The 2B Or Not 2B Collective’s weekly life drawing sessions (online and in-person to ensure accessibility for all artists), feature models of different races, body types and abilities. The pandemic and the contemporary civil rights movement prompted the activists to reassess the overwhelming abled, white, and heteronormative imagery in the arts.
On the other hand, they also saw the disingenuous attempts at inclusivity from large companies, which received public backlash for “rainbow capitalism” and “tokenism.” Amidst all this, 2B has been hosting local drawing sessions that put BIPOC, disabled, and LGBTQ+ representation first.
Wingkei Hoang, one of the models, learned to connect with people conventionally marginalised in media when she was working with 2B. “You may see a few pictures in magazines to tick boxes. But seeing real people with real stories posing live in their own flesh is something that I will always treasure. Interacting with them at their most vulnerable state is what makes you empathise with them,” she said.
The collective was founded in 2012 by a group of artists that regularly attended life drawing sessions in East London. It officially launched in 2017 at a pub called The Macbeth, hence the Shakespearean name. As a result of the pandemic, they had to adapt to online sessions, but this has also helped them broaden their reach to more creators in and outside London.
Moses Life, an artist and model at 2B, explains the importance of representation and accessibility in art. “As a POC and immigrant I wanted to delve into the nude art scene for my own body positivity,” they said. “90% of my body is covered in tattoos, it’s art upon art. 2B brings marginalised bodies into the forefront of life drawing. The good thing about their online classes is that they open up their model roster to the whole world.”
2B’s online drawing classes also run on a “pay what you can” basis so that working-class artists do not have to feel like missing out. They also record their sessions, allowing participants from any timezone to engage with the class as well as draw at their own pace.
Cristian Quinteros Soto, another artist and model, feels that 2B’s work sets itself apart from other companies that are performative in their activism. “I’ve struggled all my life with my body. Being fat, being fem, being brown,” they said. “People like me can see themselves being represented now. There are a lot of companies that say they’re inclusive but in reality, they aren’t.”
2B Or Not 2B now runs regular drawing classes in community art spaces around London for people of all skill levels. Occasionally, they also host exhibitions for artists to display their past work with 2B. Artists in other countries are also welcome to join these classes in the comfort of their own homes. Visit the 2B Or Not 2B Collective website for upcoming events.
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