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Oral history interview with Emily Hofstatter, 2000 May 31

Oral history interview with Emily Hofstatter, 2000 May 31

Hofstatter, Emily

Artists' model

Collection Information

Size: Sound recording 1 sound cassette (60 min.) : analog.

Transcript 25 p.

Summary: An interview of Emily Hofstatter conducted 2000 May 31, by Paul Karlstrom, for the Archives of American Art, in Hofstatter's home, Burbank, Calif.

Hofstatter discusses her interest in becoming an artist's model; posing at the request of Sam Clayberger whose exhibition she attended with a friend; her motivation as seeking the experience of being an "art object," and participating in the art historical tradition of the nude; reaction of her friends; effect of posing on her; feminist issues of her generation; and the power dynamic between men and women.

Biographical/Historical Note

Emily Hofstattar was an artist's model from Burbank, Calif.

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 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

Preface

The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Emily Hofstatter on May 31, 2000. The interview took place in San Marino, CA, and was conducted by Paul Karlstrom for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Interview

PAUL KARLSTROM: Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. An interview with Emily Hofstatter, who among other things, is a rather recent artists' model. This interview is part of an Archive series on Artists and Models. Brief interviews.

Emily is being interviewed by Paul Karlstrom in her office, slightly after hours, not on company time, in San Marino, California. The date is May 31 of the year 2000. And that's that.

Emily, we've talked about this subject quite a bit. And for reasons that you can describe, and it has to do with how we got to know one another and how you started modeling, nude modeling for our mutual friend, Sam Clayberger. And we've talked about doing an interview that deals with your experience. This is a new experience for you. You're a noviciate, I guess the word might be, a novice artists' model. So let's start this way. How was it that you -- how did this happen? How is it that a month ago, several months ago, you found yourself in an artist's studio, somebody you had met just recently, posing nude? How did this come about?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well, I met Sam at the exhibit of his book for which you wrote the essay -- for which, with which, about which, and I went there -- just with a friend, a friend of my boyfriend's actually, while he was in Thailand and had no idea what to expect, had no idea what the exhibit was about. And walked in and she gave me a little bit of history about you and about Sam, and she was exhibiting with Sam in a different gallery a couple of blocks away. And I saw the pamphlet for this show and that was it, and [I] walked in and saw some sketches on the wall, and along the other wall I saw about 15 pages hung on the wall of your essay. So I thought well, I kind of had some wine, had some food, talked to some people and then said okay, I've got to get to know this show. So I went over to the essay first and I read most of it. Of course, it's kind of hard to read an essay on the wall when you're at an exhibit. It's kind of like a party. I believe there was music playing, it was a really kind of festive time and down in the basement gallery of [the] Light Bringers. And I read most of the essay, and it was intriguing. I skimmed a lot it, but I got -- I think I got most it, most of the information. And then when I went over to the actual book, which was on a table, and I kind of leafed through it and got the feeling of the book. And then I went over to the sketches and I saw the sketches and then there was a little room where there were some photographs as well. And I looked at those and just loved the way that the photographs were of one of the sessions from probably, what? 20 years ago or so? And just, it was a lot of insight all at once about Paul and Sam and the models. And I actually knew one of the models mentioned in the essay. So there I was. I went back to the food table and I was having some cheese fondue.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Which model was that?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Parker McPhinney. Yeah, my girlfriend had lived next door to her for years, so I knew her very well. She had done my astrology chart, things like that, she has -- great lady.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Yeah, she is great.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Real amazing spirit. So -- I haven't seen her in a long time. But I did know she had done a video of models, a documentary. I'd love to see it, especially now.

So, anyway, I was at the fondue table and I was having cheese fondue for the first time in my life, believe it or not. And this man came over and was also having cheese fondue and I told him this is the first time I've ever had it and we had this nice conversation, about 15, 20 minutes about cheese fondue and related subjects. And I said to him -- oh, I introduced myself and he introduced himself by his first name only. And it didn't ring a bell, and I said, "Oh, are you an artist?" And he waved towards the sketches and I said, "Oh, you're the artist of the evening, I see." So I met Sam and I had no idea who he was and it was nice to get acquainted. So I was very comfortable with him right off the bat. And we talked about his art and we talked motivation, we talked about all kinds of things, eroticism, blah, blah, blah. And after a while he said, "Would you like to be -- would you like to model for me?" And I instantly said, "Yes, I would be honored", having no idea what I was saying because I'd never done it before, and I was always very interested in doing it and never quite had the opportunity and it just never happened. And I had talked to Parker actually about modeling for schools because they were always looking for models and it was a good way to make some money and I'm not exactly inhibited. But, I don't know, I just said, "Well, I have no idea what I'm doing. I mean here I am at an erotic art exhibit; is that what I'm going to be doing?" But after talking to Sam, I didn't get the feeling that was the main point of what he was into.

PAUL KARLSTROM: That was by the way the main -- that was the subject of the portfolio.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Absolutely, but after talking to him about it -- yeah, was that all he did, you know, would he ask me, "Okay, do an erotic pose for me," the minute I sat down. I told him I'd never done it before, and he said not to worry, you'd only be nervous about 15 minutes and you'll realize that it's a safe, real situation -- blah, blah, blah -- which I hadn't doubted.

In between that night and the day I actually posed I went to see the other show and saw his paintings and they were really beautiful. And I thought okay, this is cool. Boy, would I love him to paint the painting, that I'd be really flattered to have that done. And of course, he has, so I'm thrilled.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Well, he did one -- since you brought it up, why don't you describe any -- did that come -- how many sessions have you done?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Let's see, one . . .

PAUL KARLSTROM: Three?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Three or four.

PAUL KARLSTROM: And did the painting come the very first session?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: I'm trying to think. I don't know. He sketched the first session. I think the first day was a really long day. We spent pretty much the whole day together and I think he sketched first and then I think he started the painting after that in the afternoon, but I'm not sure. It's all a big blur.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Why don't you describe -- forgive me for interrupting your flow here -- But describe the painting if you would and maybe how you felt about it, because you just said you went to the show you said, "Wow, this is great. How cool it would be to have a painting." And then shortly, really shortly thereafter, there was a painting of Emily. Why don't you describe it because it has an element that's very unusual in Sam's work, which is the use of words on the right? Can you describe that?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Describe the painting?

PAUL KARLSTROM: Yeah.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: It, just by itself? How I felt about it or the painting?

PAUL KARLSTROM: No, first of all the painting.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: The painting, I am just standing with my hands on my hips looking off to the side. The colors, of course, are beautiful. Sam uses really big colors. It's a pretty big painting and it's just full frontal standing nude, me. Me. And, you know, it's me, but it's not like a portrait of me. But if you didn't know me, you wouldn't know it was me. If you knew me, you'd guess that that was probably the painting of me. But along the side, after I'd come back, I think the second or third time I came back, he had pretty much finished the painting and I was really pleased it had become extremely personalized. Which made it, of course, all the more fun and exciting. He had put the letters GMTFUL along the side in big block letters and he said, "What do you think that stands for?" And I said, "Well, delightful?" And he said, "Yes, that's what it stands for." And of course, I've learned since then of course, it could be other words. But that really . . .

PAUL KARLSTROM: Well, you know what I thought it was when I saw it.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Yeah, you said "thoughtful", right, which is great too. Any of them would be great. Just the letters themselves thrilled me because, of course, when I started modeling or posing or just hanging out with Sam, I gave him the third degree on what his perception of models were, especially after the essay. I don't know if I would have done that if there was no essay. Because all these questions had been raised in your essay. So I asked him so many questions.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Like what?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well, the main question, especially for this conversation, is how much of the relationship between the model and the artist is important for what happens? And that was, to Sam, of course, extremely important. So obviously it was important in my first painting, or the first painting of me rather because it had letters that were referring to me, it was not just a nude, it was personalized. That was cool. So, I got more than I bargained for I'll tell you. I thought maybe I'd just go in and model and there would be maybe some sketches and whatever or just of a body and that would be great, that would be fine to be a part of that process. That was my main motivation, has always been. I've -- anything I've read about models where they weren't normally the inspiration, they were models. And you see photographs of artists, say the turn of the century, or whatever, and the models are just people they know or don't know, they're not usually friends or lovers or wives. The women who are willing to stand there naked for whatever they're getting paid and -- so, I didn't even have any great expectation of me being this anything special, except just a nude body of a particular shape that Sam, I guess liked.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Well, I mean he liked it maybe, but he didn't know beforehand except in a pretty general way.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Right. Well, I wasn't wearing a muu-muu at the show, but yeah, he had an idea, right. What the proportions would be, I guess, is what I thought. So, I got a lot more than that. So I got to become friendly with the artist, which is a whole lot of fun, and I can learn his perception and his perspective, which is a bonus. And then I get to be even more part of the process than I thought, which it goes to my head a little bit. It's a lot of fun. I still don't think I'm a great inspiration per se, and I don't think I'd want that.

PAUL KARLSTROM: What would constitute, what would make for a great inspiration?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well, put it this way, you know, they had that show on Picasso and all his women; right? And so then when he was in love with them they would be these fantastic, kind of more positive, happier paintings. And then as, of course, he came to despise them, as he seemed to do with everybody, they became these incredibly violent, huge, crazed - sort of experiences. So those women were inspirations on every level for every single painting, because they were so personal. They were about his feelings about that person. It wasn't just a nude painting such as that one. So, or whatever, which is not necessarily inspired by the person posing.

PAUL KARLSTROM: You had -- you said that you had for years at least been interested in the idea of modeling, taking your clothes off for an artist. Can you think back to what in your mind that might have involved? What it was that was attractive about it? What was -- how did you see it? In the early times thinking about it, how did you -- what did you imagine it would be like? What was the real interest for you?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well, there's so many layers to it. One is, for example, I think I've always had an interest in drawing and photography myself, and film, of course. So I'm on the other side of the camera, and the paintbrush as well, in a way. Not as much as I'd like, but whatever. I have that interest. And then on the other side, the vanity maybe of being photographed just in general. And that's an extremely, I think, personal thing to be a subject of photography, with clothes or without, it doesn't matter, just photography's so different. Painting, I mean, to pose for a painting and especially with clothes on seems to not be as warm as a nude. And there's been, of course, nudes have been, mainly female nudes, have been the subject of paintings for a million or two million years.

PAUL KARLSTROM: So do you feel -- did you imagine even way before actually having the experience that you would be participating in this truly time-honored tradition, especially in the history of Western Art?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Right, yeah, I guess so. I guess, especially if you're asking when I was young, then I would have [had] this newer woman -- [newer] body of a woman -- and so I guess there's that excitement of having seen so many beautiful paintings or interesting or whatever, inspiring, whatever. And then to be -- to have a body that would work for that, which, of course, I can't imagine an adult female body wouldn't be. But -- so there was that excitement I guess. But then as time went on and you've got -- one gets used to their body, I guess it would be kind of a celebration, maybe kind of like a party.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Celebration of what?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well, of not only of being there, being part of the moment and the process, but I guess of being able to be a naked woman, and not sexual, just nude. And the party would be because someone would be making art out of it, or of it rather, not out of it, but of it. So again, it's not necessarily personal, if it could be personal, then that's a bonus, but if it wasn't then you're still part of the celebration of that incredible time. That something's being created.

PAUL KARLSTROM: We talked before about the idea of the muse. This was an idea that you said you really didn't like. That you didn't feel that that would describe your role in this exchange, this interaction. I have to admit I didn't fully understand that because the way you're talking about this still to me sounds very much like what that term generally means, which is a kind of inspiration. And it may be just specific to the moment, to that circumstance, but it doesn't mean you have the power of creating art, just being you. But you are like a facilitator. Would that definition of muse -- would you be more comfortable with that definition?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: I still don't agree with that, no.

PAUL KARLSTROM: All right, well, tell me why if you can.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well, because I don't -- didn't think muse had to do with the relationship between the muse and the artist. I never thought of it that way. The muse always seemed to be separate from me and maybe I have the wrong definition. But to -- it's different to be, to me, to be part of a more personalized painting than an inspired painting. That's different to me, maybe it's not, but in my mind it is. Maybe I'll evolve out of that and grow out of it whatever since I'm so new at this. Maybe I'll understand it better later. But it's different.

PAUL KARLSTROM: It's -- I think I've mentioned to you that in other conversations I've had with models and even a few interviews, the notion of the muse invariably comes into play but [it] describes very much the way you've described your interests and experience of this, which is to be a participant, sort of an agent, the facilitator for the creation of a work of art. And that doesn't mean that you're some sort of mythological arty creature. That, as I think you said before, rests on the shoulder and whispers in the ear. No, no, it's not that, it's something -- the muse doesn't even have to be a woman. Well, we don't need to pursue this too much but the way I believe that these other models understood it was they were there and somehow, whatever it was, was [experienced in] common -- this being them, their presence and perhaps conversation even added to it, and this relationship with an artist, which you've described as interesting, with Sam. Their bodies, and maybe a little dollop of desire so it energizes this moment and aids and abets image-making that sometimes it can be -- is that more palatable to you? If you don't use the word muse, forget about that, does that . . .

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well, I mean, sure, the desire, I don't know, that's a huge subject that is so subjective and so, I mean, that's just all made up in everybody's head in a way. But the -- you know, who desires whom, et cetera. I guess my mistaken definition of muse is that to me muse is sort of the star, as you said the facilitator, the agent. But to me the model isn't necessarily, I mean, sure, of course, the model can be but as a rule in my mind, the artist is the star, the total celebrity and the model gets to be there for the party. So . . .

PAUL KARLSTROM: So you have sort of a pedestrian idea of it in a way.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Yeah, I mean, I think pragmatically, but, yeah, I mean . . .

PAUL KARLSTROM: Pretty blue-collar, pretty . . .

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Right, exactly. Yeah, that's -- all right, I'll buy that. Hey, don't get me wrong I would love to be the muse, that would be cool. I'd love to be Ms. Inspiration. Now that would be the power. That would be the power, the desire, everything you're talking about. That would be great. Not impossible, but . . . you know?

PAUL KARLSTROM: Okay, let's go there then. You view that as a possibility in this exchange or relationship?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: I mean, sure that would be -- who wouldn't want that, you know, we all have motive -- the word I was using a lot in our previous discussions, the ego of it would just be blasted to heaven with that. Oh, man, I've got it, I'm the one. But I don't see that as the blue- collar, no. And I'm not seeing that happening these days.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Well what about the -- you're talking about a certain kind of power, which is really interesting, and I haven't thought this through myself; being a muse then suggests a collaboration, at least a collaboration where you're a necessary element in this creation of a work of art.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Right.

PAUL KARLSTROM: It's some kind of true collaboration. And so you, as you become more than object, more than arrangement of forms to study, but a partner.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Right.

PAUL KARLSTROM: And in -- with some, several of the other models that I've talked with, that's pretty much how they came to see it. That it was their presence, it was them, some essential them. Well, Emily, that makes this kind of a difference. And I gather that this is perhaps what you meant by saying yes, you can see this [as] possible, and therein lies a certain power to be a generator. Can't do it by yourself.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Right.

PAUL KARLSTROM: But it's almost as if the artist can't do it or can't do it as well or as quickly without you. Is that a kind of power you would see at least as possible?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Absolutely, without question.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Can you describe it better than I can?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: No. No, I think that's it. I think that's exactly it. That would be as partner, as collaborator. Yeah. There's a lot of power there, especially the way it's set up, which, of course, is the conversation of desire, of the male-female dynamic in the situation then that power definitely shifts back and forth without question.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Well, maybe we should talk about that. You know, there's no single, correct course that we take in this kind of a conversation. That is one of the big issues. Maybe we can visit that and then talk about some other things and then revisit that. The title of the essay you were referring to, my essay, based on conversations or these interviews, exchanges with models, is Eros in the Studio, which suggested that in one way or another, the -- there are artist and model interactions that are erotically charged to some degree, or that the potential at least hovers there and that's the same thing, it brings the energy. Can you comment on that just from your limited experience? It's only been a few times with one artist. Maybe start with the question, did you anticipate -- was that part of your thinking over the years and part of what you maybe anticipated going into Sam's studio -- going into his studio?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Yeah, well let's take it from this angle.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Okay.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: As I said, I didn't know whether we would be going in to do erotic art right away, whatever the heck erotic art might be considered, and I had my views as opposed to maybe Sam's views or your views or whatever. And so I was a little anxious about that. I didn't know how I felt about that. He had said in the show that he did the book, he had asked the models to do an erotic pose. "Just do an erotic pose," and I had no idea what I thought an erotic pose would be for myself. Absolutely not. I've sat even in front of a mirror and went, "Do I think [this] is erotic? No, not really; do I think this erotic?" This is ridiculous, if I don't know what an erotic pose would be for myself right off the bat -- for him. All right, this is before I know him, so maybe it would be different once you knew him, I don't know. But I said, "Well, this is odd. I don't think I'm the right person for this job because I don't think I want to do this. I'm not up for this, obviously I'm not -- I don't have the right feeling for this right now." And -- but the rest of it totally fascinated me and I was interested in the whole dynamic. I was interested in what would happen. I had no idea who Sam was, I didn't know how it would be, -- would there be some sort of strange dynamic, would there be sexual tension, would it be totally fine and normal, would it be just like okay, painting, "Okay thank you, see you next week, bye, bye?" Who knew? I had no idea what to expect, I mean I knew [a] limited amount about him. I tried to find out more. I saw the paintings, I did what I could; talked to other people about it. I had some great support from some people, really great support and other people . . .

PAUL KARLSTROM: Like who?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well, from Patty who brought me to the show to begin with.

PAUL KARLSTROM: She's an artist, right?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Exactly. A couple of my girlfriends.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Cloe?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Yeah, and my colleague, Norma, and my mother. People were just like, oh, that sounds fabulous. And even a lot of people, including my sister, some other people and some men, a lot of men just thought it was great. And, however, the feeling changed once I actually started to model and I could talk about it. Then about 80 percent of the people didn't want to hear about it, which was so bizarre. I have no idea why. Even though, I had, you know, I'm not doing erotic poses so to speak. I'm just modeling. I was so excited by it, I thought it was so cool and fun and exciting. I'm -- sorry?

PAUL KARLSTROM: Well, sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you . . .

EMILY HOFSTATTER: No.

PAUL KARLSTROM: . . . But you must have some thoughts on why this big change in attitude, encouraging you, "Oh, how cool this would be."

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Right.

PAUL KARLSTROM: And then when you come there's like a change of mind.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well, I think people for some reason felt really threatened and/or jealous that I had the guts to do it. That some man was seeing me naked. That they would be able to see me naked, maybe. That they would, although like that matters, that has nothing to do with what's going on, even though -- and I talked about that. I think a couple of my female friends et cetera were just kind of freaked out that I had gone into this new, although, new, ha -- new to them -- new kind of adventure. And you know, they didn't know if they could. I actually told a lot of beautiful friends, I realized, gosh, you know, all my friends are so beautiful and Sam had said, "Hey, you know, if you have beautiful friends send them on over, let me meet them, let me see." You know, I mean, [inaudible] hey, if they're -- I'd like to have the spirit. So, I said that to a lot of people and they were all, "Oh, that would be great, that would be great." But then of course, I knew that they would never do it. They said, "Oh, I don't think I have that in me to do." And these are very open-minded, free-spirited people. I was shocked, just shocked.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Well, not everybody's the same. Not everybody has to do this.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: But what is, I mean, they love art, they love the spirit, the celebration. They would love . . .

PAUL KARLSTROM: Maybe there were other issues though.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Evidently there are and this has been -- it's been very exciting knowing you because it's a forum to talk about it, because I was amazed at what a big reaction I got from myself and from the world about this one, very kind of small experience. A few hours in a studio, you know?

[Interruption in tape]
[Tape One, Side B]

PAUL KARLSTROM: Continuing the interview with Emily Hofstatter on Artists and Models. This -- the date is 31 May 2000, this is Tape 1, Side B.

Emily, you were telling me something that's very interesting indeed and that is your people, your world, your friends -- in a moment I'm gonna ask about Mark, with whom you live. But there was this enthusiasm, this support in the beginning. "Way to go Emily, what an interesting thing to do." And you go and do it and you find out, yeah, it is an interesting thing to do and then you want to share this and you said, like 80 percent, that there was at the very least a kind of shifting then in the nature of their responses. And in trying to figure out why that might be, the possibility that interested me was that they may have been made uncomfortable because in some way you had changed. You had been changed by this experience. You didn't say it quite that way but you did suggest this as a possibility. And I think that may be one of the most interesting possibilities because it suggests they imagined this as a life experience and when you go in one way Emily, and you come out and you're the new Emily. And then they have to try to figure out what that change is. Do you think that's possible?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Yeah, I think that's actually -- that's really good, yeah. And with that, as I said before, I think they feel left behind.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Left behind, hm-hmm.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: And then there's the other issue of body image, which I just -- it just hit me actually while we were talking about this. That I went in, obviously worried about my body image, as we all are in this day and age because you can't escape it. I think the last time we talked about this I called it a sham and a shame because it was just -- it's just a drag that we are made to feel so bad about our bodies. Or it's a fight not to, or you're very unusual if you don't, put it that way.

And so when I was doing this, I was just like so happy, and celebrating, and feeling free, and just feeling really kind of in my body, and just, and it was not a big deal. Sam made a few sketches and started a painting. It wasn't like I had like 600 rolls of film on every angle of my skin. But it was -- the experience was liberating in a way. And not sexually liberating, just [being] in the world. It's like running naked through the woods. Have you ever done that? It's really fun. You feel really good. Or being on a nude beach.

PAUL KARLSTROM: All the time.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: There you go. It is a very liberating experience. On a nude beach, you go to the nude beach, and this is a totally -- completely nude beach. For 15 minutes you'll be gaga over everybody's bodies and the different body types and how everyone's just running around and letting everything hang out and after awhile you don't even notice. You don't notice yourself, you don't understand, and everyone's just naked and you're just having a wonderful day on the beach and you're naked. I'm sure that's how it is in nudist camps. It's a very freeing, liberating feeling. And that was that.

And then, of course, Sam is a particularly nice, substantial person to me and so there was a friendship out of it also, which just added to the whole fun of it all. So, that probably came across as well. Everyone's got their body issues. I think that it's bad enough having to watch someone have a lot of fun and then they're doing it nude, and they're feeling really good about it. I think maybe it's a pressure. I don't know. It's a theory. And they don't feel good about themselves. They reflect and they go, "Oh, man, I don't have the guts to do that and it's because of my body image or it's because I wouldn't -- or I'm actually more prudish than I thought." I mean, of course, it's all about them, it's about what they think. It's not only about me going to another world or leaving them behind. It's "Wow, what about me?" So I was sad and lonely about that whole thing and I was so glad to be able to talk to you about it and to other people, other artists about it, whom I've met since.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Like who?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well like Norton Wisdom, for example.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Oh, yeah, right. Norton. What did he say about it?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Zorthian. I talked to Zorthian more about, from a different angle, now that he -- he's talked to me differently now that he knows that I'm a model of course. I'm sorry, what did Norton say about it?

PAUL KARLSTROM: Well, either of them, really.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: He was -- they were both -- well, Norton was completely celebratory with me, and with us. It was great. And he just thought it was fabulous and said, "Oh, yeah, I'd love to paint you," et cetera, et cetera. It was like, "Wow, somebody else is going to paint me. How fun. This is great." I was just overwhelmed. And not taking it so, again, trying, at least not to run with the ego blast of it. Oh, it's me, I'm the one. No, it's just about "man! I get to be part of someone else's experience. This is great. This is so great."

And then Zorthian too, "Oh, well, that would be great. I'd love for you to model for me." Now Zorthian's a different experience and I don't think I would be able to model for him as crazy about him as I am. But that would be different. Because his are much more sexual and they're much more -- which I love, but I don't think I'm quite ready for that sort of . . .

PAUL KARLSTROM: Then that begins to move, or at least has a potential to move into this more, directly to this area, which is a part of art, it's part of life, it's part of art. Art and life are actually the same, just a little different in my view. And some people would say in art as in life, more sex is better. That's a real honest way to look at it and then I'm not being flippant, or trivial, and what you have described, interestingly enough, is asexual. Now -- and that's fine.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well, I don't know what asexual -- just not motivated by sexuality. Sexuality, I mean, it's really sensual, a female body is. Now this is getting to the desire thing, can I go there for a second?

PAUL KARLSTROM: Please.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: That the -- now there is the other layers of what's going on here which is why, of course, I was very anxious about what I was doing getting into this or where was Sam coming from, or where the hell was Paul coming from on his essay, or how is Mark going to feel about this and how were the other people who were supportive and then kind of retreated -- it's not -- now from the body image then, of course, you go to the sex. If there's a naked picture of me or a picture of me nude or however you want to put it – then someone's going to look at that and they're going to have their own viewpoint about that. "Wow, look at that . . . And they'll be like does it turn them on or not? Of course, is it pleasing to your eye? Is it sexy? Is it erotic? Is it -- everyone's got their feeling about it. Of course, that's what art is, right? This is your own expression and your own perception.

So, and in your essay you talked a lot about how Sam gets to see everything but he doesn't show everything. He gets to be the man of the moment and he keeps it because he has that prerogative as an artist. Now Sam does have the prerogative as an artist and appreciates that, although I don't know, of course, I'm not in his brain whether he gets off on hiding the genitalia from the viewer. I like that he keeps it kind of general. To me that's even more sexy. That's -- actually what it would do is it would bring out more of the personality of the model, which is kind of interesting, which is a flip from what you think. On Zorthian's painting where he has total detail on the vagina et cetera then actually it took away from who the model was. I was much more interested in looking at her crotch than I was at her face, although she had a beautiful face. And I think I saw her at Zorthian's show, I think, and she was a gorgeous gal.

PAUL KARLSTROM: And at the party.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Right. Okay, and just, you know, Mark has known her and met her and said she's a great, very nice person and very warm, very pretty. But in the painting that wasn't the -- she was not as interesting as her vagina was. And so, but when Sam's -- I think that then he kind of gives a little bit more to the woman behind the crotch so to speak. It's a little more general. It's very sexy. It's there, there might be a line or two, they'll be some fuzzy hair maybe, it's very sexy. I like that. But then again that's me, I mean, someone else, who prefers Hustler to Playboy I think is going to be like, "Oh, I love Zorthian's paintings, man, I want one of those hanging on my wall."

PAUL KARLSTROM: I don't know that too many people say that actually.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: I don't know but -- so, there is that – there are a lot of pictures of me on these nude beaches. So around the world there are photographs of me nude, naked, running around, partying with friends all over the world. And sometimes you wonder, "Wow, I guess I could never run for President because you're seeing pictures of me everywhere." And I don't think there's a lot of explicit pictures but there are photos all the same and I know a lot of people would be really uptight if there were pictures of them. And I -- hey, it's my body, it's a body, what difference does it make? How do I feel about being in a painting and a sketch that could be hanging on a wall that someone could buy, a stranger could buy and then have, of course, they're not portraits that it doesn't -- it's not a painting of Emily. But it's -- how did I feel about that? At first I was kind of hmm, not sure. Now, I'm proud. I'd be proud, that would be an honor, that would be like, "Wow, I just became a little piece of history there somehow." The male friends I talk about are totally intrigued. They can't wait for Sam to have a show, there is -- there have been some photos taken at a party recently where a friend -- I had on a little tiny bolero jacket and nothing underneath and so a lot of my breast shows and, of course, that is just -- these guys are so titillated by these photos they can't even -- they're just beside themselves, and people who are in the photos with me, beside themselves. They just can't believe -- "Oh, my God, look at those." I'm like what is the big deal? If I were to walk around naked around say a party, it would be a big deal for a little while and then you'd be like "Oh, yeah, there's Emily. She doesn't have a top on." It's just that whole switch of the -- getting a little and making a lot more of it in your mind.

PAUL KARLSTROM: So nudity apparently isn't an issue for you? In fact, in and of itself, is not erotic or sexy or sexual? Nudity is just no clothes?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Right.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Do you think that that's your way of looking at it and may not match especially the ideas or views of heterosexual visually- oriented males?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: No, absolutely no. But that's what I'm saying is that the other layer is yeah, me walking around naked. No, now, of course I want people to like what they see. And, of course, then we get into the body image judgment. Of course, I want people to say, "Oh, nice bod," or whatever. I hope they do. But -- not, but, and if they're excited, then of course it's exciting. I don't mind being that object in that way. And, again, especially, having Sam doing the painting because it's very warm and it's very kind of sexy. Again, I don't know about the erotic art yet. I haven't done that. I don't know what's gonna happen with that or how I feel, I have no idea. Ask me next month. But the other, I'm pleased as punch, absolutely to be that. As long as it's good of course. I mean, I'm human.

PAUL KARLSTROM: It's a complicated matter and I don't particularly like to focus on Sam, with whom we're going to meet a little later, because his experience is just one experience. His studio is just one studio, but that's all that we have to talk about here and it's actually useful just to have that.

You read my essay about Sam's studio which is, finally, when all is said and done, what I chose to say about it, and what I chose to take from the models' surveys when they answered questions using their words to create a picture, an idea, of that studio. Also, Sam's -- what he had to say and he told me, and in no way is this his sole motivation. I don't think it's a primary one but it is there and I wrote it in the essay. That he says, "Look at it, it's pretty simple. I like women and I like to look at their crotches. That's fun, that gives me pleasure." So he can combine that with making some art. Hey, why not? And I don't think that's unreasonable at all. But I'm curious how women -- especially prospective, brand new models who have just met him -- would feel about that because that is then, forget about the art part -- there is the being in the studio and being, in effect, an object of desire and truly an object; at least in that way. What are your thoughts about that, your experience about that? A factor? No factor? To be expected?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well, I think I mentioned last time, there was -- he showed me some sketches and books of sketches and there was one model who, to use your term "open pose", every pose was an open pose. I said, "Wow, this chick's really uninhibited." And he said, "She just loved to have her crotch drawn. She just loved it." And [I] was jealous of that, and I thought, "Man, that's just too cool." I mean, she's just right there, "Just here you go. It's all yours. Do what you will." And I thought that's fun, and, in a way, of course, that Sam drew them was just again, very easygoing and warm and whatever. But -- and I'd say I'm as -- open pose to me is not as uninhibited as I am being nude. I don't -- I'm not ashamed or shy about any part of my body. It's my body et cetera. But there is that voice, you know, "Choose carefully what you're going to flaunt about." I was taught not to flaunt; don't use it, real strong message from my mom and I guess my father, et cetera. Growing up I guess sometimes I wished that I could have flaunted it and used it more. People all around me were and boy, they were getting places fast. I never have.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Okay, right there. Let's talk about power. That is exactly it. Let me -- may I cite a lyric of Chrissie Hynde because it's so perfect and that is "I've got the thing that you want. Who's better than who?" That means a lot of things but one of them involves power in using what you have that you know is desired in ways to sometimes get something. This is what you just said. In other cases it may be a little bit more subtle than that and almost metaphorical. I'm in a position where I have something that's going to get a response and this has to do with all the poses. I've got the thing that you want.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Right.

PAUL KARLSTROM: So what do you think about that?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well, I have a real strange kind of philosophy about it and maybe that's why I've been so kind of walking the line with it my whole life. Because, hey, the generation I grew up in, man, sex was, you just -- everyone had sex it wasn't a big deal and that, you know, you just do your thing, and have a good time whatever. It was not a big issue, especially where -- I grew up in New York, I mean, it just was not a big issue.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Same here.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Right. Okay.

PAUL KARLSTROM: In California.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: But it was different, it was a different generation where we were now being bombarded in the media with sexual images and it was not -- there was nothing undercover. There were no more housewives in aprons. So -- having the milkman come in for a cup of coffee.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Right, they used to do that.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: I know a lot of people who are the milkman's child. But, anyway, so, anyway, I don't know, and I grew up -- my particular group of friends and the people I respected were of the earthy, they weren't, you know, it was right before disco. It was very earthy, maxi skirts and sandals and it was post-hippie but pre- disco, so in between there, kinda of a lot of Carol King look-a-likes and very kind of the "me" generation and figure yourself out, light candles. We were over the sexual hype, people just had sex. Right before AIDS, and then AIDS, of course, was the next part. And I kind of didn't -- and so flaunting it also wasn't very interesting to flaunt your sex because at that point my belief was that men and women were equal and we were just -- we were all sexy and it was all sensuous and we were all turning each other on, and women were turning women on, and men were turning men on, and everybody was just having a great time. And women were not the sexual object only.

In fact, at one point in my development gay men were the thing and I felt really out of place. I was a female. They didn't like my body. I mean, they liked it, yeah, put her in high heels, she's got a nice ankle. But it wasn't about being able to use my sex for anything. That wasn't going to get me anywhere with these guys. It was a matter of fitting in with them more, that was one phase of course. And then the women who I saw and the girls I saw who did flaunt it and did use it there seemed to be a lack of self-respect and I just didn't trust it, even though to this day in 2000, it is the power. I see it. I've come around, yes, it is the power. There is a dynamic female/male dynamic. Men are more visual et cetera. We talked about the Phallus last time and it's a very powerful image as well. That just makes everybody go ga-ga. I mean, it just makes women go speechless when you talk about it. But I don't know, maybe because it's so on the outside it's just more obvious, and then the female Power, with a capital P is a little bit more mysterious, thus, a little bit more desirable.

So, then Sam's paintings, of course, just to bring it back full circle, you don't see everything. It makes you kind of even more hot in a way because it's not all there. You get to go for something. You get a little game there. You get a little wanting. But they're definitely -- they're sexy. Once everything's said and done, yeah, they're sexy, they're definitely sexy. As they are as paintings of a female, they are sexy. So that's what I think about it. Again, I still don't trust it entirely. I've played around with it here and there just to see socially and it still confuses me, but I mean, hey sometimes I know what I got, sometimes I don't know.

PAUL KARLSTROM: But you do see this as a possible element in the studio experience. What you've just said suggests that it's not sanitized. It's not reduced to the sexless encounter.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: No, my perception of what I -- where I'm at at this point is not as sexual. However, but yes -- how do I say this carefully?

PAUL KARLSTROM: Take your time.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: The -- there is definitely a game about it. Yeah, you know, is she going to be "clench-kneed" or not as Sam would say, to use the [his] term. Well, not, that sentence wasn't his, the clenched kneed part was. Or is she going to relax, or is she going to just let me see whatever I feel like seeing. There is definitely that dynamic, and would be anywhere, absolutely. I mean, if I was on a nude beach, to bring that back again, and some strange guy who was obviously attracted to me came over and stood in front of me and was talking to me, I probably wouldn't sit there with my legs wide open just because it would just be like . . .

PAUL KARLSTROM: Rude.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: . . . it would be rude. Exactly.

PAUL KARLSTROM: You don't know what he wants to see. Oh, my god.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: "Please close your legs? I'm just trying to talk to you here."

PAUL KARLSTROM: "Can't you see I'm gay?"

EMILY HOFSTATTER: "Oh, god, get that thing away from me" -- no. But hasn't it fascinated generations forever and will continue to do so?

PAUL KARLSTROM: Yes, I think so.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: So, I'm with you, Paul, that's definitely a subject to talk about forever.

PAUL KARLSTROM: You know, the power part is difficult to pin down and we can't make too big a deal out of something that may be pretty simple. I understand that, but if you view the world and life metaphorically this seems like a perfect kind of a stage for working out heterosexual male/female, almost combat, and I don't mean this in really a bad, negative way. A testing . . .

EMILY HOFSTATTER: I agree. I mean, I called it a game, but absolutely, yeah, I agree. There's definitely that -- you gotta have that play and what makes it exciting is that, you know, different days you feel different ways. Some days you're into it, some days you're not, males and females, right? Some days I just want to be all girl and some days I just want to be a person. Yeah. That's good, that gives it the up-and-down.

PAUL KARLSTROM: So interesting. Well you're going to be -- okay has it come to the point yet -- you went into this studio knowing that at least one part of Sam's work had to do with erotic art and erotic art is erotic art, that's sex. And it's just an agent of arousal and for somebody in this equation, the artist presumably, the model, who knows, maybe not, the viewer definitely or -- it's pointless, in some respects.

You've talked with Sam I think about this whole issue, the erotic. Can you talk about that without betraying confidence?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Yeah, I don't, I mean . . .

PAUL KARLSTROM: I don't think he'd mind.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: I don't know if he said so much. I mean, I just don't know the difference between if there's a woman -- in many of his drawings there's a woman lying down and her leg is up and you see a little bit of a crotch. She looks like she's sleeping. Is that erotic just because you see some crotch? Now that's totally subjective, if it's erotic or not. To me, it's a nude woman and because of her position you see some of her crotch. Now the picture where her legs are spread wide open and she looks like she's in heaven and she's touching herself, well, I'd say that's pretty erotic because that's about sex.

And I showed you those photographs, that black and white photograph of that woman? I think I did, in bed?

PAUL KARLSTROM: What, off the Internet?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Yeah, and she's on the bed and she's got her finger inside a little bit. I mean that's totally sexual, it's obviously not just -- she's not sleeping and her hands happen to be where they [inaudible]. I'd have to say that's pretty erotic.

PAUL KARLSTROM: That's actually a pretty good one. A lot of those things aren't good. But I think that series -- we'll talk about that later.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Yes, okay.

PAUL KARLSTROM: But on the other hand, it's exactly to the point isn't it? You know, these are Internet things, some web site, is that right?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: It's a web site called nerve.com which is an erotic -- it is erotic, it is about sex, it's not pornographic, it's erotic.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Right, right, exactly.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Very different.

PAUL KARLSTROM: That's a really good distinction and that may be the realm in which Sam's eroticism operates, which I think that's pretty good personally. I think that's a good place to be.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: I prefer it, it's my favorite for sure.

PAUL KARLSTROM: So when he asked you, "Okay, but what about you?" Do you see this as a possibility, is this, not necessarily a goal, but it's like a road you're now on?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Yeah, I guess it probably is, it's inevitable. I assume. I don't know though. I don't want to be quoted down the line. But then I would be of -- if there was to be a sketch of me that would be pertinent to that show, it would be one of those sketches where I would just be hanging out and whatever. I wouldn't be trying to be erotic and if it ended up in an erotic show because my crotch showed than that would be the way it would be. But I wouldn't be doing erotic poses and I'll just do some stripper number and hold it. Was the picture of that woman -- again, going back to the photographs, there was a picture of her, I don't know if you saw it, where she was lying on the bed, her head was back over the bed, she was lying on her back and her legs were -- her knees were, like her feet together and pulled up to her butt. Now was that erotic because her head was off the bed and her legs were apart even though you didn't see anything, and her hands, I think, I don't know where her hands were, they weren't anywhere.

PAUL KARLSTROM: I don't know if I remember that one.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: Well, maybe you didn't see it. But, anyway, it's the same thing, that same delineation to what's erotic or not. But I'm sure that if I continue to pose for Sam for a long time then I will be in all kinds of positions and all of them will not be clench-kneed.

PAUL KARLSTROM: You said something, I can see -- that is amazing we're actually coming close to running out of our tape. There was something you said last time in sort of summing up, which was very interesting, and I don't want to quote it but it was like -- perhaps in response to the question what is your feeling about it? You know, what -- how would you define, characterize your feeling about this experience? You know, about being in the studio and about being you in the studio?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: I go back to that word celebration because it is. It encompasses everything. It's a party to me. It's fun. It's got art. It's got color. It's got fun. It's got laughter. It's got sex. It's got friendship. It's got everything. And then I guess to go back to what I said last week.

PAUL KARLSTROM: What you said was that -- you know, just remembering this was that finally it was about the self, it was about you.

EMILY HOFSTATTER: It was about me being of that historic moment and there's proof that I was there.

PAUL KARLSTROM: That was you -- how did you say it?

EMILY HOFSTATTER: I said I was there

[End of Interview]

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Emily Hofstatter, 2000 May 31. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.