Six months ago we hosted two life drawing sessions at Battersea Power Station as part of the SGP’s Lost Lovers Ball – one with a dancer, and another with an expectant mother.

Our models posed with their insides scrawled on their outsides: expert body painting artists brought their bones, veins, and viscera (including an eight month old fetus) to the surface. Students learned about the structure and function of the organs from doctor Jack Milln and neuroscientist Zarinah Agnew, while artists Evy Jokhova and Kat Davis led them through the techniques of illustrating the remarkable human form.

At the Secret Garden Party this July 23 as part of Dirt Day – a celebration of all things filthy, sponsored by the Wellcome Trust – we took it to a new level, with a Dirty Life Drawing class.

Cultural historian Virginia Smith discussed five parts of the bodies that in various cultures are considered to be “dirty”: the hands, feet, hair (pubic and armpit), intestines, and (of course) rectum. With body paint, tribal patterns and floral stencils, Evy brought these filthy features of the figure to life.

As we traced the 0utlines of the female form in this life drawing class like any other, we were forced to ponder: just what, exactly, is unclean?