art work. She returned to the skills she had gained as a child, painting women. She did work for periodicals and paperback publishers, advertisements, and movie posters. Olivia quickly secured regular work, starting in ’74, painting erotic fantasies for men’s magazines.
mind I believed I would go back to the fine arts. It wasn’t clear to me then, but this work became my art.” Excerpt from “Malibu Cheesecake” published 2011 by Ozone Productions, Ltd.
MALIBU CA. 2005
photo by GREG PRESTON
I have always drawn women. I can remember when I was three or four,
drawing a Barbie-like character based on my mother,
although Barbie Dolls didn’t exist until I was 10 years old.
Two decades later, trying to figure how to support a fledgling fine art career,
I created a portfolio of black and white Aubrey
Beardsley inspired women.
They emerged from this female character I’d drawn all my life,
but now she was sexually amplified by the liberated 60’s,
and inspired by choreographer Bob Fosse, master of jazz burlesque choreography.
Television commercials for his Broadway hit Pippin ran constantly,
a hypnotic loop of 2 women and song-and-dance man Ben
Vereen sporting Panama hats and canes. The movie Cabaret was in the theaters,
a masterpiece of dance and direction by Fosse. This was the most
erotically charged choreography I had ever seen.
I was fascinated by the bizarre,exaggerated moves, the bawdy comedy of it.
My characters were mentally animated by his dancers, as I drew
women in black and white, like the notes on sheet music.
I went to a newsstand and wrote down the addresses of adult magazines.
Many of these publications were in New York. I made appointments to
see the art directors. There was something compelling about entering
into this netherworld. There was a shortage of talented illustrators in these
magazines and I thought I might get a job and learn erotic illustration. I worked
obsessively for several years in my Greenwich Village apartment. I was learning subject
and style on the job, and was given considerable freedom by my art
directors my creativity blossomed. The work was fun and I was making a living.
In the back of my mind I believed I would go back to the fine arts.
It wasn’t clear to me then, this work became my art.
SCHOOL OF VISUAL ARTS-1968 – 71
VISUAL ARTS PAINTING CLASS-SPRING SEMESTER-1971
(paraphrased quote of Chuck Close in frustration with the entire class.)
“If I threw a chair out the window,it would be a more creative act than what you students brought in!”
A few other students and I used to hang around after class clinging on to every word he said.
He would talk all things art, theories, pushing the limits of art.
For me it was a heady, exotic language.
I was extremely shy, and in awe of the teacher, so I was really, really quiet.
In the most embarrassing, banal fulfillment of his art assignment,
we all proceeded to do a small version of his work,
resulting in the above comment.
I have such regrets that I wasted this time.
I moved to SOHO in the early 70’s. I lived in a 7th floor loft with skylight,
which was my boyfriend’s, Ted Stamm.
He generously gave me part of his studio
do do my work.
Occupants in the building were required to share and run the open
industrial antique elevator, ( last one in had to deliver to the next rider),
and sometimes yelling up to the lofts from the street, to throw the keys down,
was the only way to get in.
(I remember seeing John and Yoko doing this very thing one dawn morning.)
During those days small industrial factories would occupy the bulk of the building.
Living there was illegal, and any loft construction was on the cheap.
Industrial chic had started, necessity determined decor, heat and bathrooms were pretty primitive.
Every day you could see art performed on the streets, fire escapes and in the lofts.
I sat in my loft reading Hemingway’s “A Movable Feist”,
daydreaming about that art epicenter- 1920’s Paris-
oblivious to what now seems obvious-
that I was living at the new art epicenter.
It was a Male world-men owned the walls of the galleries,
women had little representation, little art history, and little respect.
A waitress and sometimes barmaid in the some of the art bars and
restaurants in the village, NOHO and SOHO,
I worked at Remington’s,Shakespeare’s,Spring Street Bar,
Hilly’s on 9th, CBGB’s, many others.
At the same time, trying to get my contemporary art started.
I lived with Ted for 3 years, he taught me so
much, and helped me.
We spent a lot of time going to openings, performances, art parties and museums.
Ted died in his loft in ’84, He was just 39, felled by a massive heart attack,
his body lay under his paintings for days.
Ted would’ve loved this demise scenario,
but I’m sure, hated the timing.
Ted Stamm (b. 1944 Brooklyn, NY; d. 1984 New York, NY)
was a NYC-based abstract painter renown for his forceful useof black pigment
and raw canvas on irregularly-shaped stretchers. Prior to his unexpected death
at the age of 39 in 1984, Stamm created a mature body of work that was at once
responsive to the past, indicative of his time, and prescient of the future.
My paintings while I was living downtown, were minimalist works,
all white canvases filled with small brushstrokes of different hues.
I was in one great museum show in ’74,
(The Tenth Anniversary exhibition at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art 64-74)
which featured art gods such as Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin, and Frank Stella.
But I didn’t know how to proceed from there.
I could see it would be years before I was able to make a living from fine art.
Working nights in Greenwich Village, the waitress-nightlife culture was
swallowing me whole. I thought illustrating for sex magazines might be a fun temporary
job until my “real” career started.
Photo by Ted Stamm
Joel and I grew up dreaming of an unconventional life.
I can safely say that we have achieved that goal.
We married in ’79 and share our days together creating our world.
Joel gets stuck with the day to day business,
but he also does the nude photography I use as
reference for my work, so he doesn’t suffer too much.
Joel collects vintage erotica: French postcards, Weimar ephemera, fetish
art by John Willy and Eric Stanton, pre-WW11erotic stereoscopic photos,
etchings by Norman Lindsay, and Von Bayros, and Golden Age
Joel’s penchant for these
collectables, and passion for flea marketing and antique book stores,
has added texture and context to my art and life.
His opinions have often influenced my art and we have many “discussions”
on whether a painting is working or not.
I’ve pulled him in many times as he walked by my studio, to provoke some helpful
reaction to what I’m doing..my insecurities always seem to get the best of me,
when I inevitably ask his thoughts on a work in progress…
“does this art make me look fat?”
The books we’ve made over the years are our attempts to put our creative life into print.
LET THEM EAT CHEESECAKE 1993
SECOND SLICE 1997
CHEESECAKE CHRONICLES 2000
AMERICAN GEISHA 2003
BETTIE PAGE by OLIVIA 2006
MALIBU CHEESECAKE 2011
Our Pugs Sweetpea and Orbit R.I.P.
and The big guy- Vargas, 2003-2008,
with pup-George Petty, 2004-
We’ve been living with pugs for more than 20 years. Life was quiet before them.
As anyone with a pug will tell you,
there is no silence…
snot, snuffle, snort and more snot…their constant hum.
Pugs are the antithesis of pinup. Whenever I start to
take my glamour art too seriously, the
pug in the room will always center me.
These silly clowns have kept us laughing and have had the run of the house,
studios and shoots.
Many beautiful models cooed, kissed and shared their spotlight with them.
Sweetpea and Orbit are long gone, Pug Vargas died 2 years ago.
He’s the big lug behind puppy George.
The constant snore I hear in the background when I work is
Boy Pug George.
to be continued…