Zak Smith, photo by Tyler Hubby, 2009.

Zak Smith, photo by Tyler Hubby, 2009.

My Lunch with Zak Smith

A conversation about sex, food and art

This interview took place December, 2009, at the restaurant in Los Feliz at Fred 62. Zak ordered the spaghetti.
Find this article in our Jan/Feb 2010 issue; Artillery’s first Biennial Sex Issue…(time for another!)


ARTILLERY: Do you believe in God?
ZAK SMITH: No. (Pauses, then smirks). Okay, you can’t scientifically disprove it, so maybe there’s a God. But if there is, he’s definitely a jerk. So it’s either I don’t believe in him, or if it turns out he’s real, I have a bone to pick.

When did you lose your virginity?

Do you consider your involvement in porn an extension of your art?
Not at all. Sometimes I make pictures that are about the porn business, the way Cézanne made pictures about apples. But the apples weren’t his art. His art was painting. I’ve answered that question so much, that I’m convinced no one ever reads these interviews.

Do you consider yourself lucky? Because a lot of men would envy your position.
Yeah, I’m lucky. I feel it’s important to point out that I’m lucky because I wouldn’t want people to think I’m one of those artists who thinks they’re successful because the art world rewards quality. Because it doesn’t. I make good work, but the fact that I happen to be successful is just per chance, because they’re unrelated things.

What’s more important to you, sex or art?

ZakSmith005 My Lunch with Zak Smith

Zak Smith, detail drawing from Drawings Made Around The Time I Became A Porn Star (2008)

But what if you were stranded on an island, and you could either have all the sex you wanted, but could never make art. Or you could make art all day, but never have sex?
Depends on the person on the island.

What’s the ultimate compliment to you? Is it when someone is praising your art, your writing, or your fucking?
I think compliments are kinda cheap. If you do anything in public, you’re going to get compliments, and you’re going to get insults. A real compliment isn’t what is said, it’s who says it. So, if it’s someone whose art you really appreciate, and they like your art, then that’s a meaningful thing. If there’s someone you really want to have sex with, and they want to have sex with you, then that’s a compliment, I guess.

Whose art do you like?
Historically? I like Bernini a lot. I like a lot of ’60s photographers — William Eggleston, Robert Frank. People working today? I like Philip Ross, Nick DiGenova. I don’t really like a lot of traditional mainline oil painting — like I think Velàzquez was good at oil painting and Vermeer was, but other than that, it’s kind of a useless medium, like colored mud.

When did you become involved in the porn industry, and did you just do it for kicks? Were you a horny guy who just wanted to get laid?
2006. Uh, all of those are the same options, as far as I can tell, right? I mean, yeah. This director had seen the “Gravity’s Rainbow” drawings I did and said, ‘It’d mean a lot if I could use your art in my movie, but it’s a porno movie, blah, blah, blah.’ And I said, ‘Sure, you can use it, and it would mean a lot to me if I could have sex with all the girls in the movie.’

I was describing you to a friend, as a modern-day Toulouse-Lautrec. Do you agree?
I guess if you wanted to draw a broad historical equivalent, sure.

Is acting in porn just a side gig? A vocation? A hobby?
I get paid, so it’s not a hobby. It’s a very occasional job. I get to be choosy, because I have a whole other job.

Do you work on your art every day?
Yes. If I’m awake, I’m working. Unless I’m doing this [eating].