Archives for category: art

After we posted our report last week about the first of our two recent figure-drawing sessions, a follower of our blog sent us this image of an outdoor mural in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was painted by a man (on the side of a strip club, no less!) and it’s a bit on the Jessica Rabbit end of the spectrum; but all the same, it’s kind of a nice piece of art. And we certainly approve of the message that women can take brush (or pencil, or charcoal) in hand and make art out of the naked female body.

We just prefer to do it ourselves.

Why did we split our figure drawing event into two sessions? Not enough room for 40+ people at one session, for one thing. And not everyone could make it on the same day. Plus, it’s fun to see each other again so soon!

We had a few return attendees from the first session–

–but mostly it was new faces. Some new to our events, some new to figure drawing, some new to both.

We changed things up a bit this time. The treats from Baked By Melissa were macarons, for instance.

We had a different photographer on duty.

And at least one person experimented with applying pencil to paper in an entirely different fashion.

But other things stayed the same. We took turns posing for each other.

There was one male in the mix.

And lots of fun was had.

Between poses, we threw in some bits of massage, to help keep muscles from locking up.

But the heart of the matter was as it always is: sitting and drawing.

Want to join us the next time we sit down to draw each other? Pretty soon it’s going to be warm out — so maybe the next time we’ll be sitting on the rocks in Central Park instead of on stools indoors. But either way we’ll be in a state of nature — and celebrating how nature shaped us.

You can do it. Just email toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and the rest will come naturally.

In Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the va-va-voomish Jessica Rabbit, chesty cartoon vixen, famously says, “I’m not bad — I’m just drawn that way.” It may seem an unlikely rallying cry for a feminist group like ours. And yet. What woman has not felt, at one time or another, that the body she finds herself in through no act of her own does more to determine how people see, evaluate and treat her than anything she might do or say or think or believe or accomplish?

One of our goals since founding this group 8+ years ago has been to take back control over how our bodies are presented and how they’re seen. One of the ways we do this is by taking our shirts off when we feel like it, and insisting that there doesn’t have to be anything sexual about it — a bare chest is just a bare chest, whether it’s a woman’s or a man’s. Another way we do it from time to time is by taking pencil in hand and producing our own images of ourselves and each other. Why should men be the ones to decide how women’s bodies get depicted? Like Ms. Rabbit says, we’re not bad — why should we even have to be drawn that way?

All of which is by way of explaining how we found ourselves, a few weeks back, taking over a theater-district rehearsal studio, stocking it with pencils, erasers, sketchpads and Baked By Melissa mini-cupcakes (yeah, it’s a thing, all right? Georgia O’Keeffe would totally have done it if they’d existed back then) and spending several hours on each of two evenings transforming our bodies into art.

Here you see photos from the first for those two evenings. We had a really nice turnout — about two dozen people — and though there was some nervousness to start, by the end of the session pretty much everyone had taken a turn drawing and getting drawn.

It’s an interesting feeling, having a dozen people staring closely, minutely at every inch of your body in order to recreate it on the page. And just as interesting to stare closely, minutely at someone else’s body and direct your hand to reproduce every line, every curve.

The female body is a wonder. Every one different, every one unique. The male body, too — we had two XY-chromosomed pals along for the ride and got to draw some male anatomy as well. And not for one instant was any of it sexual. Not having clothing on is just that — not having clothing on. Our bodies are just these extended forked things, with joints and skin and stuff. Pass the cupcakes!

We had some trained artists, some novices. Also some experienced figure models and some newcomers. The more ambitious poses were mostly offered by the newcomers. (It’s experience that teaches you not to offer a pose holding an apple core in your mouth for ten minutes.)

Fun was had.

Then, before long — before long enough — it was over. We packed our supplies away, said our reluctant farewells, and headed out into the world again, where the billboards and taxi-top ads of Times Square offered Photoshopped images of cinched waists and made-up faces and cantilevered cleavage. We were back in the land of Jessica Rabbit once more.

But not for long! A second night of figure drawing was on its way, our pencils ready to come out again. As they say: watch this space.

So it’s nearly 2020. And how are we going into the new decade? Loudly.

You’re not really surprised, are you? No one has ever mistaken us for shrinking violets. We speak our minds, we raise our voices when change is needed in the world, and when it comes to leisure-time activities, it’s true that sometimes we like to just lie in the sun and read, but other times? Other times we like to make some noise.

That is how we found ourselves for the second year in a row taking over the largest room at Alphabet City’s best dive karaoke bar, Sing Sing on Avenue A.

What makes it a dive bar? Well, we love the hell out of it, but it’s not exactly for clean freaks. It’s a dark, grotty space, with the karaoke rooms located down a steep staircase in a dungeon-like basement. The walls are scarred and pockmarked, as if from all the decibels that have battered them, and no one wants to think about all the spills the floors have soaked up.

And yet — it’s a wonderful place. Warm when it’s cold out, and we’re not just talking temperature. (Though, yeah, we’re talking temperature too.)

This is the sort of place that, when we call up and say we want to bring two dozen topless women to belt “Macarthur Park” and “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Disco Inferno” and “Jump (For My Love),” they don’t ask any questions. They just take our drink orders and leave us to it.

Did we only sing old stuff off our parents’ vinyl? No way. But by the time we got to timelier fare, no one was keeping track of the tracks anymore. There was Gaga, there was Outkast. Some raps were rapped. But sometimes you just can’t beat “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics. We all wish we were Annie Lennox sometimes. I mean, come on.

What else went down? Well, halfway through the night the $1 pizza joint down the block delivered a stack of pies. There may have been some fancier food hiding somewhere in the room too. Port wine potato chips and such.

Selfies also got taken, solo and group.

But mostly it was a night for singing, for total abandon, for letting it all hang out with dear friends and showing the night and the winter and the dying year and expiring decade who’s boss.

It felt really, really good.

Cathartic in that wonderful way only pouring everything you’ve got into a mic can.

And why does being topless make karaoke better? Damned if we know. But being topless makes everything better. And we’re not so sure bottomless isn’t better still.

So, what do you think, are you going to join us next time? We’ve got an acroyoga class planned, a couple of figure drawing sessions, a possible baking adventure, a dinner, a D&D night. (Yes, a D&D night. What, you think only boy nerds like that stuff?) And all that’s before the thaw comes in the spring, at which point it’s outdoor time again!

If you’re an open-minded, freedom-loving woman in the New York area, we’d love to hear from you. Email toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com or message us on Insta or Twitter.

And then come sing your heart out with us. It may not be Auld Lang Syne, but there’s no better way to ring in a new year.

Every so often we’re contacted by someone who wants us to take a look at something she or he has done. It might be a writer who would like us to read her book or an artist or photographer who’d like us to pose for pictures or, in one memorable case, a member of the Queens Economic Development Corporation eager to have us grace his borough rather than spending all our summer afternoons in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Generally, we politely say thank you but no. But once in a while something special catches our eye.

This summer, we heard from Deb, one of a trio of charming Canadian ladies who’ve spent the past 25 years doing various body-casting projects and more recently have created a cast-at-home kit you can use yourself to make permanent casts of…your nipples.

The kit is called Areola Art, and they sent us one to try out. It uses the same stuff dentists use to take impressions, and after mixing up a batch in a little plastic cup (feeling every inch a Girl Scout — the kit even comes with little wooden tongue depressors for stirring!), you bend forward, aim, and plop your boob down in the goop.

Yes, it’s cold. And squishy. And feels funny as it hardens. But not bad. And peeling it off is kinda fun. Then you mix up a batch of stone, fill the mold, let it harden, pull off the mold, and — voila!

The next step is to use the included set of paints and brush to add color and transform your little stone nipples into proper works of art. We didn’t take it quite that far — we were trying this out at a Very Special Indoor Event, and by the time our nipples had hardened, some other stuff was calling us away from the kitchen that we found rather hard to resist. (What was it? That’s a subject for another post.) But here are some examples of what other Areola Art customers have done with their nipples:

Would we recommend Areola Art? Absolutely. It’s a fun group activity at a party (if your parties are anything like ours), and the end results are kind of cool. Who wouldn’t want to see her nipples made permanent in stone? Look on my nips, ye mighty, and despair!

Our male friends might be interested as well. (You might just need a bigger kit.)

Cynthia Plaster Caster poses for a portrait at the Michael Mauney Studio in Chicago, IL, January 1969.

Fall is coming. As much as we might wish summer would last forever, next week it comes to an end. Yes, the temperatures are still poking up into the 70s most days, but pretty soon they’ll top out in the 60s, and then it’ll be 50s, and then we’ll all be wearing knit hats and the greenmarkets will be touting hot apple cider.

But we’re still hanging on to summer with both hands — we held an event in the park yesterday, and we think we can get in one last visit to our favorite rooftop sundeck, too.

Will it be as exceptionally well attended as this one was? Probably not. It’s easier to get people to come out and shed their clothes in August than September. But if anything can inspire us to strip down to the barest of bare essentials, it’s our little rooftop sanctuary.

What calls to us here? The relative privacy, for one thing. Though any guest of the hotel can use the roof, few ever do. And the easygoing, live-and-let-live atmosphere helps too. (The fellow in the foreground here wasn’t a member of our group, but he didn’t seem bothered to have two dozen naked women descend on him — or, as you can see, unduly excited by it.)

We like having an outdoor spot where we can relax in peace–

–with some cool water and a stack of books.

Where we can eat a simple meal–

Draw a little, paint a bit–

Catch up with whatever’s happening on the internet–

Share with our neighbors–

Be neighborly in other ways–

And just bask in the sun–

–all without worrying that the sight of our bodies might alarm or offend anyone.

Remember that interview Shailene Woodley gave at the height of her Divergent fame, where she talked about the salutary effects of sunlight on body parts too often kept under wraps? “I like to give my vagina a little Vitamin D,” she was quoted as saying. “When the sun finally comes out, spread your legs and get some sunshine.” We feel the same way.

Only with warm days in waning supply, it’s less when the sun finally comes out and more before the sun goes away.

What will we do over the winter? Oh, we always find fun things to do indoors. We sing karaoke, we visit the spa, we do yoga.

Or we brave the snow and ice for some Polar Bear Club-style outdoor fun:

But there’s nothing quite like the freedom and the unstinting, luxurious abandon of getting naked together on a summer afternoon in a cozy spot where you know you’ll feel comfortable and loved and accepted.

“Prelapsarian” is one of our favorite obscure words. It means “before the fall,” but less in the calendrical sense than the biblical one. It refers to the time in Eden, when we were naked and innocent. Well. Far be it for us to preach, but we believe you can make your own Eden, even in the heart of busy, noisy, not-so-innocent New York City.

We’ve made ours.

And if you’d like to join us there for our last visit of 2019, let us know. (Email: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. Insta: @topless.pulp.)

We think Mother Sol has one more dose of Vitamin D left in her.

Yesterday our little group turned 25.

Years? No. We started meeting in August 2011, which makes us a bit over 8 years old. By that accounting we’re not even in our teens, never mind our 20s.

But there’s another way to measure our growth, and that’s how many people we’ve reached, and how many times we’ve reached them. And by that metric, around noon yesterday, New York time, we turned 25: this blog we created 8 years ago has now been seen 25 million times.

25 million!

It’s a number you can’t even properly hold in your head. If you grew up in a small town or a small city (or even a small country!), you didn’t have 25 million people to call your neighbors. Even if you’re a New York native, it’s more than the number of your fellow New Yorkers. 25 million gumballs outweigh the Statue of Liberty. 25 million subway cars would stretch from here to the moon.

And yet that’s the number of times people have come to this site and seen one of our photos or read our words, discovered what freedom looks like and sounds like, what a woman exercising her equal rights is like.

For our first event all those years and views ago, we went shirtless in Central Park, so we were very pleased to be able to commemorate this milestone with a report about a return visit. Not to Sheep Meadow this time, but to a quiet lawn on the east side, where passers-by stroll and strollers pass by,

where four-legged companions are welcome,

and two-legged companions too.

Where you can discover the sense of style you share with a total stranger–

Where you can partake of art in all its forms, whether that’s painting–

Or photography–

Or reading–

Or writing–

Or drumming and dancing–

Or the gustatory arts,

Or the simple art of the snooze.

And you can partake of any of these artful activities with or without a top on,

Solo or in a group,

Regardless of what body parts you happen to have been born with or acquired at puberty.

It is a wonderful thing to live in a city like ours, at a time like this, to have our autonomy and equality respected. But we’re conscious of the fact that our experience is still very nearly unique in the United States and in too many other parts of the world. Yes, you can go topless or even fully nude on select beaches throughout Europe and the Caribbean, and that’s a wonderful thing. But how many places offer true equality?

We relish the thought that some of the 25 million times we’ve been seen it’s been by women in those other parts of the world, where freedom isn’t as widespread — yet. Only one view once came from St. Bart’s, where a bared breast wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow, but 6 came from Vatican City — and hundreds of thousands came from Russia and China, tens of thousands more from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and the rest of the Middle East. We like to know that we’re providing a model of free expression and female liberation to places that lack it.

And even in our own back yard, we like to know we’re opening eyes and minds.

Of course, winter is on the horizon, so for this year our balmy days of sunbathing in Central Park are numbered. But even that doesn’t feel so terrible when the number we’ve reached is such a triumphant one.

25 million!

We thank you all for your part in helping us achieve what we’ve achieved. And we hope if you’re a woman — whether near or far, nervous or bold — you’ll stand up and be counted along with us someday. That you’ll take that wonderful first step toward freedom.

And if you’d like to do it with us rather than alone, we’d love to welcome you to the fold. Getting started is simple: just email toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com or find us and message us at @topless.pulp on Instagram or @ToplessPulp on Twitter.

All it takes is one message, one moment of being brave. That’s how we’ve gotten here, one brave moment at a time.

Times 25 million.

One month into the new year and we hadn’t held an event yet — it was time. But it’s still cold out! So we asked ourselves, what sort of fun could we get up to indoors?

New York’s warmest, most inclusive, most accepting piano bar called to us. The Duplex is an icon, having opened in 1951 and moved to its current space on Christopher Street in 1989. Generations of pianists, singers, comedians, drag queens, and future Broadway stars have performed there, or at least dropped by for a drink. The place isn’t huge, but what it lacks in grandeur it more than makes up for in bonhomie. (Ooh, aren’t we French all of a sudden? Perhaps the Duplex’s lovely French doors, with nice open views onto the street, inspired us.)

Could we enjoy an evening of song and good company there topless? Of course we could, they told us. Why not? And so we shed the winter blahs along with our topcoats and sweaters and scarves and blouses and bras; and having heaped all that in a pile in the corner, we got down to the serious business of nibbling meringues and fruit tarts from a patisserie down the block while the wait staff brought us brilliant libations and belted out the greatest hits of Barbra Streisand, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, Elton John, Billy Joel, Lennon and McCartney, Boublil and Schonberg, and some Disney princesses if those Disney princesses had been a lot hornier than the movies would have you believe.

We even stepped up to the mic and belted out a song or two ourselves: “Valerie” by the Zutons, “Popular” from Wicked. Was the point to dethrone Kristin Chenoweth as the perfect Glinda? It was not. But if we didn’t bring her soaring soprano, we more than made up for it with brio. (And now, suddenly…we’re Italian. What can we say, we contain multitudes.)

We didn’t get any reading done at the bar, of course, but we brought a bunch of pulp fiction to share and carry home, courtesy of our friends at Hard Case Crime: a new Mike Hammer comic book, a delicious Donald Westlake novel about monks on Park Avenue, a pre-release copy of Joyce Carol Oates’ tale of a serial killer in 1960s Hollywood. Good to have reading material for these cold winter nights.

But some cold winter nights you just need to go out and get your groove on.

And it’s hard to imagine a better place to do that than the Duplex. Welcoming, tolerant, queer-friendly, generous with both the tunes and the beverages, and (unlike, say, Tumblr or Facebook) utterly unfazed by the sight of a female-presenting nipple or two. (Or two dozen.)

Will we be back when those French doors open up in the summer to let the balmy West Village air in? Oh, yes. With a song in our heart and no clothing above it.