“Not really,” Allen Kuziwakwashe replies when asked if he’s ready to get married. Wearing a floor-length couture wedding dress, a veiled hat and an impressive pearl necklace, he nervously stands inside Laura Sheppherd’s bridal shop. Kuziwakwashe, it turns out, is marrying his college buddy, 19-year-old Q Ernwood, in a conceptual photoshoot for Trend magazine’s upcoming summer issue.
“I’m gonna hang for this,” Kuziwakwashe says, fearing the shots might make it to his native Zimbabwe.
“Focus your inner Honey Badger,” Ernwood tells his fellow St. John’s student. “Honey Badger don’t care.”
Prior to this, the pair, accompanied by two female models, donned elaborate animal masks to act out a modern-day bacchanalia feast at Il Piatto Italian restaurant; struck a yoga pose around and atop the fishy “Santa Fe Current”; and started off the day by getting completely naked on the corner of Marcy St. and Lincoln Ave. in a reenactment of the Beatles’ iconic Abbey Road image.
“Let’s shoot by the church. Let’s offend as many people as possible,” says Eric Radack, the creative mastermind behind the shoot, eyeing a crosswalk near First Presbyterian Church. He settles on the location closer to the federal courthouse.
It’s Sunday, 10 am, and Radack has just exited his white F-150 truck. Before heading into Pop Gallery to give the models a pep talk, he heads to the pick-up’s cabin and unloads a few orange cones.
“I’m creating the illusion that we have permits,” the head of the guerrilla shoot says. “We have about 15 minutes before the cops come,” he shouts as he enters the gallery. “So let’s do this!”
Before disrobing, the novice models are given some quick instruction. “If I see any Blue Steel, this is happening,” Radack says, mimicking a slapping motion.
Snoop’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” is blaring from a nearby boombox. A crowd of onlookers quickly gathers.
“If anyone’s getting arrested, it’s me,” Radack says, adding that should authorities descend upon the scene, he’ll take his clothes off in a swift Spartacus move and surrender. “That’s the dad in me.”
Radack is referring to the city’s public indecency ordinance, which forbids the exposure of “male or female genitals, pubic area, or buttocks” as well as breasts without “a fully opaque covering.” The ordinance also bans male genitals in public “in a discernibly turgid” state, covered or otherwise.
“We’ve got thousands of people in this town that go home and look at porno at night,” Radack says. “This is something young and healthy and beautiful—it’s about young people exploring our town. All kinds of things are legislated, but this is the healthy stuff; this is anti-creep.”
Internationally renowned photographer Spencer Tunick agrees.
“Most of the laws that are in place concerning the nude in public space are a reaction to the ’70s and ’80s porn industry’s rise in popularity and protecting the public from porn,” Tunick tells SFR. “Tighter laws have affected artists working with the nude in a nonsexual manner.”
The ultimate contemporary-art outlaw, Tunick is famous for his captivating, large-form nude landscapes. He’s now so highly sought-after that cultural institutions not only celebrate his work, but commission it.
“Governments in foreign countries are often more enlightened when it comes to the human body in art as compared to most individual US state governments,” the author of European Installations says.
On Marcy, as the models adjust their artwork, nothing is left to the imagination. An ambulance stalls at a stop sign and the two EMTs inside it grin from ear to ear and linger. Soon, they notice a patrol car a block away and take off in its direction to chat up the officers and create an unexpected diversion.
“I like it when Santa Fe works!” Radack says, letting out a sigh of relief. “I didn’t have money for bail anyway.”
Behind the camera, photographer Anne Staveley smiles. “Santa Fe needs more youthful energy like this,” she says. “It can get a bit stagnant. There’s lot of artists here, but they kind of sit in their houses, do their thing and rarely step out.”
Radack hopes the day’s adventure energizes the downtown shopping district in a permanent way.
“Everything’s dark by 7 in this town,” he says. “This town needs that juice.”
Twelve hours after the nude, “post-Easter scene of death, resurrection and beauty,” the team is wrapping up inside a room at Luxx Hotel in the conclusion of what Jayden Brooks, fire dancer and model for the day, describes as “a jumblefuck of ideas.”
Radack says the vignette, which features the models in a “sculptural arrangement in a bed,” celebrates the “eros of youth” and has an equality subtext. Winter Riddle, a fifth model, is covered in leather belts and hovers over the bed like a post-apocalyptic kachina.
Displaying more vigor than the models, who are less than half his age, Radack is in a state of full creative ecstasy.
“This is the new Santa Fe Style, bitches!” he proclaims.