is the intention behind the website. I usually don’t mind when Sabin brings his MacbookPro to the bedroom and insists that I watch. Although I wish he wouldn’t do it on Monday nights at 9:00, because I am really invested in Jack Bauer saving the world.
Personally, I think that reality TV shows herald, and probably contribute to, the demise of civilization. Reality shows are spawned when interest in story wanes; interest in story wanes when values do not grip people. When people stop believing in sin and redemption. When the mental vacuity of moral relativism numbs us to the fact that we define ourselves by our actions, and every action matters.
(I only sound Republican. I’m a registered Democrat.)
But if they’re going to make reality TV shows, why not one of my life? From the point of view of sad, absurdist comedy, it’s pretty rich. Start with an author married to a Renaissance-obsessed sculptor, four kids from three different marriages, a melange of religions, one communist daughter attending Amherst and one studious pre-med doctor-in-training-daughter at Johns Hopkins, my wild middle child whose first rule of conduct is “No restraining orders!” and a 4 year old imp who talks and reasons like a 7 year old.
The show could debut with the time my husband decided to advertise on Craig’s List for a boob model. Now, this was not a sketchy activity; Sabin is a classical figurative sculptor (think Michelangelo) and he was hard at work on a life size Aphrodite. He’d used several women already, one for gesture, a dancer for the uplifted arms, a tango teacher for the legs, an aikido master for the goddess’ core, all in their 20’s. But he didn’t like any of their busts.
I’m pretty sure he spent a few hours one evening evaluating my humble decolletage, such as it is after nursing three children. He was squinting down my shirt with a crease between his brows, in too clinical a manner for it to be foreplay. But there was no mention of my posing topless for the goddess. My husband was smart enough to hold his tongue. The rejection came and went unsaid.
Ecco, Craig’s List. “Wanted: breast model for a life size figurative sculpture. Professional classical sculptor pays same rate as art schools. See my website www.sabinhoward.com before contacting me.”
There were thousands of responses. Dutifully Sabin opened every single one. About 90% of the emails came from… Heather in New Jersey, who thought a shot of herself hanging upside down off a pole best showed her watermelon-sized endowments. Also exposed her nether parts in a way that only gynecologists, and not fine art sculptors, would find professionally interesting. Or there was Lindyloo in Queens, clad only in sequins, who charged not by the hour, but by the act. She listed a whole menu. I’m a writer and I know a lot of words, but there were things I’d never heard of. I thought about emailing back for elucidation. Maybe then my husband would look down my shirt in a less detached manner.
Sabin was not amused. Not by my chortles and not by the women who could read the words “breast model” but not the words “professional classical sculptor.” He wasn’t titillated, either. This is his work and his work is his God. Sabin was looking for a specific physical attribute and he might as well have been looking at elbows or knees.
He eventually auditioned a few women and chose someone whom I thought was too small for Aphrodite. She is the Goddess of Love, after all, shouldn’t she have a really great set of knockers, full Double-D’s that knock people over?
But of course, he of the exquisite taste was right. Aphrodite was finished and she’s gorgeous, modest bust and all. So maybe there is something elegantly appealing about the less-endowed chest, after all….
The Art of Life: How and Why to Look at Sculpture
by Traci L. Slatton & Sabin Howard
My husband Sabin Howard (www.sabinhoward.com) and I are writing a book about sculpture together. He is a working classical figurative sculptor–think Michelangelo–and I am NOT a PhD.
I want to write this book precisely because I am not a PhD. I want to write it for the purest reason: because I love sculpture and it enhances life and I want to share this passion, and its uplifting effect, with everyone. Sculpture is too beautiful, too innately healing, too richly resonant of what it actually means to be human, to be monopolized by a few people with advanced degrees.
I stand for the democratization of art. This is precisely why I have such a strong aversion to post-modern art, which, with its emphasis on ugliness and alienation, has begged to be rejected by the ordinary person and embraced by the few who either 1, make money off it, or 2, get a PhD out of it.
I am here to tell you: art is not dead. Neither is God, for that matter. There’s a burdgeoning movement that is rediscovering both. Beauty, too.
Why do I call this book ‘The art of life’? Simple: when you pause and breathe and take in a sculpture, it brings you back into alignment with your deepest core self. It renews your Self. It deepens your experience of this moment now, of the presence, and Presence, in this perfectly imperfect moment of space-time. And isn’t that the practice of the art of life? It is for me.