Living consent is part of Sunday Nudes’s play and rest

This story is part of “Normal People,” a series on reclamation as a way of engaging with the world featuring local artist-advocates and community leaders.

How does it feel to be mindful of your own body in a way that isn’t born out of self-consciousness or self-preservation but coming from a place of self-assurance and safety? Writer and activist Audre Lorde once said, “Women have been programmed to view our bodies only in terms of how they look and feel to others, rather than how they feel to ourselves, and how we wish to use them.”

The decommodification of body and art is one of the values that the feminist creative space for women and queer folk Sunday Nudes strives to fulfill. Since it began in 2017, Sunday Nudes has been steadily growing more certain of how it upholds its values, which also include diversity, inclusivity, curiosity, vulnerability, and authenticity.

Sunday Nudes was founded by 41-year-old nonbinary figure model Dear Prudence in 2017. No stranger to organizing life drawing events, Dear Prudence has been posing for artists since 2010. Apart from gathering for life drawing sessions, Sunday Nudes has also become an avenue for coming together for book club meets, beach and hiking trips, sketchwalks, and more. 

Our quick chat with Dear Prudence allows us to better reflect on what work in progress and consent mean as well as how we can foster them in the spaces we inhabit.

What are things that the creative space tends to look for, highlight, or uncover in its work?

We’re so fortunate that even at the very beginning, we’ve always found our people. Or more accurately, our people have always found us. We thrive in spaces that embrace queerness, in places built primarily for community and not commerce.

Attendees at Sunday Nudes’ March 2019 session. Photo by Marc Ayende

How would you describe your sketching session and workshop process?

Our events are surprisingly wholesome! It’s easier to let your guard down and be kinder when you observe most people attending are really in their own journey, just like you.

And despite being mostly strangers to each other or at least only knowing each other through social media, conversations quickly turn intimate and quite sincere.

As for our process, I see Sunday Nudes as a work-in-progress space—something I actually picked up from the artists. Our gatherings have become a good place to try on a new technique or material or a new movement piece you’re working on.

One of the poses from Sunday Nudes’s most recent life drawing session last February. Luna’s Spoliarium recreated. Ropes, kimono, and fundoshi also by Dear Prudence who’s posing here with Raj Tupaz. Photo by Eayan Bencito

It’s also an ideal practice space for using pronouns you’re still getting used to (your own or other people’s) or maybe introducing yourself by a name or gender that feels most true to you.

And since we are all still working on our allyship and on our craft, messing up is just par for the course. Being a work-in-progress space means repair is what’s important, and with that accountability and extending people more grace.

How does the creative space and its participants take control of their works’ narratives and how they’re being framed?

I’m personally not invested in controlling any sort of narrative or staging how Sunday Nudes is perceived by outsiders, whatever “outsiders” refer to. Being 40 has taught me that you’re simply not for everyone. Some people, and a lot in this country, may think that consensual public nudity in a controlled, secure setting [like] figure modeling and figure drawing is downright disgusting, reprehensible, immoral.

Fortunately, I’m no longer in the business of changing other people’s minds. We are where we are in our own individual journey. [When] people are comfortable shouting out into the world [their] discomfort, anger, and revulsion, it has likely more to do with [themselves] than with anything else.

A figure drawing of Dear Prudence by Dario Noche. Photo by YS James

This is not to say that educating people and leading them towards a more inclusive worldview is not part or should not be part of the feminist work. On the contrary, it is a sizable chunk of the work towards liberation and equality. But it is simply not part of my work—it is beyond my current capacity.

This is also why I have chosen to focus on women and queer folk in the work and play that we do in Sunday Nudes. So I call on allies, specifically cis straight men, to educate their fellow cis straight men about feminism and the deathly grips of patriarchy instead of putting that labor on the backs of women and queer people.

What’s a non-negotiable in organizing for Sunday Nudes?

Sunday Nudes was born out of the anger and frustration over hearing and experiencing horror stories of figure models in life drawing classes—harassment, predation, meager pay, and unsafe working environments. 

Dear Prudence performing shibari on model YS James during Sunday Nudes’s Pride 2023 session. Photo by Tonette Alban

And so the backbone of Sunday Nudes has always been the “guidelines,” the bare minimum parameters of how artists and figure models should work

together. The long and short versions are readily available on our Linktree and free for anyone to use and modify to fit their needs. It’s a document aggregated from best practices of ateliers the world over, plus personal experiences of friends, artists, and figure models.

What has been magical to witness is how the “guidelines” have been transformed and integrated into an active, living, ongoing consent practice not only in our events but also in our lives.

A Baler session with Jyoti in May 2023. Photo by Dear Prudence

For instance, I’ve slowly noticed people thinking twice before taking photos of strangers to use for content. We’ve become much more aware of not posting other people’s children on our feed. We’ve learned not to assume anyone’s SOGIE and to offer our own pronouns when introducing ourselves to encourage people to share theirs.

Sunday Nudes non-negotiables are abusers and predators in our spaces. We are vigilant in not aligning ourselves with individuals, groups, and institutions that actively protect and coddle rapists and groomers. It’s been personally painful and triggering to toe the line between empowering myself and others to speak out while keeping ourselves safe from further harm.

What keeps things fresh and exciting for the team?

New blood will always do the trick of keeping things fresh and riveting. I love working with younger and younger people. My best Sunday Nudes experiences are always when I get to witness a person come fuller and fuller into themselves; that happens a lot in sessions and it’s extraordinary every time.

Dear Prudence with a few Sunday Nudes models at a Ang Mga Baklang Kanal show in February 2024. Photo by Ang Mga Baklang Kanal

What do you want to manifest through the work you foster?

I really rather not use the word manifest but the thing that I wish to bring forth as we continue the work we do in Sunday Nudes is for more spaces like ours: more avenues for rest and play, more friends to celebrate queerness with and make us feel a little less alone.

Erratum: The last photo in the article was miscredited to a photographer and the attribution has since been changed to Ang Mga Baklang Kanal.

Header photo by Marc Ayende

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Amrie Cruz: Amrie is a nonbinary writer who likes to talk about politics and viral animal videos. They have a dog daughter named Cassie who doesn’t go to school.