Modern poetry & art by the contemporary Cleveland artist & poet Steven B. Smith
Smith - 1 of 2,754 nudes
all photographs by Chris Stephens | The Plain Dealer
NAKED ON THE LAKE
2,754 gather for nude photo shoot
Sunday, June 27, 2004
Michael Heaton, Plain Dealer Reporter
Tall and short. Fat and thin. Old and young. Hairy and smooth. Black, white, brown and yellow.
They came. They stripped. And they were photographed.
Saturday between 4 and 8:30 a.m., 2,754 art lovers shed their clothes to be part of one of New York artist Spencer Tunick's installations. They set the North American record for the largest number of naked people in a photograph.
Montreal held the previous record with 2,500.
A year ago in Barcelona, Spain, about 7,000 people set the world record for one of his shoots.
Despite chilly conditions at Voinovich Bicentennial Park behind the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (the temperature never rose above 57 degrees), subjects for the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland- sponsored project remained in good cheer.
Humor, mutual respect and cooperation characterized the four- hour session. Tunick photographed three different "setups" as the sun rose over the Steamship William G. Mather Maritime Museum. For one of the first shots, he posed the crowd members lying on their sides with their backs to the lake and facing the city.
The river of humanity extended parallel to the Mather all the way to the bottom of East Ninth Street. Tunick shot it from atop a 40-foot scissor lift. Descending after the shot, Tunick said to an assistant:
Many of those who were in the shot saw it as their one chance to be a part of art with a capital "A."
"This is the only way I'm ever going to get in a museum," said Clevelander Scott Goodrick, 45, president of a local investment firm.
"I heard about Tunick's legal battles in New York City and could appreciate that. I think his work is beautiful. It's an event I wanted to be a part of," he said. (Tunick was arrested five times while shooting in New York. He eventually filed a civil-rights lawsuit against the city and after several years of decisions and appeals, won a favorable ruling.)
Others showed up out of a sense of adventure and curiosity. Michael Costello, 54, an art teacher from Mayfield Heights, came with a lot of questions.
"I wondered how many people would show up. I wondered how cold it would be and what the mood would be like. I'm surprised to see so many people from other cities; I met three women from Tennessee. I guess it's like the Grateful Dead has Deadheads. This guy has Buttheads, I'd guess you call them."
Many people declined to be interviewed or identified.
Tunick used a 20-foot folding ladder and bullhorn to communicate and give instructions. He was gracious to a fault, thanking the crowd and his sponsors for their cooperation.
"After the thrill of the first three minutes being naked," he told the crowd, "you're going to want me to work quickly. So listen up and we'll get this done together."
He asked the crowd to remove glasses, jewelry, watches and all kinds of material adornments. At one point, because of the size of the crowd, Tunick separated his subjects into male and female groups. He shot the women in front of the Mather and the men with Cleveland Browns Stadium in the background. MOCA staff assisted with crowd control, helping Tunick "shape" his shots.
Tunick's wife, Akron native Kristin Bowler, was on hand, making a film of the event. Since 1995, Tunick has directed 65 naked photo shoots in more than 20 countries on all seven continents. Two film documentaries have been made about Tunick and his work.
"We're so pleased at the turnout. We really didn't know what to expect. This is so much more than we had hoped for," she said. "He's getting a lot of good work done here."
There was a lot of joking while the crowd waited for Tunick to snap his shutter. While the women were huddled in the shadow of the Mather, one exclaimed, "I knew I'd see someone from work. Why did it have to be you?"
When the final shot was taken some time after 8 a.m., Tunick sat and talked with the crowd.
"MOCA is very brave to do this. I'm grateful. There are a lot of museums in New York who would not sponsor a project like this. The success we had here today is just a sign that the people of Cleveland are paying attention to arts and culture. They honor this work and dignify the human body as art," he said.
"It's very nice not to be arrested, too," he added, smiling.
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