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Oral history interview with Camille Feinberg, 2000 June 27

Oral history interview with Camille Feinberg, 2000 June 27

Feinberg, Camille

Collection Information

Size: Sound recording 2 sound cassettes (60 min.) : analog.

Transcript 62 p.

Summary: An interview of Camille Feinberg conducted 2000 June 27, by Paul Karlstrom, for the Archives of American Art, in the offices of the Archives of American Art, San Marino, Calif.

Another in the artists and models series, this interview with artist and performer in New York City for 18 years, Camille Feinberg focused on her activity in the late 1960s when she posed for a number of Los Angeles artists. She began her "career" when a student at Pasadena City College and then worked at the Pasadena Museum of Art and various private studios over a period of several years. Highlights of the interview include accounts of private sessions with Richard Diebenkorn, John Altoon, Richard Feynman, and Jirayr Zorthian. She also candidly discussed the generally unacknowledged erotic aspect of posing. Feinberg believes that the resultant tension creates an energy that contributes to the process of art making. For her, the studio was a place where people can safely act out personal fantasies. She described the range of studio behavior among artists: Diebenkorn was entirely respectful and professional while some of the others, notably Altoon, were less so. Above all, she remembers the experience as "relating to another human being."

Biographical/Historical Note

Camille Feingberg was an artist and performer of New York, N.Y.

Provenance

This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators. Funding for the transcription of this interview provided by Bente and Gerald E. Buck Collection.

Funding

Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.

Transcript

Interview

CF:  CAMILLE FEINBERG

PC:  PAUL KARLSTROM

[BEGIN TAPE 1, SIDE A]

PK:  Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, an interview with Camille Feinberg, or Camille Foss at the time we're going to be discussing, which is, I guess, back in the ‘60s, and Camille, I'm sure, has a multi-faceted history and careers and so forth, but what we're talking about here is her career as an artist/model, and that's what we will be focusing on.  Are you also an artist?

CF:  Yes, I am.

PK:  Okay, good.  Well that's important to know as well.  Anyway, this interview is being conducted June 27th, the year 2000.  The interviewer is Paul Karlstrom, and it's being conducted in the Archives West Coast Regional Center, in my office at the Huntington Library.  And, Camille, thank you for coming.  I mean this is really -- we just did this on short notice; we just did it, and this is great. 

 

Camille and I have been going through sketch books and loose sketches from the John Altoon papers which are here at the Archives, dozens, I guess hundreds of drawings and many of them, certainly not all, but many of them dealing with nude females of various ages often cavorting, if you want to call it that, with, well either nude males or, in some cases, half-animal males. It's all very marvelous and interesting, and so as we were going through, we didn't have the benefit of taping then, but it seemed to me that you were remembering things from working/modeling for John Altoon in particular, but then other experiences came to mind, and that's what I would like to talk about.  Why don't you tell me how you started modeling and what your motives were.  Why did you do it?

CF:  Well I started simply because it paid more money than a lot of jobs that I could get while I was working myself through school and I was going to P.C.C. [Pasadena City College] taking drawing classes, and I just happened to notice that they had models, and so I found out who was the models' agent and I called him up and I started working that way.  And it was a great job because you worked any time you felt like it, or [not if you] didn't feel like it, and you got paid depending on the situation, you know, six, eight, ten, 20, $25 an hour --

PK:  Really?

CF:  -- depending on where you --

PK:  At that time?

CF:  -- drove around at, you know, where you had to drive.  When I worked at Claremontt College, for instance, I would get paid a lot of money to go that far.  Driving wasn't as bad as it is now, by any means as I remember, so I really just drove all over the city, and then I got to know a lot of these artists.  I worked at U.C.L.A. a lot.  That's where I met Richard Diebenkorn and I was --

PK:  This was in the late ‘60s?

CF:  In the late ‘60s, yeah.

PK:  Probably about what year, do you think?

CF:  ‘67 would be for Diebenkorn.

PK:  But you started --

CF:  I didn't do it that long because in ‘71, I moved to New York, so I probably did it for three or four years ‘cause I did it while I was going to P.C.C., then I did it at Chouinard's, and I think I even did it when I was going to CalArts as well.

PK:  And this is all within --

 

CF:  Anything to avoid, you know, a boring, tedious job.

PK:  And so this was all, though, within --

CF:  The late ‘60s.

PK:  Yeah, a three-year period.

CF:  Three- or four-year period, I would say.

PK:  When did you go to New York?

CF:  ‘71.

PK:  Okay.

CF:  I finally moved to New York.

PK:  Well, you started at Pasadena City College where you were an art student.  Is that right?

CF:  I was an art student there, but I didn't model at P.C.C.  That's just where I got the models -- I think I worked at Cal State [Los Angeles] was maybe my first job, but I worked at U.C.L.A. a lot and the old Pasadena [Art] Museum, you know, that wonderful, lovely museum, and then the new one, the Norton Simon when it opened up, they had classes there at the beginning. 

PK:  Really.

CF:  There I worked for Altoon at the very beginning.  I think it must have stopped -- but when I moved to New York, I just kind of shelved all this and I moved in to Soho in New York, so there was so much going on there at that point, ‘71, you know, every aspect.  I quickly got absorbed into the performance theater working with Richard Foreman there in New York for years and doing art work and all the great stuff that you do in New York, but what an education.  Anyway, that's another tape, but --

PK:  Well what about -- I think you said you were maybe 20, 21 years old.  That makes sense.

CF:  Maybe 20.

PK:  Maybe 20, yeah --

 

CF:  Yes, 20.

PK:  -- when you started, and you described yourself as, well, shy, a bit shy, and --

CF:  I was very shy.

PK:  -- and yet you managed somehow to screw up the courage to take your clothes off for these classes for all these other students and then these teachers.

CF:  Yes.

PK:  Well do you remember like your first time?

CF:  You know I do.  It was for a group of kids that were my age and maybe a little younger.  We were college kids and I can't remember if it was at Cal State or maybe Walnut College.  I think it could have been a college out in Walnut, and I just remember that I really had -- I thought of it as a performance almost.  I said, “I have to act like I've been doing this forever, but yet I've got to go out this first time.”  You have to walk out in the middle of -- get on a platform and just disrobe, and usually that means that if you have a closet to change your clothes in, that's what you get, or you just sort of do it off in the corner somewhere.  So usually they would have a little closet or maybe you'd go in an office, somebody's office and disrobe.  I was extremely nervous, I remember, being the first time, but I just always had this thing that I wanted -- same performing on stage.  I wanted to get over my shyness more than anything.  I just felt I had an awful lot going in my mind, but no way because I was shy, I couldn't get it out.  I'd be too afraid, so it was really kind of that kind of situation.

PK:  Was that part of your motivation, I mean beyond the fact that it was pretty good-paying work?  But did you think of it at that time as a means to sort of confront your personal self-consciousness or shyness?

CF:  I think I did ‘cause I remember that I'm going to do this.

PK:  Yeah, “This is going to help me.”

 

CF:  And also, of course, I grew up in an artistic family and I was aware of the different artists, and so I was delighted when I would be able to work, you know, which happened very quickly.  I began to work at U.C.L.A. and all over the city and worked for all these people that I'd heard about, and then the L.A. art scene was a lot smaller, and it was exciting.  It was exciting, and I had no problem getting work.  At that point, there weren't that many younger artists, from what I know, so --

PK:  Younger models you mean?

CF:  Younger models.

PK:  Yeah.  That's what you said earlier.

CF:  Yeah.

PK:  That's interesting.  Why do you suppose?

CF:  That's what I heard and that's what my agent told me.  And also, it was very -- I like to do different things, so if you wanted me to move around and do 30-second poses or 10-second poses or five-second poses, I was more than happy to do it and I was more than happy to -- I remember, I think it was for David Bungay, at one point, we did painting with food and he had me over to his place and we swam around in his pool for the classes and anything fun we could think of, he would think of, we would do; I would do, and then my other friend, Susan, we would do it sometimes together, but

-- so it could be a lot of fun.

PK:  Now you keep mentioning Susan so far off tape before we started.  What's her full name?

CF:  Well then it was Susan Brown.

PK:  Susan Brown.

CF:  Now she's Susan Benay, yeah, but she worked for your friend --

PK:  Sam Clayberger.

CF:  -- Sam Clayberger.

PK:  I know it is --

CF:  And Zorthian, too.

 

PK:  Well --

CF:  But her and I -- I got her into modeling.  We were classmates and that's why I mention her so much because we laugh and have a good time about all this every once in a while.

PK:  Did you consciously think of modeling, nude modeling, as a kind of liberation?  I mean did you think of it in that way at all, that this is something not everybody does, like an affirmation of yourself?

CF:  You know, I actually don't think so.  I don't think I was -- felt any --

PK:  It wasn't, “Oh, look at me; look at me”?

CF:  No, I don't think so at all.

PK:  How did you feel about your body?

CF:  Honest, I was --

PK:  Did you like it?

CF:  -- pretty happy with it, yeah, yeah.  I mean I -- yeah, I think I was.  I know I was in pretty good, I looked pretty good and I know that I was a good model because I would hear teachers tell me that, “Oh, the students did great drawings,” and I think it was probably because I would think of it as if I was moving quickly, I would try to do interesting counterbalance poses and things being an artist that would be fun to draw at the same time because I was a student then, too, so I know that feeling about it.

PK:  You know, that's really an interesting point, and my experience doing interviews in this series, artists and models, the models who -- women who are also artists, or even art students, and I've interviewed some like younger women, models of Sam Clayberger's as a matter of fact, one of them, and having been on the other side seems to make quite a difference.  They seem to even think about it differently, and the role --

CF:  That's interesting.

 

PK:  -- of the model, the function, the purpose, what you want to try to achieve to be good, so it's like a reciprocation.  Anyway, you did then -- your earlier posing was really art classes, life-drawing classes at schools?

CF:  Yes.  That's how I started out with this agent --

PK:  Yeah.

CF:  -- and then there would be, you know, if I was asked to work privately for somebody, you know I would.  If I wanted to, I would do it, and that's how I ended up working for Diebenkorn down in Santa Monica when he

had --

PK:  Ocean Park?

CF:  -- Ocean Park Studio down there right off the beach.

PK:  The famous address.

CF:  Very famous, and he was great to work for.  And then, of course, Richard Feynman, and Jirayr [Zorthian] introduced me to him, worked out of his home, also worked for the actor.  Just reminded me, I completely forgot about it, Lee Van Cleef --

PK:  Oh, really?

CF:  -- from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  I worked for him for quite a while out in the [San Fernando] Valley.  He had a guest house or a garage or something set up as a studio, so I worked for him quite a bit.

PK:  Was he pretty skilled?

CF:  Real serious.  Well he was not say skilled as others, but he was very serious about it, very serious.

PK:  Who knows, maybe he was -- studied art.

CF:  Could be before he was an actor.

PK:  Maybe he wanted to be an artist.

CF:  He had a great face.  I mean he was very, he was very interesting.

PK:  That must have been interesting for you.

 

CF:  Yeah, he was the only actor, I think, I ever worked for, but --

PK:  Let me sort of split the, or try to split the --

CF:  Yeah, split off from --

PK:  -- our discussion in two parts, and I really am very interested in hearing about the specific stories about these artists, but is it true that there was a different atmosphere between your professional, -- it was all professional -- but the art school/classroom type situation and these private where you were working just one-on-one with -- you were engaged by the artists to come to their studios or wherever they were.  Did you distinguish between these or was it just a matter of venues; they were just in different places?  Did you distinguish between these?  Were they different experiences for you at all?  This classroom and the --

CF:  Oh, yes.

PK:  -- private sessions.

CF:  Well let me -- yes, for me, because I was so aware of the artists and the art world.  It would be exciting to work for these artists, and just because you would be in that environment in itself.  I mean it's a very intimate place.  You're in somebody's studio, not that they were very grand studios at all, not like they have now.  They weren't at all, but you kind of always -- it was always a nice feeling.  There'd be a lot of respect for some of these artists.  I did anyway, and it would be fun and you never know what was going to happen.  So it was very different from just working for a lot of college students at a college or whatever, although you would get to always meet and talk with the artists, the teachers all the time, too, so --

PK:  Did you feel that there was somehow more of a relationship between you and the artist when it was one-on-one that it moved it into a kind of different situation perhaps even with some potential for exploring aspects of that relationship?  We were talking a little bit about that earlier.

CF:  Yeah.  Well there --

 

PK:  I mean did you feel a little more vulnerable, I don't want to say on guard --

CF:  Being in that environment?

PK:  Yeah, but that you were aware that there were other possibilities, especially if you liked one another.

CF:  Well I mean a studio can be a very erotically charged environment.  I think it goes with it, plus the whole history of artists and models is --

PK:  Right.

CF:  -- goes along with it which I was always aware of.  I mean modeling can also be extremely tedious and boring, which it is, and there's -- and you have all kinds of artists who really are -- do want to spend that time working, but, of course, you always have situations where people do get attracted to each other and I certainly was attracted to a couple of these artists and --

PK:  Well which ones?

CF:  -- they would be attracted to me, too.  Well I think I was attracted to Altoon to a --

PK:  Yeah.

CF:  -- certain -- in a certain regard.  I mean he was also kind of scary because his personality was very strong and --

PK:  That's what you were saying earlier, sort of wild --

 

CF:  -- his reputation, as I remember him that way.  I mean maybe other people might not think of him that way, but for me, because his reputation proceeded him, I'd heard stories about him like suddenly taking his clothes off at Chouinard's and running through MacArthur Park and being arrested by the police or crazy stories about his borrowing somebody's car and then forgetting where he parked it and the person wants their car back and it's like he couldn't remember where it was and just sort of had this -- not just I guess then I -- I'm trying to remember.  We would hear stories, but I can't remember who I heard some of these stories from, that he was maybe a little bit crazy, and I don't really know if that's true, but that didn't bother me one bit.  I mean --

PK:  Yes, he, you know, was under a therapist's care.  I mean he had a lot of problems.

CF:  Well that made him only more interesting --

PK:  Well that's what I was going to ask you.

CF:  -- I mean for somebody like me because I have a very wide -- I did then, I don't really anymore.  I'm much hipper to it, but then I had a -- I liked a wide tolerance for certain types of behavior.  If you had an interesting mind, for instance, and he was an artist, I would find that attractive.

PK:  Right.

CF:  Now I wasn't attracted to somebody who was particularly wild in a sense of getting drunk and doing crazy things like that.  I would be sort of -- it would be a different type of thing.  I really don't know how to explain it.  So it was an attraction to Altoon in that regard, but at the same time, he was -- I remember him as being a very forceful personality.  He demonstrated what was on his mind and he was attracted to me.  There was no doubt about that and I remember I worked with him quite a bit at the, I think it was the new Norton Simon and also the old -- and afterwards, he would like go around, walk around and stare, and just sort of stare, and he's sort of like having a lot of eye contact and stuff like that, and then a lot of times, we would talk after classes and got into -- frankly, he's just sort of trying to cajole me and he wanted to have an affair, but --

PK:  Well did you find him --

CF:  -- it was very -- he was very nice about it.  In a lot of ways, he told me how much he loved his wife bad and so I knew completely what was going on and I had, you know, so it was really --

PK:  So he probably had a bit of a reputation ‘cause I mean he's a ladies' man and --

CF:  He had a bit -- yeah, absolutely, yeah.

 

PK:  Did you find this kind of compelling, though?  I mean how did you respond?

CF:  Well, I don't -- if he hadn't been married, I would have felt very different about it, but always never wanted to have affairs with married men.

PK:  No, it's complicated.

CF:  It's too complicated and I would never want to -- to me, it's just not exciting.  And you have to remember, I was a lot younger than Altoon was.  He was already in his forties and I was like 20, so he's not --

PK:  Appropriate.

CF:  I mean my husband is younger than me, so --

PK:  Way to go.

CF:  “Way to go,” yes, and it seems to be a pattern of mine, but he was very interesting, but I was also -- it's kind of like, “Gee, do I really want to get immersed in this kind of stuff,” and he was a little -- his temperament was a little bit, I'd say, off-putting in a sense that you could sort of tell that -- it ended up, after a lot of these sort of talks and cajoling and groping and all this kind of stuff after these classes, is that he ended up not liking me at all because there was -- he wanted to meet me and it was all set up and then I didn't show up for this, so --

PK:  Assignation.

CF:  Assignation, I guess you could call it.

PK:  Well you said you were going to go?

CF:  I said I was, yes, and I think I was mostly -- part of me was curious, and then the other part of me was like well if I just say yes, then I don't have to show up.  I mean --

PK:  So he thought you were a flake?

CF:  It was kind of like it's a good way to get out of it.

PK:  He thought you were a flake then?

 

CF:  I think he was really mad from what Zorthian said, very annoyed about it.  You could ask Zorthian.  Zorthian might remember.  I don't know.

PK:  Do you think it was an ego -- almost certainly --

CF:  Probably.

PK:  -- and --

CF:  I could just see Zorthian like hang -- ‘cause this is all supposed to take place in Zorthian's studio, you see.

PK:  Oh, you mean up at the ranch.

CF:  And I could just see Zorthian; yes.

PK:  At the ranch?

CF:  Up at the ranch in Altadena.

PK:  Oh, and so you were supposed to meet Altoon at Zorthian's.

CF:  And you know Zorthian was going to be out there in the bushes.  I said that's all I need.  This is not what I need.  Zorthian would probably want to come in.

PK:  No question, at least to watch.

CF:  Are we still on tape?

PK:  Yeah.

CF:  Yeah, but he'd be drawing probably.

PK:  How interesting.

CF:  Oh, I can only imagine now that I -- I hadn't thought about it before, but I can only imagine what would have happened if I had gone along with that because he was a very happy guy.  It was like a game, I think.  It was like a little bit of conquest or perhaps it relates to their work.  Both of them do erotic work.

PK:  Yeah.

 

CF:  So I'm sure they cultivated these feelings or they easily -- if you're thinking about these sort of things, you will more easily cultivate whatever interest in somebody else or -- you know what I'm talking about?

PK:  Yeah, sure.  So you didn't go up to Zorthian's --

CF:  I did not.

PK:  -- and Altoon was unhappy.

CF:  Very.

PK:  Was that it in terms of you modeling for him?

CF:  And then he died shortly -- he died.

PK:  So he might have called down and have you model again.  I think that's really interesting because what, of course, happened there was this professional relationship moved right over the line into, let's say, a “social” relationship.

CF:  Yeah, it could have been, except that he was very happily married, and so --

PK:  Yeah.

CF:  -- he wanted everything not to be secret, secretive.

PK:  Yeah, and you probably, apparently, didn't find that satisfactory.  But let me ask you this: what about the idea of the studio as being a separate world, that it's like a stage where certain things are acted out, certainly a relationship and so much complicated because it involves creativity and different roles, but what about that sort of “time-out” place where you can perhaps indulge, oh, interests or experiments or behavior that might lead to self-discovery that you wouldn't outside?  In other words, there's a kind of freedom perhaps within the studio situation.  Does that sound right to you at all?  Do you think of -- is it like two worlds?

CF:  Well, there is a certain -- I mean there is -- it is like -- yeah, it is very separate.  I mean it is much more -- I can't -- I'm groping around for the right word, but --

 

PK:  Maybe that a certain permission is -- and I don't want to put words in your --

CF:  There's an awful lot of play; there's an awful lot of play between these artists themselves and then when your relationship, when you're working with them, and you're always aware of how you influence their working in a sense.  Are they enjoying it?  Are they doing good drawings?  Do they seem involved and want to work?  That would always, that would be -- you always have that type of thing.  It's not a power relationship.  That's more into the social aspects where you have to deal with extracurricular stuff, but it's -- I also find it very satisfying when -- but artists seemed very involved and they were happy with their drawings or if you see -- like now sometimes I'd see them up on the walls in museums and, “Oh, they must have thought a lot of that drawing” or somebody did, that it's not just -- it's in a book, out of all the thousands of drawings that someone did, well that one is in a book or somebody thought that was one good enough to be up on the wall of a museum.  It's kind of nice.

PK:  So that could be for you as well, part of the attraction or appeal, even the motivation for, aside from the money --

CF:  Well, yeah, money's probably a small part of it.

PK:  -- you know, continuing along and I gather that's the case, that this notion perhaps of what's sometimes called the muse, that you are an agent that can contribute by your presence, your body, your self, to a successful work of art.

CF:  Oh, I think -- yeah, I think that's true.  I think models really don't get enough credit for the work that they do in that regard ‘cause when you're asked specifically to work with somebody, it's not like somebody walked off the street.  They're already into you to a certain regard.

PK:  Yeah.  That is an interesting part.

CF:  They are.  There's something about you that they find interesting.

PK:  And between --

CF:  They've already seen you work, usually.

 

PK:  And between men and women -- in your case, male artist/female model -- but that is part of that attraction and rapport connection, it can be sexual -- that's what you've described.

CF:  Well there is always that.  I mean it is even if there's not an acting out of it so much.

PK:  Yeah, and so you were aware --

CF:  I mean you're without your [clothes] -- just the situation.

PK:  Yeah, whether or not you respond, and --

CF:  Yeah.

PK:  So you were aware of this, presumably, and you described a sort of, quite interesting, kind of having to run around the studio.  In other words, part of the job description, it sounds to me, in some cases with these guys, and it didn't seem to bother you all that much, but it was like being a bit chased around and you just dealt with it.  Is that --

CF:  I think I do have a pretty good sense of humor about it.

PK:  That's interesting.

CF:  It is like that.  I mean sometimes you would have to literally run.  You run around and make jokes or you try to sort of repel --

PK:  Come on,--

CF:  -- this vibe about -- I mean how would you like it if

-- it's like having somebody run around and trying to grab you.  It's almost like a cartoon.  If you can imagine this scene being drawn by a cartoonist --

PK:  Like Altoon.

CF:  -- the mouse running around the studio and Felix the Cat running after him trying to grab him.  It almost had that -- it was funny to me in that sense that --

PK:  It was entertaining.

 

CF:  It was very entertaining and then I could go and tell a good story to a friend of mine, my girlfriend, who also would have these stories constantly.  We still have great laughs about it.

PK:  Let's, if we may now, just pause and turn this over, and I know that you have to go in a moment, but --

[END TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[BEGIN TAPE 1, SIDE B]

PK:  Continuing this interview with Camille Feinberg now, and on the other side of the tape, we were ending up -- we sort of cut it off, but what I thought was an interesting moment, your rather refreshing and humorous account, at least with Altoon, and you may tell other stories like with perhaps Feynman.  But it was very evident to you that you had this particular -- you were attractive, sought after, desired in one way or another by these, in some cases, very well known artists, or at least a couple of them, and so this is something you had to, as a young model, cope with and apparently pretty successfully in a way that, as you tell it, seems entertaining, at least as you remember it, it's pretty entertaining.  Let me ask you this; I hesitate to use the word “power,” but I think in one form, this is what we're describing.  You had what they wanted and that is desire, and part of it, of course -- it doesn't have to even separate that from the process, the practice, their art practice, the fact that they're image-making and you are the model, but there's this other perhaps kind of energizing presence.  I call it the presence of Eros, Eros in the studio, sort of a trouble-causer in a way, a mischief-maker.  Did you then or in retrospect -- is it possible for you to look at it as a kind of power exchang that you were very much a human presence with a kind of power through your body, through yourself, in relationship to these artists who supposedly were in charge?  Sounds to me like they were losing it a little bit or they were trying to gain their own ultimate power by catching you.  This is really interesting when you think about it in terms of the creation of art, image-making, capturing an image and infusing it with life.  Did you, at the time, think about it in those terms at all?

 

CF:  I don't think I thought about it in the long term.  I really think I just thought about I was there pretty short term.  I would be there and maybe they would do some good drawings because I could have gotten a lot more work from them, if I had tried, easily enough and I guess it's part of being a hippie in the ‘60s and being young and being involved in my life outside of modeling.  I mean that was a small part of it to a certain degree.

PK:  Did you see this -- sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you, but did you see any connection between this activity of yours and what was now described as more than a social revolution, a sexual revolution, a liberation in society?

CF:  Well --

PK:  Did you connect these at all in your mind?

CF:  Yeah, well yes, because, see, that was the ‘60s.

PK:  Right.

CF:  That was the first era before AIDS when everyone was -- it was the free-sex era, let's put it [at] that.  And I don't know if you're aware of this, but at that time, there was an awful lot of swinging going on --

PK:  Right.

CF:  -- and parties, especially here in Pasadena with the JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory] crowd.

PK:  Oh, yeah, I've heard about that.

CF:  Yes, those kind of things, and I never went to any of those because I always had an easy-out for all this stuff which is that I was already living with somebody and I was able to keep my life completely separate from modeling.  It really gave me a good out a lot of the time.

PK:  How did your boyfriend, I guess would be the term, would feel about that?

CF:  It's the ‘60s.

PK:  Yeah, be cool.

 

CF:  I mean everybody do their own thing and nobody questions anything and that's really the way it was which is a bad thing because as a model, you are vulnerable.  I mean you are in the presence of these artists and they are very dynamic and --

PK:  And lustful sometimes.

CF:  Yeah, and lots of times, you're in closed quarters with them, but I never had any problems.  And really the stuff that came up is just simply this natural sexual attraction that takes place and maybe you're there; you're naked; you're young, and, you know.

PK:  What do you expect?

CF:  What do you expect from the male artist, right?  So it's that kind of thing.  But I always just looked at it as kind of amusing and, like I say, basically people were pretty nice about things.  If you didn't want to be involved with them and if they did really, you know, you never had to work for them again.

PK:  Did --

CF:  Just tell them off or whatever.

PK:  This is a little pre-high-feminism, and so this may --

CF:  But still --

PK:  -- be anachronistic, not quite fitting into the time, but there are women who view even a situation like this as a potential for empowerment.  If you can take charge of the situation and actually there's power in your body, in your nudity, in your sexual attractiveness.  And whether it's conscious or unconscious, that this could play a role.  Let's put it this way, like who's in charge, who's managing that situation.

CF:  Well I'm sure that you -- yes, absolutely, because people do get attracted to you.  I think if I had been looking for someone or had met someone, let's say, who I found so incredibly attractive, more attractive than anyone else, it certainly would have been a big plus, I think.

PK:  It might have changed that whole studio --

 

CF:  Yeah, but then I would know what I was in for, with the next model.  I mean it's kind if you know -- you're kind of -- I couldn't --

PK:  Altoon, of course, is so interesting as a character and I'm sure you have lots of stories.  Who else was especially memorable maybe in those terms?  You mentioned, well Zorthian, Jirayr Zorthian, whom I've interviewed and we have his papers here [AAA, WCRC], and then you also mentioned Richard Feynman.  That comes, of course, as a little bit of surprise to some people know him mainly as a famous, very famous physicist.

CF:  Very brilliant man.

PK:  Yeah, and described one time as the second smartest man in the world, behind Einstein.

CF:  I mean I was really, I have to say, in awe of him because Jirayr Zorthian introduced us or originally got me the position working for him.  He was very, very attractive.  I don't know, he was older than me, again.  He was probably in his forties at that time, but I really think I found him the most attractive of all of them and his personality was a lot of fun, too.  I think he's known for that, but he really was

extremely --

PK:  He was probably funny.

 

CF:  He was funny, but he had this wonderful kind of smile and liveliness in his eyes and I always think of him as smiling and almost mischievous.  I mean that would be a good work, I think -- thinking, thinking, thinking.  And I remember the first time I went down to his studio, which was in Altadena.  I think he lived on Santa Anita.  He had a really lovely Mediterranean villa and he had a downstairs studio and I remember there was a wet bar down there, too, so there was liquor there, but I don't think we ever drank anything.  And then -- but that's where his studio was.  We worked down there, and he had been working with Zorthian, so he was kind of drawing like Zorthian.  He was learning that beautiful line, the line following through, completed the drawing.  I mean it was really very, would you say, a lot of work would go into it to obtain that level of skill, but he was very -- and then some of his drawings would be very like kind of amateurish, but I mean I knew who he was.  And the first time, like I started to say, I went down there and he had -- it was also his place where he worked and studied, so he had a huge, not huge, but very big bulletin board like this, chalkboard, and full of equations.  He was working on an equation down there in his studio, and I said, “Well, tell me, tell me about Quantum physics and he just laughed at me, got the biggest kick out of that, just laughed like it was the funniest thing that here I would be a model or this young woman, blond probably, and who would come down and ask him to explain Quantum physics and he probably just -- it was just a big joke, I mean just a laugh and, of course, he didn't do it or anything, but I would love to have had that, a quick explanation in a nutshell of Quantum physics.  I was always interested in science, astronomy in particular.  It was like a little preoccupation when I was a kid.  And his son, he had a son who was five years old or something then and his son was already reading all these astronomy books that I had read and he was like five years old.  I don't know what happened to him.  But anyway, Feynman was, at one point, he was -- I don't think it was the first day.  I worked for him for quite a while, so --

PK:  About how long, do you think?

CF:  You know, I really can't remember, six months or something like that.

PK:  Almost weekly?

CF:  Like on a weekly thing, but at one point, he played the drums for me, the bongo drums, which was great.  He wanted to entertain me.

PK:  That shows he was getting interested.

 

CF:  He wanted to entertain me.  I know.  It was like, “Sure,” you know, “play your drums.”  It was like -- I loved it.  And he was so into it.  That's what I mean about Feynman.  He was really into it.  He loved playing the bongos and he would play the bongos for me.  So that's amusing to think about now.  And then, of course, having to run around.  One time he wanted to kiss me.  You know, you'd have these -- but they were awkward situations.  A lot of this stuff is awkward because you're in an artificial situation.  You're the model who's come there.  You're taking your clothes off for somebody, and then they don't know how to approach you in any way with any finesse, so I mean it makes it pretty funny.  And literally, Feynman would be, he just started sort of -- I had to run away from him, running around, and like, “No, no, no,” and he'd grab me and try to kiss you, but it was so silly.  It was so silly and funny because there was no finesse to it.  I mean we hadn't been engaged in anything that would be seductive at all.  It was just sort of --

PK:  There was no foreplay.

CF:  No foreplay whatsoever.

PK:  No prelude.

CF:  But I don't know -- I'm sure they felt extremely awkward, too.  I mean but they must have.  I mean how do you approach a young -- I mean how do you approach a naked woman?

PK:  How do you approach a naked woman, that's right.  I think I said –, “What can you say about a naked woman in a studio” is the way I started my Eros in the Studio essay.  What strikes me so interesting about this, and it touches on power, but in a very light, sort of humourous way.  As a young woman who had the nerve to ask Richard Feynman to explain Quantum physics and he laughed, and here you were, no doubt, in awe of --

CF:  I was a little embarrassed.

PK:  -- his brilliance, though, and yet it is true that he seemed really devoted, dedicated to being an artist.  He exhibited and everything and I read something about this, and it's all thanks to Zorthian.  But at any rate, here you have these impressive, accomplished men, older, should be dignified.  You could look up to them, and here, you, as a young woman, a youngster, as a matter of fact, easily make fools out of them and, you know, this must have occurred to you as pretty amusing that you have that kind of power just by being an attractive, young woman and nude in their presence.  Now --

 

CF:  I mean it's true because I think I mentioned earlier is that you're right, I mean I have tremendous respect for these artists and their work and I like their work.  And you're seeing them at really maybe their very best.  They're creating something.  I mean, and they're creating their reputations, but they're thinking and they're creating, and at the same time, they are acting very awkward and silly and vulnerable.  I mean they're vulnerable, too, because I know things about them that they've totally forgotten because I'm sure I was the model.  They might remember me, but I doubt it, but I remember these things and I talk with other people who have modeled and worked for these people and you do, you almost get to -- you know a completely different side of them where they're acting silly and awkward and kind of childish and maybe they don't have the finesse they might have with their wives or their other girlfriends, and so it is kind of amusing to think about.  I mean I just have like such a great time thinking about this morning with my friend ‘cause she actually did have a sexual encounter with Feynman, and I said, “Oh, what was it like?” and she said, “Oh, you know, it was sort of like --.”  We just started laughing and she said, “Well it wasn't much.”  And she said, “He probably thought he was like discharging some protons,” and we were laughing like crazy.  It struck as the funniest -- she's always very scientific about it, but we just -- we both knew exactly what that means in the context of the studio working and knowing somebody like him, who I have tremendous respect for.

PK:  Right.

CF:  I mean he figured out the Challenger thing, the O-ring.  I mean the man is a genius.  Why couldn't he live for 200 years and come up with more great stuff.

PK:  So you said that his wife was in the house at the --

CF:  His wife was in the house upstairs; not his wife, his kids --

PK:  Yeah.

CF:  -- so I'm sure that I --

PK:  And so when this episode took place with your friend, presumably --

 

CF:  I imagine they were upstairs then, too.  You know, he met this wife on -- he'd been married a couple times.  I think it was his second wife.  He told me she was an au-pair girl he met on the beach in France.  I thought that was the most wonderful thing.  He just met this lovely woman and he just immediately fell in love with her and he brought her back and married her and they started up a life together.  I thought that was a very charming thing that he did that.

PK:  This is all --

CF:  So I have good -- you get to know a little bit, little insight into the man.

PK:  So what the model gets out of it, judging from what you say, is really quite a bit more than, well, let's say the feeling that you're contributing, that the model is contributing to a work of art, that it's a kind of passive thing, but still making -- participating, making a contribution.

CF:  Yeah, definitely.

PK:  There's that, of course, but what you described is actually -- it's interesting, and that is this special window onto another human being.  And in some cases, pretty famous, interesting folk, that is a kind of insight that very few people would have because they're not in that kind of special situation.  Do you enjoy that?

CF:  To some degree, yes.  I'm sure if you talk -- every model that you talk to is going to have stories, similar or whatever, because that is a special situation, I think.  You are with people who are highly creative and intelligent many of the times, and at the same time, I guess it's a -- I hadn't thought about it, but it is a really interesting environment because it is a situation where people can act out such different types of behavior in one situation.  I mean where else could you get to do that kind of thing?  And I suppose I'm kind of a -- I could have made a lot more out of it than I did, now that I think about it.  To me, it was basically a job and I had a whole different life and I liked being involved with all the different artists and working for them and everything.

PK:  Let me ask you this, and I'm thinking -- I realize there are other experiences, yeah.  I realize there are other experiences that you had besides Altoon and Feynman, and at least those two we know about as bringing, well, kind of an erotic charge --

CF:  Yes, yeah.

 

PK:  -- to the situation which isn't all that surprising if you think about it in the way you've described it.  But apparently, it didn't work that way for you.  In my experience talking with models, women, is that no matter what the artist may bring in that respect to the studio, it doesn't necessarily transfer, and very few of them talk about being turned on, aroused sexually by the fact that they're nude, an object of desire --

CF:  Yeah, I think that's true.

PK:  -- possibly turning on these guys, that the models, women, don't necessarily go there.  They don't -- it's not the same experience in that respect.  Is that right?

CF:  It might be very different if you started a relationship outside of the studio and brought it into the studio.  I'm sure there would be work and a lot more play and work and it would be a completely dif -- probably really interesting relationship with -- and a lot of modeling is very, very boring, even painful.  I mean, you know, depending --

PK:  Yeah, long poses.

CF:  -- on the long poses and stuff, so that kind of thing.  That's on your mind, too.  It's like when is this pose going to end?  I don't care if he is John Altoon.  Just get it over with, you know, but John, he liked short poses and things, but --

[OFF TAPE]

PK:  All right, we're picking up.  There's been a break in tape, in fact, a rather long one, like a couple hours or so --

CF:  Right, a lunch break.

PK:  -- but we're back again with Camille to finish up, and we've been talking about, well, a lot of things, but probably most about Altoon, John Altoon.  And you had one observation that you just made, I guess about how you think -- how you feel in retrospect about that experience and those sessions, and I guess it's the less sort of happy, less pleasant sign of --

CF:  Right.

 

PK:  What do you mean?

CF:  I was thinking about it and there is that aspect to it because he was such a forceful or dynamic personality, not predictable, but at the same time, he could be aggressive and sort of unrelenting to a certain degree.  And, you know, if you're talking about when you're in a situation in a studio like this working for an artist, there has to be this balance where you don't have any problems of -- situations that get out of control or anything like that.  Not that there was anything with Altoon, but he could just -- I just remember him as being very, very forceful which is, you know, worrisome, I guess it would be, but he never did anything terrible.

PK:  Especially after you didn't show up --

CF:  Yes.  After that, I think that -- But maybe that was it.  Like I said, I just said I would do it just to like get off my case for a while.  And that finally -- I didn't care that he was mad at me because I knew what I was doing, so -- I didn't want to be involved in that.

PK:  You sound pretty in control in a sense.  You had a real sense, it sounds to me, as if you knew what this was and what this wasn't, this experience and these sessions and what you were doing.

CF:  I think you have to.  I mean you have to think about that aspect of it when you're modeling for -- in any situation.  I mean I've had weird things happen to me in a classroom situation at a school.

PK:  Really?  Like what?

CF:  Well just, you know, professors who you'd never imagine would kind of come on to you or try to touch you a little bit or something.

PK:  During the posing?

CF:  No, no, afterwards.

PK:  Oh, all right.  No, no, not during the posing.

 

CF:  You know, you're talking in their office or something like that.  So I mean this is, I guess, women have that in any work situation, but maybe particularly in this type.  But I never -- it never really bothered me too much.  I mean I just sort of -- what with everything else that was going on it probably wasn't that unusual in some degree.  I think of it in the context of the ‘60s.  And it was a time, even though it was a very sexually open time, it was also a time where people were laid back and if you didn't feel like doing cer -- oh, that was okay.  You don't have to explain anything.

PK:  Everything was okay.

CF:  Everybody was laid back.  It's maybe different now, I think.  It's not like that.

PK:  What about Jirayr Zorthian?  Did you pose for Zorthian before you posed for Altoon or do you have any idea?

CF:  No.  I think Altoon was first, yeah.

PK:  And did Altoon introduce you to Zorthian?

CF:  I don't think so.

PK:  But you say that Zorthian knew Altoon, that they obviously --

CF:  They knew each other obviously because -- yeah, they must have at some point.  They knew about each other because Altoon had arranged this assignation thing up there in his studio which I would love to talk to Zorthian about that just to . . . it might be an amusing story for me just to find out what went on and if Altoon went ballistic or what.

PK:  God, I love this.

CF:  I think that would be great.  Maybe that could happen, right?

PK:  Well, we'll have to do it [visit Zorthian’s ranch].  I don't see why not.

CF:  Yeah.

PK:  So Zorthian discovered you somehow and then --

 

CF:  Then I went -- through him, I met Richard Feynman because Zorthian was kind of -- the way Zorthian put it here was that he was very connected to Pasadena society and he wanted to introduce me to Richard and other people, too, just on a social level.  And I wasn't really interested, I guess, in a certain degree.  I think I was so involved in my own outside life, and now I think gee, maybe it would have been kind of interesting, but --

PK:  You mean all those JPL people?

CF:  Yeah, well, not really.  I guess not.  I don't know.

PK:  I've heard interesting stories about that.  Well so was there anything unusual about experiences of Zorthian or was it pretty straightforward?  I mean you just posed for these, you said, among other things, big

drawings --

CF:  Yeah.

PK:  -- with animals and --

CF:  Yeah, it sounded too good to be true.  I didn't have any major affairs with anyone.

PK:  No problems with Jerry [Zorthian], really, all business?  Straightforward?

CF:  No.  Jerry was constantly cajoling, you know.  “Couldn't I just see a little bit of this?  I'd like to see this pink thing.”

PK:  Did he really say that?

CF:  Don't use my name, please.

PK:  Did he really say that?

CF:  Yes.  He would say stuff like that.  Susan could tell you amazing stories about him.

PK:  And so how did you --

CF:  I'm not going to go into it.

PK:  Well not if they’re her stories.  I guess she should tell them, but -- so it was like with Zorthian always wanting more.  Did you get that impression?

 

CF:  He always --

PK:  Like “Oh darling, oh, darling”?

CF:  Yes.  He was very sweet and kind of cute.  He's not real tall, as I remember.

PK:  [Inaudible], tall, he's about this height.

CF:  He's tiny, but he was --

PK:  But very strong.

CF:  Right.  I mean he was working this place up there and he had a lot of joie-de-vivre, I guess you'd say.  He's very full of life and he was very serious.  He worked constantly.  I think I was up there every week, I mean for quite a while, for a series of drawings.

PK:  Wow!

CF:  And the atmosphere was pleasant.  I remember loving that ranch up there and his kids and his wife.  It was sort of charming.  She had this wonderful stone house.  I don't know if he has it still.  Anyway, so --

PK:  Yeah, probably they're in exactly the same place, I think.

CF:  And he would -- we'd walk around and he'd show me his toilet seat art and stuff like that.  I don't know if it's still there.

PK:  So he really is a welcome -- well I think he does this, welcomes the models into his family.

CF:  Yeah.

PK:  For him, it's expanding his sphere of influence.

CF:  In a way, I think he's very happy in lots of ways with his wife then and very proud of his work, and Dabney, very -- he loved her very much, and his children.  I mean I remember that, and he enjoyed showing off what he'd done like this workout and whatever.  One time --

PK:  He's still like that.  Excuse me.

 

CF:  Oh, no, one time he -- apparently, I don't know if you know this, but he had gotten a Playmate of the Year.  Did you know that?

PK:  Oh, really?

CF:  Yes.  He had taken some photographs of a beautiful, young woman who eventually became Playmate of the Year, so he thought maybe I could do that, but he took these photographs and I'm absolutely not the Playboy type because I just don't look great in -- I never did photographs and I don't like photographs.  I would never work for anybody doing photographs ‘cause I didn't like the idea of having photographs of myself as a model.

PK:  Really?

CF:  No.  I only wanted to do live stuff (sic).  I don't like anything that was going to be permanent.  I don't like -- I don't know why, but especially photographs, but I love to talk about it.

PK:  But you don't mind the drawings or paintings or --

CF:  No, not at all.

PK:  Yeah, well there is a big difference, isn't there?

CF:  There is.  For me there is.  And so -- but he thought he could take photographs of me and, boy, I mean I even have one of them, and I'm sitting on a big stack of hay, and I mean it's a nice photograph, but I'm not -- I think you have to -- posing for Playboy is a whole different thing.

PK:  Yeah, you have to --

CF:  You got to project and I'm not like that.  I'm definitely an artist model, so --

[END TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[BEGIN TAPE 2, SIDE A]

 

PK:  Okay, we're now continuing this supposedly one-hour interview that now is going to go a little bit longer because Camille Feinberg has interesting things to say.  And so this is the same interview on the 27th of June, the year 2000, artists and models.  This is Tape 2, Side A, and the interviewer is still Paul Karlstrom, taking place in his office, my office, at the Huntington.  We were talking about one of my favorite subjects, one of my favorite little people, and that's Jirayr Zorthian who's practically an institution around here.  It's interesting that you posed for him for what sounds like a pretty ambitious significant series --

CF:  Yeah, they were large.

PK:  -- these great, big drawings, you said.  One of the reasons it's is interesting is that part of our topic anyway, Eros in the Studio, we're looking at that part of the situation, and Zorthian certainly has identified with that and his images are really very eroticized.  He doesn't talk about them that way so much.  He thinks that it's just beautiful nudity, but people who look at them feel this definite charge and focus, this sort of obsession, and he sort of features body parts and they become portraits, in many cases, body parts rather than the whole person, certainly, the face.  Anyway, that's an aside.  And you were talking about the experience of being up there on the ranch and how you were sort of included, I gather, in the family, not just strictly an assignment, a business thing.

CF:  No, he was very nice and Dabney would make lunch and we had lunch and I didn't spend much time with Dabney at all.  He was really -- we really worked in the studio a lot.  It's a very separate part of his work.  And it was interesting what you're saying about people looking at his drawings as body parts because I remember he was doing full bodies.  I mean he was doing full-figure stuff and very realistic, as I remember.

PK:  Well I didn't mean to say that he actually does body parts.

CF:  Yeah, the different type of work.

PK:  What I mean is that the focus is clearly on certain --

CF:  Well everyone was nude.

PK:  Yeah, and his focus in certainly the Jennifer series, which is, I won't say it's notorious, but it's --

CF:  Oh, I haven't seen that.

 

PK:  -- certainly pretty well known, but perhaps he wasn't that focused in that way at that time.  That was the late ‘60s right?

CF:  Yes.  That would have been the late ‘60s, too.  I mean maybe it was ‘67 or -- I think it was ‘67/68/69.  I know it was before Altoon died, at least five years, but -- yeah, Zorthian is a character.  He's sort of like a satyr or something.  He's always sort of turned on to some extent --

PK:  Right.

CF:  -- but very playful about him.

PK:  Oh, yeah, very pagan, “Oh, darling, darling.”

CF:  Yeah, very pagan.  That's exactly the right thing.

PK:  “You're so beautiful --

CF:  You could see him with the glass of wine.

PK:  -- darling.  Come give me --

CF:  Yes.

PK:  -- just a little kiss, darling.”

CF:  Exactly, that kind of thing.

PK:  I've seen him and nothing's changed, nothing's changed.

CF:  You know it's true, isn't it?  And I like -- I mean I thought that the -- I liked the work that he did.

PK:  He's a very skilled craftsman, yeah.

CF:  Yeah, very skilled.

PK:Quite good.  Do you remember -- well describe that series with the animals.  Now is that just you or did you say your friend, Susan [Brown, now Benay] was posing at the same time?

 

CF:  She might have been with food.  I think it would be us.  I think I was with the animals and I think Susan might have been with food like at a banquet.  I'll have to ask her the next time I speak with her, but I remember there was a zebra in one of the drawings.  I think he did more than just one, too.

PK:  Sounds like Mel Ramos, actually.

CF:  They were a little bit more naturalistic males, but --

PK:  What do you think the conjunction of women and food, women and animals, meant?  Did you think about that at the time?  Or does it mean anything?

CF:  Well I think food --

PK:  Did he talk about it?

CF:  -- banquet and, you know, it's very lusty and sensuous, the type of experience, food and drink and all that, the allusions.

PK:  But he didn't talk about it to you?

CF:  Well, I was with the animals.

PK:  Yeah.

CF:  Susan was with the food.

PK:  Well what's with the animals?

CF:  I don't know.  He liked animals, I guess.  I love animals.  I don't know.  Maybe he had -- gosh.

PK:  I don't know.  I'm not suggesting anything.  I just --

CF:  I don't want to suggest something either.  Maybe I repressed it.

PK:  Did he or Altoon, for that matter, I can't help but ask this question because I'm looking at the Altoons, those drawings that we were going through, lots of them earlier, at how highly erotic they are, sexual, and almost obsessively so, it seems to me, but obviously, this was a major thing on his mind.

CF:  I think those two are definitely high-octane when it -- and that time, too, I mean think of it, I mean coming out of the ‘50s into this --

PK:  I was actually there.

 

CF:  Yeah, you were there, but I mean you're coming out of the ‘50s and they're married.  But I mean all of a sudden, it's like free love everywhere, and I mean it was everywhere.

PK:  There was always available young women, I know.

CF:  Yeah, I suppose it probably was like that to a certain extent, and they were on the inside track, I mean in a certain regard, because here they were employing women, getting them in their studios for the intention of doing great art, and I never thought of it quite this way before, but it's a whole --

PK:  Well I mean it's a great --

CF:  And it definitely was like that.

PK:  It's not a scam.  I mean I would never say that, but it certainly is a lovely fringe benefit.  Let's put it that way for some, some men, and for Sam, for instance, Sam Clayberger, whose work we've been talking about and for whom your friend, Susan, posed.  You know, he's very up front about it.

CF:  What a lovely way to make a living, isn't it?

PK:  Yeah.  He just says, “Hey, I'm so lucky,” and -- but a balance is achieved.

CF:  Well, yeah.

PK:  I mean it's not just -- that's a fringe benefit.  It's a sidebar.  What about --

CF:  They're serious artists.  I mean --

PK:  Sure.  And what about -- so my question is this, both of them, for instance, sexuality, at least underlying, in the background if not right up in front in their art, so what about either them, or Feynman for that matter, did they ever ask for explicitly erotic poses?

CF:  Yes.  I don't remember Feynman asking, but Jirayr Zorthian of course.

PK:  Yeah.

CF:  Yeah.  That would be rather routine.

 

PK:  Right.

CF:  “Well would you like to put some grapes --?”

PK:  Really?

CF:  Now you're bringing back these memories.

PK:  No.  Did he really say that?

CF:  I think he did say some -- yes, I think he did.

PK:  That's the food one, not the --

CF:  Well we had food there, too, but --

PK:  And so how did you respond to that?  Was that still something that was --

CF:  Just laughed.

PK:  Yeah.

CF:  Just laughed or say no, you know, “just say no.”

PK:  Just make a joke out of it.

CF:  Pretty much.  I mean that's basic -- he really did have to -- I mean nowadays, I mean like you mentioned earlier, this was a little bit pre-feminist, so you had to, you sort of had to think about that stuff a little bit and balance it out and not let it upset you.  I mean I'm sure like my friend that I had lunch with just never could do this in a million years, never, and you never would imagine that she could either.  But for some reason, I guess I -- ‘cause I grew up in an artistic environment, an awareness of art.  I think that it really wasn't anything -- not unusual, not outlandish.

PK:  Right.  Not inappropriate behavior for some people.

CF:  No, but I mean it certainly -- you're right.  I mean there's a tremendous amount of power things.  I'm sure some people had that experience.  Sometimes you could have little, creepy experiences --

PK:  I've heard of --

 

CF:  -- with people, but I mean I've gotten up and walked out of places and --

PK:  Really?

CF:  -- said “screw it” and just leave, sure.

PK:  Like what?

CF:  Well, I remember there's a couple times that I just didn't like the vibe; I didn't like the artist.  It wasn't a famous artist.  It could have just been some guy who wanted to draw, but I worked mostly for a lot of people who I had met them in the context of universities or through friends, so I didn't really have that, but I would also -- we worked for, every once in a while, for people I didn't know and might be -- I think I had to get up and leave once because somebody kept pestering me.  You never can tell.  I mean there's that aspect to it.  At that time, I suppose you always have that problem.

PK:  Well it sounds to me as if the main objection, though, was that, let's put it this way, you were more patient with some of these others whom you knew and liked.

CF:  Oh, yeah.  I mean it's just --

PK:  So it becomes a different thing.  And I guess it sounds to me as if it's, in a sense, your choice.  That was important to you --

CF:  Always.

PK:  -- that you, in effect --

CF:  Oh, absolutely.

PK:  -- controlled.  You didn't want to be uncomfortable and you didn't feel you needed to put up with certain things.  On the other hand, if it was entertaining you, why not.

CF:  I guess it was sort of entertaining.

PK:  Being chashed by one is not the same as being chased --

 

CF:  Exactly, and if you liked them it's kind of funny.  And then they'd settle down and work, so it wouldn't really be a problem for a while.  They were always working and then the --

PK:  Then all of a sudden, they --

CF:  They just, you know, maybe say something or whatever, wanted -- like Zorthian, wants you to go out and do things with him or meet more people.

PK:  He wanted you to go out and do things with him?

CF:  Well, I mean I could go to parties with him and things like that which I really wasn't interested in because of the scene at that time.

PK:  Did you ever think of how Dabney might have viewed this sort of succession of --

CF:  I always wondered about that.

PK:  -- attractive, young women that --

CF:  Always wondered about that, not just in his case, but like with Feynman.  I mean his wife and children are upstairs and you know that they're not -- I mean they must be interesting women to even let this sort of take a chance, right, that nothing's going on.  And that would be a power -- that's an interesting relationship, power relationship right there.

PK:  It is indeed.  I actually thought less about that, although I know some stories about that and it's -- sometimes it isn't really that easy for the wife.

CF:  I would think so.

PK:  They have to just put up with it.

CF:  I don't know what it's like to be married to an artist, you know, and have them go through that.  I never married an artist.

PK:  You knew better.

CF:  I went out with a lot of artists, yeah.

PK:  I gather that that sort of covers Jirayr.  You said there was an exhibition.  There was something special about his series of works.

 

CF:  Yeah.  There was an exhibition at the time.  It was ‘60s, I think, or the early ‘70s, must have been before I went to New York, a big show someplace.  I'm sure Jirayr remembers it, a big gallery, yeah.  I remember I saw it.  I think I went to the opening ‘cause there was a lot of people there and I remember saying, “Oh, my gosh.”  I was thinking, “Geez, pretty recognizable.”  At the time, you know, people would recognize me which was a little --

PK:  Did you like that?

CF:  Well I don't know.  It was sort of embarrassing ‘cause you're nude, but I don't know.

PK:  And people have really good imaginations, you know, what they do.  They go immediately way beyond the image that's presented and their imaginations indeed take over, and so they could see in their minds just exactly what you were doing before and afterwards or what they think.

CF:  But see, I never thought about that at all.  I think that's --

PK:  Well it is true, you know.  People --

CF:  I guess, you know, you're probably right, but, to me, I think of modeling as really boring in a lot of ways, like just sitting there hour after hour and hoping they're playing good music or saying something interesting or the people are interesting.

PK:  Right.  I think most people don't know what's involved.  It may not be that they're bringing any judgment to it, but they really don't understand the hard work it is and how difficult it is to hold -- especially some poses -- for 20 minutes or half-hour or whatever.

CF:  Yeah, and over and over again, but you're right, I'm sure most people think that there's a lot of hanky panky going on --

PK:  Sure, sure, always following women --

CF:  -- in the studio.

 

PK:  Moving on a bit here.  Probably the most famous artist you posed for, and I gather it was just at U.C.[L.A.] -- no, you posed in Ocean Park.

CF:  Yeah, Diebenkorn, yeah.

PK:  Yeah, Richard Diebenkorn.  What about that?  What are you memories about that, about him and -- I would imagine that he was really pretty straightforward.

CF:  Very, and whenever I think of him, I think of very gentlemanly.  And it was him . . . Bill Theo Brown [William Theophilus Brown] was there a lot.

PK:  Oh, yeah, I know him.

CF:  And I think James Brooks.

PK:  Really?

CF:  Yes.

PK:  That's really interesting.

CF:  The three of them.

PK:  A Bay Area figurative group come down here.

CF:  Yeah, because I always think of Bill Theo Brown in particular as Bay Area, right, but --

PK:  James Weeks.

CF:  James Weeks, that's who it was.

PK:  Right.

CF:  That's who it was, James Weeks.  I knew that wasn't right, yes, and it was the three of them and it was in Ocean Park.  I remember I got a ticket.  The Santa Monica freeway had just opened and I got a ticket for going too slow on the Santa Monica freeway.  I wasn't used to it.  But, yeah, I went down there for quite a few months.  If I remember, I might have a diary some place of --

PK:  Really?

CF:  -- just my dates, not all the goings-on.  Too bad for me.  I'd probably shoot myself.

 

PK:  I'll write the introduction.

CF:  On New York, if I could add that.  That would be great.

PK:  That would be fabulous, yeah.

CF:  But maybe not that great.  It would be interesting.  I knew a lot of people and -- no, it was just a very -- I remember it as a very small studio, your basic small storefront, and not much in it.  There was like a little model stand, I think, or a chair or something, and the usual old piece of cloth that they probably got somewhere, and the three of them, they were very hard workers and they would talk and joke a little bit.  There was one funny thing I remember he said -- ‘cause it was the ‘60s and everyone was taking drugs, and Diebenkorn said, “Oh, it's a good thing we don't take drugs,” you know. “It's a good think we're older because we would have been drinking and taking drugs if we were younger now.”  They were fun that way, and they just did a lot, a lot of drawings, and those drawings now when I see them, like in this book and stuff, it's really nice.

PK:  It is very interesting because in the Bay Area, we have some photographs in the Archives from the William Theophilus Brown papers.

CF:  Oh, really?

PK:  We've had those for years, which reminds me I should go get some more from him.  His partner is Paul Wonner.

CF:  Oh, really?

PK:  Yeah, and they're a long-time couple.

CF:  Oh, I didn't know that.

PK:  And it may have been they were living in Malibu at that time ‘cause they were down here, must have been, it seemed.

CF:  Yeah.  He was there a lot.

PK:  But see, here you are [looking at Diebenkorn drawing book].  Is that from one of those --

 

CF:  Yeah, that's one of those sessions.  Yeah, definitely, that's from one of those sessions, 1967.

PK:  And you said you're sort of surprised.  You look at the -- you first showed it to me, you covered it up --

CF:  Oh, yeah.  I said, “There's something wrong with that leg.”  It's like I didn't do -- you can see it, too.  See how he sort of arranged things, see --

PK:  Oh, yeah.

CF:  -- like the leg probably came down more because I didn't --

PK:  Oh, so that he could show more, right?

CF:  Yeah, that's what I think, now that I look at it.

PK:  Taking liberties --

CF:  I think he did; he took his artistic liberties there at that, but it's --

PK:  Well, you know, there --

CF:  I wish I could get my hands on this one.

PK:  Yeah.  Well it's available, presumably at L.A. Louvre.

CF:  Eighteen thousand, I think.  It was $18,000 when I asked about it.  I said well maybe I could -- even if I paid off $100 a month, I couldn't get this for the rest of my life, so I said I guess I won't get it, unless I come into some money.

PK:  But what about those sessions, how do you remember them?  Because this is a real tradition with that group and it comes out of, well it's not exclusive to you, but there is that Bay Area figurative drawing tradition which they certainly were major important exponents of.  I don't know if you would, at the time, been very much aware of that.

CF:  Oh, I was, yeah, I was, because like I said, I come from an artistic family and I was going to school, so I was very aware of Diebenkorn and, you know, his reputation; less of Bill Theo Brown, but I had -- I think Weeks was also teaching at U.C.L.A.

 

PK:  Yeah, that must be right.

CF:  Yeah.  I don't have anything, but there might be -- I'm sure that, you know -- anyway, it was very straightforward, to tell you the truth.  He was straight in modeling.  Obviously, I was very flattered that he liked me and had me come back down all the time and --

PK:  Yeah, I mean that's right.  You said you went --

CF:  -- I thought that was very nice.

PK:  -- quite a few times, right?

CF:  I went quite a few times, yeah.  I don't remember how long it was, whether it was two months or four months or what, but I remember -- let's see if I can find another one of me in here.  There I am.

PK:  That's James Weeks and --

CF:  Oh.

PK:  -- you know, this whole group.

CF:  That's the Bay Area . . .?

PK:  Yeah.  This is Tom Albright's book.  That's a good section on them, and that tradition continues.  And you made a comment earlier that is real interesting.  During those few years that you were posing here, and I guess that really was your career.  Is that right?  Or did you --

CF:  I was going to school then.  I was a student.

PK:  Yeah, but I mean in terms of your modeling career, that was pretty much it.  You said you didn't then do [it] in New York, right?

CF:  No.  You know what?  When I went to Rutgers University in New Jersey, I was in the art department and they did ask me if -- the Drawing Club asked me if I would do some modeling.

PK:  ‘Cause they knew you had done it in L.A.

CF:  Yeah.

 

PK:  Yeah.

CF:  And actually no, I did work for one of the teachers there, but I found the East Coast, New Jersey, to be so provincial.  It was a total drag.  These were kids mostly coming -- it seemed to me like they were all a bunch of really uptight, Catholic, young kids.  One kid actually had to get up and leave and he complained to the teacher that he just couldn't stand -- he thought it was terrible that there was a nude model up there, and it was much more provincial, so I didn't enjoy it.  And by that time, I think I was a little bit older anyway.  I just stopped.  I didn't have to work.  I was married to one of the professors then, so --

PK:  So you found it much more open in California?

CF:  Much more, much more.

PK:  I'm not surprised.

CF:  Much more relaxed.  I always kept feeling that nobody thought anything about it at all, basically, like it was just like nothing, but I guess in a way it was ‘cause people were into nude sunbathing.  That was the least things that were going on at that time, but out in New Jersey it was a whole different thing.  And I quickly got sort of involved in theater and the arts, and I had a studio in Hoboken and quickly got into theater.

PK:  How long were you in New York?

CF:  Eighteen years.  I worked with Richard Foreman.  I don't know if you've ever heard of him, but he had a MacArthur grant and he still puts on his shows, very, very avant-garde stuff, really, really good, very proud by association such as it is with him, and I worked in about five of his plays in the mid-'70s through -- and I did a Whitney thing.  Once he did a performance at the Whitney and -- talk about my modeling, I had to sit there in front of everybody at the Whitney and kind of slowly take all my clothes off.

PK:  Slowly.

CF:  Very slowly, yeah.  That was the only thing I had to do was like -- and he would be talking about theater, whatever.

 

PK:  So you had to make it -- you had to time --

CF:  There was another element.

PK:  So you had to time it so that it would last exactly as long as his talk?

CF:  Well, I don't remember that.  I think if I could just keep going such as it is, but it's just do everything very, very slowly.  And I had already performed with him in a number of plays and I was taking my clothes off for him, too.  That was a whole different thing, though, taking them off in the theater.  Talk about a wild, erotic environment --

PK:  Really.

CF:  -- the theater.  It really is amazing, but I don't know, more real, I think, in a way.  People really get involved.

PK:  More real than what?  Than the --

CF:  Well, you really get involved.  You're having real relationships with people, but when you're working with somebody night after night after night in a very stimulating environment performing for audiences, it's very exciting and people become very close.  All the actors, I don't know how many there was, maybe 10, 12, 15 of us in each play, everyone was dressing in this just one, big room and --

PK:  Right.

                            

CF:  -- stuff like that.

PK:  Same thing  with dancers.

CF:  Yeah.

PK:  Like ballet and so on.

CF:  After a while, you're not even looking.  Actually, a lot of the guys are gay and --

PK:  Right.

CF:  -- it's really nothing.

 

PK:  But not all.  There are some straight ones.

CF:  No, no, not all.  No, there was a lot of --

PK:  Oh, that's funny.

CF:  Yeah, a lot of conviviality and going out and drinking afterwards in bars and --

PK:  That's interesting.  Then you characterize that arena of activity which involved nudity.  Let's just say that that's the common denominator, and then the studio situation being an artist/model is really quite different, and I gather you feel the one [that] is potentially more charged is the theater situation or that world, that life.  And I think I can see it because again, the posing business is, in many ways, passive.

CF:  Static.

PK:  It's so ecstatic; it's over time, and the activity itself isn't directly presenting to an audience for a response, whereas the theater is very much that.  Is that right? 

CF:  And very shocking.  You have people coming in to a theater who every night somebody would be like -- well Richard's stuff is very avant-garde, very dream-like, and very informed by French philosophy at that time.  It was called ontological hysteric theater.  He's in the New York Times all the time.  Anyway, so, you know, this wonderful, dream-like environment, but then weird, crazy things happening, and people; you just have all kinds of reactions.  And it would be very shocking ‘cause things were happening in a much more filmic pace where scenes were happening very quickly sometimes, and then you'd have longer scenes, and then you'd have the strange sounds.  It's just sort of a whole other aspect of -- and he always employed -- would get all his actresses at some point to take off their clothes.  And his main actors would be Kate Manheim who's Ralph Manheim's daughter, the famous translator.

PK:  That was his main --

CF:  That's his wife.

 

PK:  Oh, his wife.

CF:  They're still married, and Kate was his main actress for many years.

PK:  Wow!  Now that shows you something, though, that they're still married.  Now that's --

CF:  Very close, yes.

PK:  Yeah, within an ambiance like that that you've described, all kinds of opportunity, all kinds of stimulation, I suppose, that those two -- it would be interesting to interview them and study just what went into building that obviously very strong relationship.

CF:  Well Richard never did anything.  I mean he did everything -- he would be the opposite.  His whole thing is to keep distance, to only experience the world by distance, by distancing yourself.  He would say, one of his famous things, “Only by being a tourist can you really experience the world,” right.

PK:  Well it's like voyeurism.  I mean it's a very similar thing.  Some people think that historians are voyeurs.  They're looking at other people's lives and stories.  Well I suppose that's true.

CF:  Yeah.

PK:  Boy, look at this.  See, we've almost used this one up.

CF:  Oh, yeah.  We're using up our time.

PK:  But what I wanted to ask just -- I'm sure that you

have --

CF:  Oh, yeah, we have --

PK:  -- interesting stories, lots of interesting stories, but is there anything more about Diebenkorn?  Because people are going to be interested in --

CF:  Of course, and I wish I had more interesting things to say about him in a certain, but he is a very straightforward, I mean very, very -- really just wanted to work constantly.  We never had an outside relationship other than working.  He was very nice.

 

PK:  Yeah, I'm not surprised at all.

CF:  Yeah.

PK:  He was, in many ways, a very shy man.

CF:  Yes.

PK:  I knew him a bit.

CF:  He was very quiet-spoken and reserved, but not like this.  He was more like --

PK:  Not a bit like Altoon or --

CF:  No, to serve --

PK:  But if you look through this little collection of drawings; in fact, I've noticed this and it surprised me in the very beginning with Diebenkorn is that they're pretty -- a lot of the poses are pretty erotic.  It's like looking up dresses and so forth.  You can calculate in a strategic way, one has to think, and it sort of surprises me because knowing a little bit about Diebenkorn as a person and knowing him and his reserve, I think is the term --

CF:  That would be it, yeah, gentlemanly, reserved.

PK:  And so I first have to ask you if, you know, again in any of these sessions if you ever felt, maybe not pressured, but an invitation to do like open poses and so forth, this kind of thing where you felt there was an erotic interest in you.

CF:  The only time I really felt --

[END TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[BEGIN TAPE 2, SIDE B]

PK:  Once again, we haven't been able to quite finish, and so we're now on Tape 2, Side B, in this interview.  And you were beginning to tell an anecdote from your posing in Ocean Park Studio for Diebenkorn.  And was it for the group in this case or just for --

 

CF:  Yeah, it was; no, it was.  In fact, all three of them were there, I think, either all the time.  I remember the three of them, so I think probably the three of them were there.

PK:  Yeah.

CF:  And I don't -- well, no, I don't remember any pressure whatsoever to eroticize my poses which I'm sure I would have felt, you know, been keenly aware of, but I did one time, and I think it just naturally came into it and maybe they were just being clever or something, but is that I worked with another female model one time for him and the other two, and that, naturally, would -- because we were together, I didn't know this person, I was feeling slightly uncomfortable about it, but hey, you know, just jump into it.  It doesn't have to -- it's sort of my uptightness, I guess, but -- so we were just all intertwined and this and that, and I remember that having occurred, but faintly erotic feeling to it because just the nature of it.

PK:  Well --

CF:  I think that was kind of -- yeah, that kind of thing, and that could be one of them.  I don't know, but it very well could be.  What's the date?

PK:  Just think, that could be you.

CF:  Does it have a date on that?

PK:  I don't know.

CF:  No.

PK:  Some type of ink-and-wash ballpoint --

CF:  It could be; it could be the two of us, but then again, maybe he did it on a regular basis.

PK:  Yeah, I mean they did [it] in garters(?) and so forth.  All I'm saying is that --

CF:  Yeah, that's a nice one.  This is almost kind of Matisse.

PK:  Oh, yeah, I mean this is fabulous.

CF:  They're all nice.  That's a good . . .

 

PK:  But what is interesting is that, for me at least, well not just for me, the L.A. Louvre knows this full well and anybody else who looks at them, a number of these drawings of women, and from these various sessions, are quite erotic.

CF:  That's probably why they're still for sale.

PK:  Yeah, and I'm just trying to figure out how that then came about.  In other words, there was some method, something that led to this.

CF:  Well they always could say, “Well could you change that pose” or “Do this or that.”  I remember that would be, I don't think this is selective memory, but they would like things adjusted a certain way would be more interesting for them, so I'm sure there was, especially with the two of us working there, some adjustments made and God knows what we ended up like, but was basically like two women together.  They didn't ask us to do specifically erotic poses, I mean particularly that group.

PK:  Right.

CF:  If Bill Theo Brown is gay, he'd addressed it in that anyway maybe.

PK:  Well who knows.

CF:  But then there's always that element.  I think there's always that element.

PK:  Well I have a theory -- when you read my little essay, you're going to see some of the things that I see as possibilities in that regard.  But it's, I think, very often there's desire to possess the object through an image, to somehow get access, intimacy, and it may be in that intimacy provides an extra boost to the -- and it will to that act of creativity if you're making  --

CF:  Imagination.  It is imagination.

PK:  So I think at least that's possible.

CF:  Well I think just the fact that -- this is something we haven't talked about, but I definitely, as a model, there's no way not to feel like an object.

 

PK:  Really?

CF:  Absolutely, for the most part.  I mean that situation, you can't help it, and, of course, maybe that isn't -- if you just thought about it that way, you're a naked vessel there sitting where somebody else is drawing pleasure or something.  I guess you could find that offensive, but that's only one element of it.  I think it would be very different, let's say, if you were the artist’s lover, also you were being chronicled like the way Picasso or any of these people would do their wives, although they don't [necessarily] do their wives nude.  I don't know if Diebenkorn did a lot a nudes of his wife or not, but --

PK:  I don't think.  I think --

CF:  It's a different --

PK:  -- it's not unusual.  I just don't know Phyllis Diebenkorn.  She certainly posed, but whether she posed in the nude --

CF:  But I don't think I ever saw her nude.  So I think that that's part of the contract is the fact that you will take your clothes off.  It's a different type of relationship than you would have like maybe with your wife or something because he would have to say, “You take your clothes off for me and I'm going to show this to the whole world.”  Well maybe you're intruding on their relationship, whereas when you have a contractual relationship with the model, that's --

PK:  It's pretty complicated business --

CF:  It is, kind of.

PK:  -- because I mentioned that I just interviewed Leta Ramos, Mel Ramos's wife --

CF:  Oh, that's right.  That's a good example.

PK:  -- who has posed.  I don't think she does anymore, although she says now it would be more for body parts, literally, like hands and so forth, elbows, as he constructs these composites, is what they really are.  They tend to be very seldom . . .  truly one person.

CF:  Oh, really?  So it's --

 

PK:  He takes photographs, and now he manipulates them on a computer, so they're a kind of fiction, but anyway, that's --

CF:  Right.

PK:  -- another story.  But in her case, it was like once she had agreed to do this, this was just understood, I mean she liked it because -- I'm going to mention this too in my chapter.  She then gained control because she was needed.  She became part of this process.  She was also right there; she was available.  “Hey, come on, take your clothes off.  I need such and such.”  She also felt, as did Judy Dater about her husband, Jack Welpottt, and this is all on tape, so I'm not telling stories out of school, frankly, it was a way [for her] to monitor the studio.

CF:  Debate.

PK:  Isn't it interesting that they felt that was necessary?  Eros in the Studio.

CF:  Yeah, I can definitely say that.  I'm glad my husband's into computers.

PK:  There you go.  Nowadays, though, oh, that --

CF:  He's not on the Internet, though, doing that kind of stuff.  He does MP 3s.  Well, I mean there is a wonderful thing about working with artists, and I always thought there is that chemistry; there is that vibe that goes on between you and the artist, and you are, you know, you're part of the creation.  You know, that's it, you are part of it, and models do make a lot of it happen.  And I think like there's a tradition of the muse.  You're sort of encouraging and you're being a good model and you're creating an environment that has a lot of potential for explosive behavior, but I  bet you've never even heard of any really awful things going on.  I would imagine things are pretty sedate and much more so than you would say an evening down at a club or something. 

PK:  Right, right.

 

CF:  There's a certain -- you know, the type of person that you're dealing with and these are creative and smart people, for the most part, so it's nice.  I mean I remember it basically as being something I enjoyed doing.

PK:  Well, right, and in fairness, we're talking, for the most part, about one slice of an experience, one aspect of it, and certainly not the whole thing.  It happens to be kind of a denied part of it which is why we're doing these interviews.

CF:  Yeah, it's not talked about much.

PK:  It isn't because it's -- did you ever read Spending by -- oh, God, now I've just dropped -- Mary Gordon?  And it's exactly about this, but it's reversing it --

CF:  Really.

PK:  -- and it's a woman artist with a very wealthy male muse and [he] basically supports her in any way, and also, provides her with everything else she needs.  She's single, divorced, and anyway, it's a very interesting story.  I'm reading it right now and it's so exactly in this realm.

CF:  Oh, no, I've never heard of it.  I'll have to take a look at that.

PK:  But it's --

CF:  I don't know, maybe I like it the other way.  I don't know if I would like to be able to have that kind of control over --

PK:  You mean to be what, be the artist you mean?

CF:  Well, no, I like being the artist.

PK:  Yeah.

CF:  And I like drawing, but I don't think I -- I don't know.  There is a certain -- it's interesting, having the relationship reversed like that, being the sexually powerful person.  I think it's --

PK:  Well isn't that how you feel, though?  I mean what have we been talking about?  It seems in many respects, the model or the woman is the sexually powerful one.

 

CF:  You deny that, you know, so that's how you get your control by denying it.

PK:  That's where the power is.

CF:  Exactly.

PK:  This is where the power is.

CF:  Yeah.

PK:  I mean in that realm, that's where the power lies, for the most part, and so, to me, it's an exchange; it's a negotiation, and --

CF:  It is.  It's a negotiation all the way through the entire session.

PK:  Right, yeah.

CF:  It really is, unless it's a strictly, totally -- you know, you have somebody like a Diebenkorn who's a complete gentleman and very serious besides.

PK:  Well he told me once -- God, this is what I was going to say.  This was a long time ago and I saw him at L.A. County [Museum of Art] at an opening and I can't say that I knew Richard Diebenkorn extremely well.  I didn't, but when I was in graduate school at U.C.L.A. working in the Grunwald Center, he sat in the print room to [look at] some drawings, he would bring his students in.  This was about ‘65.

CF:  Oh, that could have been . . .

PK:  I think that's about when he started at U.C.L.A., came down from Stanford.  But anyway, he would bring his students in, drawing students, and I would bring out these solander boxes with Matisse drawings and they particularly were looking for Rembrandt --

CF:  Really, how nice.

PK:  -- and completely devoted to the craft involved in drawing, to drawing itself, as actually perhaps even an end in itself.  It wasn't just something preliminary --

CF:  Oh, no.

 

PK:  -- to drawing like a painting.

CF:  That's right.

PK:  And it could be fully realized and that, of course, was fabulous, especially in retrospect.  Yeah, I'm the one that brought the Matisses out to show Richard Diebenkorn, and so I knew him a little bit.  When I started this job, I got in touch with him with a certain amount of trepidation.  I thought that, “Wow! I can't believe this, that I'm getting in touch on a business relationship with Richard Diebenkorn --

CF:  Yeah.

PK:  -- through the Smithsonian.”  And he was very gracious, but pretty elusive.  It was very hard to actually get to him, but he was always encouraging.  And so eventually, I did visit with him in his home in Santa Monica Canyon.  But at some other point, he and his wife Phyllis were at L.A. County and I had started like an earlier phase of this, interviewing models and artists, the whole artist and model thing.  There was a chance for an exhibition and I was gathering information.  He was a man of very few words as you probably remember.

CF:  Yes.

PK:  And I just said, “Boy, this is really exciting.  I wanted you to know about it and I really -- I would be so pleased if sometime I could just talk with you about the subject and about your own fabulous working with models and figure drawings.”  He sort of smiled.  He got this, how to describe it, almost an amused look on his face and said, “Well,” he says, “there's a lot to say about that subject.”  And then Phyllis, his wife, was sort of nodding.  And so to this day, of course I'll never know what he meant.

CF:  What a shame.

PK:  Isn't that too bad?

CF:  Yes.  God, he just like really --

PK:  That's one of the reasons that I was so interested in talking with --

 

CF:  Well, it wasn't --

PK:  I mean I just -- I don't know what he meant.  And I also didn't expect that it meant he was really running around chasing people around the studio.

CF:  I'm sure.

PK:  Not at all.

CF:  I can't imagine he would have done that.

PK:  But there was something where it seemed to me that this was especially a good source of some kind of energy or pleasure for him and it was an important part and that it wasn't simply having been the basis somebody to look at --

CF:  Right.

PK:  -- something to look at and then draw.

CF:  Yeah.  Well I don't know his personal history, but I'm sure that --

PK:  Who else did you -- God, I mean it's really interesting in that short time, the people --

CF:  And working in studios, though -- well I told you about Lee -- did I tell you about Lee Van Cleef?  I think I just mentioned him.

PK:  Yeah, yeah, you did.  That was interesting.

CF:  I don't think very many people know at all that he was an artist.

PK:  No.

CF:  He was a great guy, too, and he was very serious about his work and very generous as I remember.  He would actually give me more money and stuff.  I guess he felt sorry for me, my terrible, old Volkswagen and living the hippie life and all that.

PK:  God, I think you had a lot of fun.

 

CF:  I did have fun, and I mean I feel very lucky because I sort of hit the L.A. scene and then going to New York and being involved with all these people in New York, too.  Who else did I work for?  There were other artists, and to tell you the truth, I don't even remember their names, but --

PK:  There have probably been quite a few.     

CF:  Yeah, but I mean working a lot with them constantly, going back for the classes and private stuff all the time, but those are -- the ones we talked about today are basically the most vivid ones and probably they're the most well-known.

PK:  Last question because we're doing very well, and I appreciate your coming back and allowing us to sort of wrap this up, but again, I don't think we talked about this, although you did earlier note the sort of declining position of drawing and then, of course, the need for models at all, you know, life drawing as an exercise.  In just a few years as you were --

CF:  Oh, yeah.  Well I remember that.  When I went to Chouinard, that was a basic core curriculum, life drawing, and we spent like six hours a day doing it forever.  And then that [Chouinard] actually became Cal Arts at the very beginning.

PK:  Right, that's right, famously --

CF:  We had that wild time --

PK:  -- notoriously.

CF:  -- out of Villa Carbini which I was there, too, at Villa Carbini, and what happened there is that I remember they didn't have models.  There was no interest at all in figurative drawing, and, in fact, that was considered like very old-fashioned and already it was turning into a conceptual model, probably not unlike what we have today at, say, U.C.L.A.  I don't know what they do over there, but I just somehow feel that that had something to do, like with these artists in particular, had to do with the tradition of the model and the artist.  If you always can think of Picasso, he's the most famous, and Matisse and their models, or Man Ray, and I think they belonged more to that tradition --

PK:  Right.

 

CF:  -- which is making relationships.  I mean it is absolutely a part of their work.  Now I think you have less of it.  I'm trying to think --

PK:  It's all cerebral and intellectual, I guess.

CF:  Although people work on their own bodies now.

PK:  Yeah, right.

CF:  You've gone from the other, the gazing at the other, to working on your own body, exposing your own body in ways that you would never imagine exposing --

PK:  Right.

CF:  I mean just exposing the parts.  Artists do it themselves now.

PK:  Oh, I know.

CF:  Their art is their bodies, so --

PK:  Which is extremely, some people think, narcissistic and, well, just self-focused.  This leads to the final/final question --

CF:  Oh, yeah.

PK:  -- ‘cause we touched on it earlier a bit and it had to do with, I suppose, differences that you might have observed or have thoughts about between men and women artists and models where the model is objectified or eroticized and becomes an emblem, it seems, for the erotic, for sexuality, and how it seems that, for the most part, whether you're a man or woman even, that these qualities reside in female form, and much less so -- you made this observation earlier -- than in men.  And so male nudes don't carry the same, apparently, in our society, don't carry exactly the same -- except for gay . . .

 

CF:  I was just going to say.  If you know that there's a relationship -- an artist -- you will just feel that way automatically.  If an artist is gay and they're drawing or painting another male, you will automatically assume that there is some relationship there, that it is sexually charged.  Even the friendships, even back in Bloomsbury, I mean they just had a show there [Boone Gallery, Huntington Library].

PK:  Right, right.

CF:  But there's a wonderful thing, I think, about nude drawing or being a model is that it really is an intimate form of relating to another human being, whereas now, other media and everything, I'm not sure it's always portrayed in an intimate way.  I mean I haven't really thought about it or analyzed it much.

PK:  Too much about selling, for one thing.

CF:  Yeah.  It's all about --

PK:  Like an advertising or even fashion industry stuff.

CF:  And the people have to look a certain way.  I mean you have to be --

PK:  It doesn't seem to be about people.

CF:  Yeah, it's a look, and everyone has to be very perfect and, you know.  With modeling, this is really about real people.  Obviously, you look at us and everybody looks very real.  People aren't glossed up.

PK:  So it's very humanistic.  I mean it's --

CF:  It's very.  It's real human tradition.  It's humanistic.  That's exactly it, but actually relating to another human being as they are themselves.  People say, “Oh, I wouldn't want to look like that.”  The woman I mentioned about I was at the museum with the Diebenkorn drawing.  I was the only one in the gallery at the L.A. County Museum about, I don't know if it was five years ago when they had the big show and that family came in --

PK:  Right.

CF:  -- and looking at my drawing of me --

PK:  Said it was real good.

 

CF:  -- and said, “Boy, he looks like he hated women.  Look at the way --,” and this is a beautiful drawing, and you just -- because they wanted to see a slick, probably totally realistic, hairs and all, you know, every hair in place or something.

PK:  Every hair in place, right.

CF:  And they had no idea of art.

PK:  None at all.

CF:  No.  I didn't look glossy enough for them, I suppose.  Is that a good place to stop?

PK:  I think it is, unless there's something else for you to add.  I mean I think this has been a great ride.

CF:  Yeah.  It's been interesting for me.

PK:  We covered a lot of interesting ground anyway.  There it is, one model's story.

CF:  One model's story and I never expected --

PK:  There's only part of the story of the person, but --

CF:  Absolutely, but I never expected it to be -- I was a little apprehensive at first about talking about --

PK:  But I'm glad --

CF:  -- intimate things to someone that I don't know yet.

PK:  -- that apparently you don't feel that way anymore.

CF:  No.  You made me feel very relaxed.

PK:  Well thank you.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

                             

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Camille Feinberg, 2000 June 27. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.