Model Release

By: Erika Masten





Someone once said that the ability to foresee the consequences of one’s actions was the mark of a profound person. Whoever that was, they weren’t talking about me—Iva Moreau—not at any stage of my twenty-five years of life. After a few hard falls and some painful collateral damage, I was trying to change that… but not today….

I’d been in such a hurry that I darted out of my car without my coat, leaving me shivering in the early winter chill as I walked, even when I quickened my pace with hard steps that matched my mood. A mosaic of cracked pavement and piles of unexpectedly upscale trash—from gourmet coffee cups and bright red sushi takeout boxes to artsy (empty) bottles of expensive alcohol—set the scene and my nerves on edge as I stalked up the street of rusty industrial goliaths to the warehouse oddly named The Cathedral. My polished Oxford-style heels clunked on the worn asphalt, the rain-slicked sidewalk, then the austere cement entryway. The dull tap announced my approach with less anger than I’d have liked, more anxiety; I wasn’t dressed for this and not prepared for it. Gray work slacks and a lavender sweater set had no business in a hipster haven and wouldn’t encourage anyone to take me seriously.

Pity that when I’d gotten dressed this morning for another day of answering phones and filing for the dean of the Art Department at Vandergriff I hadn’t anticipated a showdown with some lecherous poseur of an artist trying to take advantage of my baby sister. Tangling with one Moreau girl meant inviting the wrath of all of us.

I could have taken the elevator up. It was oversized for freight, though, and had one of those sliding screeching retractable gates common in older industrial buildings like this one. I bristled from tailbone to nape at the unfamiliarity of it, the strange openness. From what I could see, the whole building was like that, oversized and cavernous, with aged metal squeaking and grating somewhere in the distance. A newly upscale address with a touch of bohemian grit to make its occupants feel cool. To think I used to daydream about living and working in this building, having my own artist’s loft space. Now I snuck in up the absurdly narrow stairway that would never have satisfied modern building standards.

The crumpled university rag clutched in my fist told me I was looking for a photographer named Nolan Beal. A quick Google check directed me to suite 700, the top floor. On the way, I tried to ignore the sinus-clearing scent of paint, turpentine, photo development and lithograph etching chemicals. Most people would have found it a god-awful smell; I felt goose bumps prickling up high and stiff over every inch of my light olive skin with unbearable excitement and anticipation. I could have gotten high off not just the smell but the reflexive swell of creativity, the thrill of making art.

Maybe that was why I was breathing hard as I stepped out of the stark white stairwell into the fourth floor passageway, to get a grip on my runaway pulse, to remind myself I wasn’t scoping out a painter’s studio or admiring the architecture of this renovated warehouse in the old downtown cum art district. But I couldn’t help myself. Right there where I stood was urban redevelopment at its hippest, coolest, most modern ironic. And I absolutely resented how much it appealed to me.

A paint-dribbled wooden floor forged a path down the corridor. Chill October light strafed the scuffed grain from a tall, thin window framed by an anachronistic plaster arch. The archways over the doors to the six studio spaces on that floor all had different shapes and embellishments, but all were…. How would I have described it? Industrial gothic. The architects for the redevelopment had certainly earned their fee, transforming a derelict warehouse into living and workspace for the creative class. It was whitewashed and high contrast, anachronistically high concept as it dressed industrial space in ironically faux historical shapes. I wasn’t sure I really “got it.” But it was both alien and alluring, like someplace I knew I wasn’t supposed to be.

Someplace I knew I wasn’t supposed to be…. Too reminiscent of places I’d already been, to no good end. Places that smelled like this and looked like this and felt like this, if not quite so slick and pretty. Places where the gritty touch hadn’t been a commercial affect.