We have a very special post today! One of my favorite artists (as evidenced from my growing collection above) Sophi Weltman agreed to answer some questions about her beautiful and erotic art. Read about what inspires her, how she transitioned from the corporate world to being an artist and of course, her penchant for bondage. If you’re interested in commissioning her for a “boudoir” work of your own or a limited edition of one of my favorite prints, Sweet Dreams, please contact me. She is offering a very generous fifty percent off (!!) commissions and a very deep discount on a limited edition of Sweet Dreams for that je ne sais quoi readers. Please enjoy!
What inspired you to pursue a lifestyle as an artist? Tell us about your path to artist-dom.
I began my career as an artist by selling my work on the streets of New York’s then famous Soho art district in 1998 and a few years later in Union Square’s art market. I succeeded in making many useful contacts in the publishing and gallery world and subsequently was “discovered” by Art at Large, NYC (my first gallery) and Orbit Space Gallery, NJ/NC. They were my main galleries in the United States until Art at Large closed in 2011. I am also now permanently represented by galleries throughout the United States as well as galleries overseas in Australia, Switzerland and the UK. I sell my work online, through the galleries and shows and through auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Phillips de Pury, and of course, from my studio.
I became an artist after spending a greater part of my adult life in the corporate world. I think that any assumption that there was an event or influence in my life that made me desire to do erotic art later in life is a regrettably pop-psychological view. I think that many people proceed in their lives and in their art having had no clear formative (or de-formative) influence and their art is certainly as erotic as mine.
However, in saying that, I clearly remember always being introverted and highly sexual. I would throw drawings away because in my youth, I thought they were too naughty and I was ashamed of them. We can only imagine how much good art has been lost.
A favourite comment made on my work was that it was “going all the way to the edge without going over.”
What is the subject of the first work you sold (who was it of, where/how was it sold)?
Sophi Squats, my signature piece, was the first 4” x 6” print that I ever sold, the first day I ventured out to sell in Soho. I sat on the Victoria’s Secret window ledge trembling with fear and sheltering four little pictures, two on one side of me and two on the other – like a little mother hen. When I sold one for $10, I burst into tears and went home. It was very emotional for me to know that someone would buy my work. Now that I have sold a great number of originals and who knows how many prints, I am still honoured when someone purchases my work.
Sophi Squats was the first limited edition piece to sell and the first edition to sell out. (I sold the last one in 2011 however I had one returned from a gallery recently so now have one piece left.) The original was the first large original work to be sold in December 2000. Sophi Squats is a self portrait drawn from the inside out and drawn for my best friend. She is much bigger than I am. She might be my alter ego.
We met in Union Square while I was an undergrad at NYU back in 2006 – how has your perspective on creating art (and in life!) changed?
I don’t think my perspective or my philosophies on either creating art or living my life have changed. Rather, they have grown and developed and sometimes shifted, just as we grow and develop and shift ourselves while retaining our core.
However, I have now been drawing for fifteen years and painting for approximately ten years. During that time, I have made a thought-provoking change in media. I thank Pet Silvia from Art at Large for this, who encouraged me to move away from mixed media and digital work and to confront myself with painting. Painting has become a daily challenge for me ever since.
How does living in New York affect your art?
Other than a lot of stimulus to my senses, I don’t think that location directly affects what I do creatively. Although, I imagine it is easier to find my beautiful models living in the city and when I did need to sell my work outside, New York is (or was, as this is an ever changing situation dependent on the Administration and the BIDs* who have made it increasingly difficult for artists to survive) possibly one of the easier places to sell nudes, erotica and fetish art on the street. I say easier because even open minded New York City harbours those who “do not approve.” It is, however, a blessing and often great fun to awaken the more sheltered and disapproving amongst us.
Then, of course, I would miss very much the museums, art galleries, readings, movies, music (of all different genres) the parks, the Knicks, walks in strange neighbourhoods, the magnolias in Brooklyn Botanical Garden…
All of these things and so many more link directly to, and are intertwined in, my art.
*BIDs stands for Business Improvement Districts, which are stores and large businesses that sponsor and maintain the surrounding environment for superficial purposes, often driving independent artists and vendors away from the area.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find my inspiration in shapes and lines. Curves and angles. I find it in auras and in my gut. And most of all, I find inspiration in being alive and loving the adventures the universe throws at me every day.
It is impossible for me to separate my sexuality from my creativity, a phenomenon suggested by Freud and later Alfred Kinsey to be true of many artists. I remember being erotically stimulated and strongly influenced by the paintings of Francis Bacon and drawn to artists who portrayed the melancholy the seedy, the dark and the macabre in painting. I taught myself to paint by studying paintings of Vermeer, Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci (more for his drawing), and the melancholy angel Modigliani for his moodiness and his passion. I think about all the great Spanish painters have inspired me for their joyful exuberance. I’ve often run my fingers gently over a painting by one of the great Masters in museums when the guards were not looking at me in order to learn how the paint was applied to the canvas.
What inspired you to create provocative art and how did you figure out that it is your niche?
As much as I love to draw and paint the human form, almost everyone loves to look at it. I discovered that people responded to the gentleness and to the whimsy in many of my drawings and paintings. They respond to the anonymity which is presented with deep love from me. Women respond to the womanliness of my women.
Truly, it happened rather than me planning to do it. I started selling my pictures in Soho (some bondage pieces and female nudes, my only drawings then) and people bought them. One should always pay attention to the directions of the universe.
What do you love most about the human form?
Hands and feet. And the strangely wonderful curves and angles that bodies make when you take the time to look.
Where did you first learn about bondage?
From one of my mentors, Dany Nieves (Atlanta, GA). I originally found his work on the Internet. Dany encouraged me to push my limits with my artwork. I also met a professional rigger and videographer around the same time and I worked with him extensively. I researched as a result of these introductions to bondage and fetish. Since then, I’ve had opportunities to learn so much and to meet many people involved in the world of erotica and fetish.
Bondage, whether or not it is portrayed, is a central element in my work. Where many would view the image of a person tied as that person’s power having been diminished, the characters in my paintings and drawings are powerful and only made more so for enduring how I have portrayed them.
I am proud to have two pieces in the permanent collection of the Kinsey Institute which is the most comprehensive collection of erotic art in the world. One is Los Enigmas. Los Enigmas is a commissioned work portraying a male submissive attending to his Dominatrix. The other piece is a bondage study called The Very Strong Man which portrays an act of self bondage on the male member. Both of these works are deeply personal explorations into the world of BDSM.
Do you have any favorite media?
I mix my media a lot. I like to experiment. However, I do have a fetish for paper and often use gesso and oils on cotton rags of different textures to see how the fibres of the paper absorb the paints. Originally my work was created digitally and later in my career, I moved to working on paper and canvas directly. Many of my paintings and prints reflect my liking for nail enamels which I apply over the oil paints. Watercolour crayons and anything else that might be lying around is used in the same way.
And finally, for ladies and gents who are interested in being subjects of one of your beautiful works, do you do commissions?
Yes, I love working on commission projects. Having you, the onlooker, become involved in the process of creating something that (hopefully) you will treasure always, is very inspiring to me. I prefer to work from life, so be prepared to, “bare all” for me, physically, mentally and spiritually. I will take gentle care of your heart.
A huge thank you for doing the interview, Sophi!