Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Philip Kasinitz

Committee Members

Cynthia Epstein

David Halle

Elizabeth Wissinger

Subject Categories



Symbolic Interactionism, Sociology of Work, Sociology of Culture


Throughout the history of Western art, drawing the human figure from live nude models has been considered one of the most efficient way to develop artistic skills. While drawing live nudes used to be something one had to enroll in an art school to do, life drawing has now transformed to a leisure practice across widely diverse cultural groups. Professional art models hold a unique place in contemporary society because of the profession’s historical roots with nudity and sexuality. The symbolic boundaries in life drawing in art schools strongly encourage desexualization as a necessary way of shedding the stigmatized and sexualized identity of life models. New forms of life drawing, however, contradict the desexualized environment, where the boundaries of pedagogical conventions and sexual connotations often blur. Through interviews with art models and participant observation in life drawing sessions in art schools, and recreational spaces in New York City, my dissertation examines the challenges that the social taboo of nudity poses to models and their experiences in the changing work environment. The occupational identity and meaning-making of contemporary life models have implications for understanding the complexities involved in an under-valued occupation.

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