Model python, and her model handler, ready to strike a pose at West Palm Beach art class
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
AS MODELS GO, Lucy isn’t one to strut the catwalk in a Christian Dior dress or pitch cosmetics on television.
But the beautiful creature certainly knows how to strike a pose, especially when slithering around the neck and arms of another model.
Come see for yourself at the next Palm Beach Life Drawing class at 6 p.m. on Dec. 14 at The Peach, the art collective at 3950 Georgia Ave. in West Palm Beach. The three-hour class will feature two nude models: Lucy, a 4-foot ball python, and her handler, Brazilian-born model Lara Barauna.
The snake’s appearance in the class is the result of a creative collaboration between Barauna and artist Serge Strosberg, who will lead up to 20 students in a life drawing course unlike any other offered in South Florida.
“I want to have a more out-of-the-box life drawing class where people can really be motivated to draw and never get bored,’’ said Strosberg, a Belgian-born painter and Palm Beach resident who has taught art for more than 10 years in classrooms from Paris to Tequesta.
“In this age, when people are drawing less and less from life and relying more on photos and projectors, it’s important to keep this authenticity and drawing directly from life,’’ he said. “But why keep it boring, why not add some eccentricity to it?’’
Portrait artist Serge Strosberg draws model Lara Barauna and Lucy, a ball python (Joe Capozzi)
Barauna, known as the “Brazilian Mermaid,” has modeled at The Peach before. In November 2021, she teamed with Strosberg on a live drawing performance during the art collective’s first anniversary celebration. She was dressed as a mermaid. He wore an Andy Warhol wig.
“We are both pretty adventurous,’’ he said with a smile.
Nearly a year later, Strosberg was hired in October to teach a life drawing class at The Peach. He knew Barauna would be his model. But he wanted his class to be different. He wanted something more interesting than traditional life drawing classes.
Instead of a nude model holding different poses, maybe she could hold something else.
How about a snake?
That was Barauna’s reply when Strosberg asked her for ideas. She immediately thought about Lucy, a golden-colored python owned by her friend, model Devin Yannie. Lucy has been featured in several photo shoots with Yannie.
“I was like, ‘Oh! I have access to a snake! A very curious snake!’’’ Barauna recalled.
Yannie was only too happy to loan out the yellow 25-pound ball python, which got its name before the owner realized Lucy is a male.
‘’He is the easiest snake I have ever worked with,’’ said Barauna, who posed with another snake, a boa constrictor, before posing with Lucy for the first time in November.
“Because of his weight, the slithering feels more like a strong hug that’s moving around your body. He’s a very gentle creature and moves rather slowly.’’
Strosberg loved the idea of a snake, which isn’t a unique one in the modeling world. Lots of models have posed with snakes in photographs over the years, perhaps most famously Richard Avedon’s 1981 photograph “Nastassja Kinski and the Serpent.’’
But Strosberg admits he had no idea how a wild reptile would behave in a classroom setting.
Model Lara Barauna and Lucy, a ball python, will pose at a life drawing class on Dec. 14 in West Palm Beach (Joe Capozzi)
A practice run was held at The Peach in early November. To the teacher’s relief, Lucy was a perfect, well-behaved model. He stayed close to Barauna for the entire two-hour session, at times curling around her neck like a scarf, perching on top of her head like a hat and coiling up in a ball against her face.
“I am warm, so he’ll stay on me,’’ Barauna said that day as she reached into a large plastic container where Lucy immediately slithered up the model’s tattooed arms.
“I just let him mill around,’’ she said. “He is kind of the perfect size because he is big and his colors are wonderful, but he’s not, like, this massive snake. He’s a sweet boy.’’
Ball pythons are non-venomous snakes, native to West and Central Africa, where they live in grasslands, shrublands and open forests.
They’re the smallest of the African pythons, growing to a maximum length of just under six feet. They are popular as pets because of their generally docile existence.
Lucy lives in a terrarium decorated with wood, plants, and a log for hiding. He eats a large rat about once a week. He likes to get out for a few hours now and then, always in the arms of his handler, even if it’s on stage at a life drawing class.
Art students who are queasy about snakes should have no fear about sitting a few feet away from Lucy at The Peach on Dec. 14, Barauna said.
Compared to the monster pythons attacking alligators in the Everglades, Lucy is a relative worm. Plus, he’s so comfortable clinging to Barauna that he’ll have zero interest in going anywhere else, especially near students.
And don’t be offended if Lucy looks you in the eye and sticks out a forked tongue — he’s just exploring his surroundings.
“It’s a great way to recognize how docile these creatures are when not being attacked,’’ Barauna said about the upcoming class.
“Generally snakes move quickly when afraid or specifically when striking to catch a meal or defend themselves. Lucy is completely tamed, so he treats me like a moving perch!’’
The class costs $25 and will run from 6 to 9 p.m. in the exhibit hall on the east side of The Peach.
Participation will be limited to 15 students. Strosberg recommends reserving a spot in advance via his PayPal address: email@example.com.
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About the author
Joe Capozzi is an award-winning reporter based in Lake Worth Beach. He spent more than 30 years writing for newspapers, mostly at The Palm Beach Post, where he wrote about the opioid scourge, invasive pythons, the birth of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Palm Beach County government. For 15 years, he covered the Miami Marlins baseball team. Joe left The Post in December 2020. View all posts by Joe Capozzi.