There’s a gift in being given the ability to see your own naked body in a way that makes you feel as if you’re seeing it for the first time … in a way that might even move you to tears of joy. Artist Jorge Carabelli is able to give that gift over and over again to his models who get to experience their bodies in a whole new way thanks to his talent. His gorgeous, life-like body casts of the naked form have wowed his audiences since he started creating them.
Jorge always had a powerful understanding of how expressive a body could be all on its own due to the fact that he spent his early years performing as a ballet dancer. Into his thirties he continued with other forms of dance’ strengthening that conversation with his body, understanding how movement can express emotions.
When his dance involvement ended, Jorge was interested in finding something to fulfill that creative urge. “I discovered wood carving. I’ve always been good with my hands and I enjoyed the feel of doing that so I learned that … I was doing some abstract design and sculptures, then progressed on to doing figures. I liked that but was a little frustrated with wood because you make one mistake and it’s over.”
Soon after, Jorge and his wife were at an art fair and saw one of these body casts. She liked it a lot and wanted to buy it — Jorge liked it too and thought “But I can do that,” he says with a laugh. So after doing a little research on how it was done he started practicing on his wife. A lot. So much so that she finally said, “Okay that’s enough, go get some models.”
Jorge put the word out and a lot of their friends stepped up. It started with them, the word spread, other people heard about it, and from there it just took off. Jorge thinks the enthusiasm for his projects is because “The response is immediate — people who look at it love it, and they get to become a work of art.”
People who look at the pieces have a strong reaction, and that’s nice to see. “When I was working with wood,” he says, “I’d work on a piece for three months and people would say ‘Oh that’s nice.’ But with this method, one piece will take two to three weeks and it’s a lot quicker and they love it and they’re moved by it. The models will sometimes be moved to tears at how it came out. It’s very fulfilling.”
Some models are friends of friends but others have found him on Instagram or Facebook or see his work at a friend’s house and they’ll commission a piece. He’s shown some of his work in art fair booths and gotten clients that way, as well.
So how does Jorge work with a model in order to get the final emotional piece he’s looking to unlock? “They disrobe and then we start talking. When someone has no clothes on there’s no hiding behind anything, they’re naked and become very honest.” First they talk and he gets a sense of their personality, what they’re going through at the time, what they want to achieve. Then Jorge will work on doing a pose that will reflect that part of them. Are they strong and confident? Going through a transition? Do they want more freedom in their life? “Or sometimes,” says Jorge, “I get a sense that they’re a strong personality but you don’t see the gentleness of them. So I get the gentleness out. To me that’s much more fulfilling, trying to get something out, not just body parts. It’s ‘Can I get that person’s personality? Can someone see she’s a real sensitive person?’ or ‘I can see this girl is real confident.’”
One girl was just recently in love with somebody and she couldn’t stop talking about it. “I said ‘I’ve got to find a way to capture this.’ I ended up doing a couples pose with her and her boyfriend.” Another woman was sixty when Jorge asked her to pose. She waffled and mentioned something about maybe if she was 20 years younger … Jorge managed to convince her to do the piece and later when she saw it she started crying. She saw herself in a new light — all of a sudden she’s beautiful. It didn’t fit her image of herself.
Sometimes if Jorge is doing a particular project with a particular theme then he’ll look for particular attributes. Other times people come to him and they want to capture something or they themselves want to model — or their wives want to model, and they work together to find something in their personality to make it special for them.
Sometimes the idea can be very specific, though. “I had been working on this idea that came from talking to one of my models, to do sculptures of women’s vaginas next to their hands, and have women from the ages of 18 to 75 so that people could look and compare. So I did that and people would try to puzzle out who was what age. It immediately got them engaged with the artwork. But that’s one where I got people to specifically come forward for this piece.”
So what is it that drives Jorge to keep working in this medium? He loves making a
piece that moves people, he tells me, either the models themselves, or the people looking at it. One female model had had a double mastectomy and she wanted a piece done, but wanted to know if Jorge could capture her naked form without the mastectomy scars. “Usually things are very realistic,” says Jorge, “you see the pores on the skin and the wrinkles on the hands. I’ve never altered one before but I thought ‘Let me give it a try’. So I made a sculpture of her and went in and re-sculpted it. I made a piece without any scars and she loved it. That kind of thing is important to me.”
Speaking of mastectomies, “I had a model who has since had a double mastectomy, but now has implants and would like to come back and do one with her ‘new girls’ as she calls them,” Jorge tells me. “I always thought it would be neat to do a before and after, putting them together back to back. If that could contribute to people, then I’d do it. I don’t want to exploit people who’ve gone through a great traumatic event but rather give them a feeling of closure, or a better sense of confidence.”
In terms of self-confidence, Jorge tells me that the one thing that bothers him the most is when he talks to women about posing and they often say “oh twenty years ago, maybe” or “if I lose twenty pounds.” “That really bothers me,” he says, “the lack of confidence women have in their bodies. They’re all self critical and that’s a result of the society that we live in and the Instagram pictures we see… the magazine covers … I understand that. And if I could erase that, that would be meaningful for me, that would be great. That would be my goal. I like to do pieces that show people how you are beautiful — every body is beautiful in a way and it’s my job to pull that out. Then project that in a way that you can see it, and everyone else can see it too. So I feel that I’m contributing to the empowerment of women’s self-confidence when I can get them to pose for me and I can get a sculpture that reflects how beautiful they are that they may not have realized before.”
What an inspiring, body-positive message to leave our readers with! Jorge, I wish there were more of you in this world, spreading the idea of self-love. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your work here with us today.
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