Heard on the Hill

Cleveland Better Brace for Its Close-Up

Spencer Tunick preps for nude shoot ahead of GOP Convention

Spencer Tunick's 2004 photo, Ohio 2, hangs in the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. (Courtesy of Spencer Tunick)

Artist Spencer Tunick wants to brighten everyone’s day during the upcoming Republican National Convention in Cleveland. His contribution: recruiting 100 nude women to illuminate the cityscape with their natural beauty.  

“It’s a time for me to do something besides vote, besides just posting tweets ,” the world-renowned photographer said of the installation he’s scheduled for July 17 — just 24 hours before the GOP rolls into town to anoint its nominee for the 2016 presidential contest.  

Tunick's mass nude photo shoots have earned him worldwide recognition. When he last turned his lens on the Rock and Roll Capital of the World in 2004 , 2,500 volunteers shed their clothes for a group photo coordinated in conjunction with the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.  

This time around, he’s going it alone.  

“This project is grassroots,” Tunick said of the plan he and his wife, Kristin Bowler, hatched back in 2013.  

Although he’s deliberately steering clear of the convention site at the Quicken Loans Arena — the actual shoot is expected to take place on private property so as not to run afoul of local authorities — Tunick admitted that the event is a reaction to the animus stirred up by the current election cycle.  

[Related: Does Voter Anger Explain the Success of Presidential Outsiders ?] He intends to speed the healing process by perfectly positioning 100 women (approximately 60 volunteers have already applied ), each toting 24-inch mirrors, in an effort to capture and reflect the piercing rays of the rising sun onto the convention center.  

“For me, it’s the visual opposite of the rhetoric of hate and exclusion being trumpeted by the Republican party,” he asserted, adding that he hopes the installation will “transmit some beauty, some progressive thinking” onto the surrounding area.  

“It’s definitely a gift for the people coming to the city,” Tunick suggested. “It’s not meant to cause any havoc. It’s meant to inspire people.”  

It would be great, he suggested, if visiting politicos took something positive away from the experience. If not, Tunick’s already got a target audience in mind.  

“I’m doing this work for my daughters,” he shared, stressing, “My work has always been about freedom.”  

This shoot, although similar to other installations he’s done around the globe, does somewhat break from a little known tradition.  

Tunick revealed that he’s been doing election-related shoots for over 20 years, but noted that the works are not typically for public consumption.  

“It’s a personal series I just do for myself,” Tunick explained.  

Word does occasionally get out — as was the case when New York Magazine stumbled upon a naked fiesta that took place in November 2008.  

To wit, Tunick shared that he explored the possibility of staging something during the Democratic National Convention but was unable to lay the groundwork in time.  

“I don’t have an infrastructure in Philadelphia,” he explained. Had things worked out, Tunick said he envisioned weaving together 100 nude men.  

“Because it’s the city of Brotherly Love,” he quipped.  

[Related: DNC Picks Philadelphia for 2016 Convention] Bringing his artistic vision to the nation’s capital remains, Tunick said, a career goal. Getting legal professionals to look into the logistics of unleashing nude models on D.C. streets would certainly expedite the process.  

“One of these days,” he mused.  

For now he hopes the not-so-shy will join him this summer.  

“Take the naked train to Cleveland!” Tunick urged adventurous types.  

Contact Rojas at warrenrojas@rollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @WARojas Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.