• Yolanda Frost photographed by Kelly Gardner (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Yolanda Frost is comfortable in her own skin. The musician and artist, who will appear on SBS’s Life Drawing Live, talks to Kylie Boltin about the theatricality of queerness that enables her the power to bare all.
By
Kylie Boltin

Source:
SBS Voices
26 Jun 2020 - 5:05 PM  UPDATED 1 Jul 2020 - 1:42 PM

Listening to Yolanda Frost talk about her experiences as a life drawing model is like hearing the strategy of sneaking the Trojan horse into Troy from an entirely queer perspective.

It is what Frost calls “the theatricality of queerness” that give her the tools to be in control of her body as a life-drawing model – to withstand the assumptions and expectations that many bring to the experience of drawing, and invite them into a queer world-view.

“In the context of life modelling, having a stage allows me – especially as a queer person baring all – to play around with various gendered forms. That is the most fun, and the most delightful for me, with a certain gesture or look.”

 “I often get drawn as 'the Greek Goddess',” she says. “I’m Caucasian, but there’s a rampant exoticism still alive in the world of life modelling."

For Frost, who has Greek-Australian heritage, this often means finding ways to confront cultural stereotypes in unique ways. “I often get drawn as 'the Greek Goddess',” she says. “I’m Caucasian, but there’s a rampant exoticism still alive in the world of life modelling. They are hell bent on being seduced by that feminine mystique. It’s a blast from the past and I really enjoy bursting that bubble of expectation around gender. And it’s quite shocking to me when certain body parts of mine are inflated or deflated,” she says.

Frost’s intentional poses allow her to subvert people’s expectations without them knowing it. “In the history of Western art, the archetypical strong, Greek woman has appeared again and again,” she says. “You have Artemis and Athena, these extremely independent, able, commanding archetypes and I feel that in even holding those poses, I can assume and draw on that power. When I walk out of that room I feel elevated by this ancient strength. Which can be drawn from just meditating with that likeness.”

 “It’s also very inspiring to take a peek at what the artists’ are up to and learn about their mediums and their techniques and their reasons for being there,” she says.

“It’s also very inspiring to take a peek at what the artists’ are up to and learn about their mediums and their techniques and their reasons for being there,” she says.

While Frost’s sense of theatricality and intentionality is formidable, questions around body positivity continue to resonate. “There are moments of doubts and when more insidious feelings are being worked through” she says. For Frost, it is the “opportunity to embrace my skin and the validity of having other people as your witnesses and being thankful of the opportunity to behold,” that emboldens her. “That’s what has given me self-love. When you are a queer person, you have to represent for yourself all of the time” she says.

Frost’s first experience of life drawing was alongside her friends and flatmates at a University of Sydney student co-operative in 2016.  “We’d all go down to the garage and take our clothes off and draw each other. It was getting comfortable in our own skin and playing with the idea that anybody was capable of posing and challenging themselves. In a playful, body positive and deeply respectful, relaxed way.”

It’s a sense that has continued for Frost to this day. “When you are sitting in that pose, it can bring all sorts of things up. I’m aware of certain muscle groups, the scratching on the paper. I’m aware of the time and also the artists around me. There’s such a flurry of different things going on that I really thrive on. The opportunity to do that in a televised context is going to be exponentially larger.”

 

Dr Kylie Boltin won the 2020 NSW Premier's Literary Award for Scriptwriting. Find her on Twitter or Instagram

Life Drawing Live premieres Saturday 4 July, 8.30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand. It streams live across Australia on SBS On Demand and live on SBS at 8.30pm AEST with a delay in WA, NT and SA. A Pose Cam will be available as a separate stream, for those drawing along at home. Join the conversation and share your artwork on the night #SBSLifeDrawingLive Full details at www.sbs.com.au/lifedrawinglive