A Greater Boston native, I'm a professional dancer and award-winning interdisciplinary artist with talents in choreography, filmmaking, art, and graphic design. I'm co-founder and artistic director of Luminarium Dance Company (Boston, MA), art director of Art New England magazine, senior contributor for The Arts Fuse, and am the Boston area dance critic for the international Fjord Review. I recently completed a one-year term as co-chair of the Arlington Cultural Council, and am regularly hired as an arts advocate to speak at events ranging from legislative assemblies at the State House to entrepreneurial panels for students at Mount Holyoke College. This blog serves as a behind-the-scenes peek into the life and journal of an interdisciplinary artist. Learn more at merliguerra.com or luminariumdance.org, and thank you for reading my thoughts on setting the visual and performing arts into motion.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Black and White and in the Nude: Modeling for Judith Larsen

The first week in June, I found myself once again on the threshold of producing another issue of Art New England magazine, with all decided but the cover. For once, though, I was determined to see one image rise to the top of the list. Judith Larsen (world-renowned photographer and wife of equally famous artist Peik Larsen) had sent us her images to be shown at out of bounds 2014. The image I saw immediately peaked my interest, and eventually I succeeded in making it our July/August 2014 issue cover:

Art New England's July/August 2014 issue cover, featuring SHIMA by Judith Larsen.

I couldn't help but let the artist know how happy I was to have put her image on our cover, and let her know I was curious about her work. One thing led to another, and in chatting we discovered that we're both projection artists with a love of using the body as a canvas! As if that wasn't a cool enough connection, Judith soon asked me to join her in the studio to model for her upcoming photo series...

...Here's the catch. In order to create these gorgeous images, Judith projects black and white images onto nude bodies against a black backdrop, then inverts the photograph to create these beautiful, ethereal figures. Oh, did you miss the catch? Nude bodies.

There was once a time when the timid ballerina inside me would have politely declined, but luckily over the years I've come to love the unexpected adventures that arise when working, performing, and collaborating as a professional artist. Judith's works are incredible, and have been shown all over the world. No level of self-consciousness was going to stand in my way this time, and before I knew it, I was borrowing Kim's bathrobe and heading to the studio!

PLEXIS by artist Judith Larsen, featuring models Merli V. Guerra and M.D.

The first photoshoot went well, and as we walked in a few weeks later for round two, we were greeted with a mesmerizing sight. The worktable was now covered in prints from the first session, with paper doll cutouts of M.D. and myself in contorted poses, sometimes inverted, other times against the original black. It was beautiful and surreal at once--hard to believe we were the subjects in these intricate otherworldly photos!

Ultimately, we spent the afternoon fine-tuning two of the images, followed by an afternoon of me trying to untwist my body and work out the kinks of holding each pose for an hour! We had an absolute blast, and loved the two final products: PLEXIS (above) and EMERGY (below).

EMERGY by artist Judith Larsen, featuring models Merli V. Guerra and M.D.

A few months later, I was invited to attend the opening VIP reception for the annual sale at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where EMERGY was framed against the wall. Judith welcomed me into the space, introducing me to viewers, and we both were excited to see the final product proudly displayed for $3,000.

At the 2014 SMFA Auction. Merli V. Guerra with artist Judith Larsen.
Photo: Jill & Bob Armstrong

At the 2014 SMFA Auction. Merli V. Guerra with artist Judith Larsen.
Photo: Jill & Bob Armstrong

At the 2014 SMFA Auction. Judith Larsen and
Merli V. Guerra with Larsen's EMERGY.
Photo: Jill & Bob Armstrong

As I joked when accepting this gig, a nude photoshoot should really be on every "real" artist's bucket list. So I suppose I can call it quits and check it off my own, yet I have a feeling this is just the beginning of working with Judith, and hopefully just another story to add as I continue along the "real artist's journey."

View more of Judith's work at judithlarsen.com.