Alan Feltus, one of our earliest members, sent me this lovely interview he had recently. Here’s an excerpt from it.
Larry Groff: Do your paintings have autobiographical elements to the narrative and a reason for painting similar themes over and over?
Alan Feltus: What I paint is, in some respects, my interior world, so, yes, my paintings can be seen as partially autobiographical. They have qualities like stillness and quiet that I seem to need in my paintings, and that probably has to do with growing up as a very shy and introverted child in the shadow of a beautiful but very difficult mother. I was a silent observer taking in all kinds of things that formed who I was, and who I would become as an artist.
In 1993 I made a series of paintings about myself and my mother. The theme was somewhat related to Gorky’s mother and son paintings, but it was unlike those in that what I wanted to do was to see if I could better understand how I managed to survive the very difficult relationship I had with my mother. The first of those paintings had a young boy standing with a few toys at his feet, looking anxious while his mother was self absorbed reading, paying no attention to the boy. Neither of us was like myself or my mother in appearance, but I put symbolic things in the painting that were specifically about us. My mother was in her nightgown, with her I Ching book and the three coins she used to find specific passages that would address questions she had about her life. My toys were minimal, as in those early years we moved back and forth from cheap hotel rooms to the apartments of my mother’s friends when they would be on vacation, with very few possessions, living out of suitcases with little sense of security. The other paintings in that series were about my adolescent years, living with my mother in Rome, where we were for my last year of high school.
I paint figures in interiors with a few pieces of furniture and often newspapers or letters on tables or on the floor or being held by a figure. I repeat imagery of that sort because that is what I want to paint. I am interested in the psychological play that can be variously interpreted between my figures. So it becomes over and over that I paint similar imagery, but no two paintings are the same. I can think of many painters whose paintings are very much more alike than mine. They I question. Myself, not.