In a field obsessed with figures, David Quammen‘s is a major one. In addition to his work as a local nude model, Quammen is the founder of the Figure Models Guild and director of Georgetown’s MOCA DC gallery. At 68, Quammen’s seen a lot more than the naked body—-he worked in the semiconductor industry, as an advocate for the homeless, and as a poverty journalist before taking up the nude modeling cause in 2000. “I change my whole path about every five years,” says Quammen. “And the next big one for me is my exit.”

Last week, Quammen was diagnosed with prostate cancer. “I learn about my body when I damage it in one way or another,” says Quammen. “The prostate has two lobes, and the right one, it seems, is just riddled with cancer.” On Friday, Quammen will undergo a bone scan; then, he’ll wait until October 9th to hear more about his prognosis. “On October 9th, the other shoe drops, I guess,” he says. “At that point, it’s a whole different ball game.”

With his own future in question, “the big concern I have is getting the guild and MOCA on solid footing,” says Quammen, who so far has been running the two institutions largely without help. Quammen’s current support staff is modest: “Every Friday somebody comes in for a few hours, I give him 25 bucks, and he leaves,” Quammen says. When asked what the employee does, Quammen replies, “Nothing, really.”

As Quammen prepares to manage the cancer, Quammen admits he may need more than that. In the gallery, “I need a board that can provide the long-term strategies—-the fund raisers, the membership lists, maintaining the Web site, planning shows,” he says.

The future of the Figure Models Guild, a resource for nude models Quammen founded in 2002, is less clearly defined. When Quammen began modeling, “anyone who could agree to take their clothes off was called a model,” says Quammen. “They were given all the jobs they wanted, with no training, nothing. I felt that there was a real disjointed feeling in being a model in the artist’s community. . . .The only time you would see another model would be in passing, while changing in the bathroom, putting on a robe and going to the model section,” he says.

In the past six years, Quammen has recruited 45 female and 64 male local models into the guild, created a code of conduct for nude models, and fostered a community for artists, models, and instructors interested in working together. Quammen also maintains an international figure art newsletter with over 1,100 members. Quammen describes the guild as a valuable resource for both local models and figure artists. “The bottom line in organizing the Figure Models Guild has always been to enhance the relationship between artist and model,” says Quammen.

Now, Quammen’s looking for others willing to build that relationship. Interested parties can contact Quammen by e-mail at at, or in the gallery at (202) 342-6230.

Photo courtesy David Quammen.