Alan Feltus’ Art

Alan Feltus, an American artist living in Umbria, is not one of the best-known names in art today and he may not be one of the best. I am not a critic, have not seen his work in the original and cannot say. What I do know, though, is that Feltus, consciously or subconsciously, understands the history of art in ways quite foreign to conventional thinking. His work over many years has demonstrated the theory expressed on this site that art in the Western tradition is united by a small number of themes expressed in a vast variety of ways, always new, always different. Art changes with time on the surface but, underneath, on the level that really matters, rarely.

Feltus’ The Poet and His Muse (below), a self-portrait, presents the artist as a poet, a common theme in Western art that Feltus is probably aware of. The vast portrait of Dante as Michelangelo’s muse in the Last Judgment is the prime example. 

Feltus' model has a feminine version of his own face because he knows, as poets do, that everything we see and think is a reflection of ourselves. Like all great artists, he paints himself and has even said: ‘I don't paint from models….What I paint comes from within myself. I use mirrors to observe 
various parts of my own face and body.'1 I would be surprised if he did not know, as we show here, that many of the world's iconic portraits are fusions of the artist's face and the sitter's.

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Feltus, The Poet and His Muse (1999-2000)

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In Studio Days the same happens again. His model is a reflection of himself and draws as well. She is the “artist”, the mirror of his mind, the two together suggesting its androgyny. Artist and model in true art are always two faces on either side of a mirror. Note too the painter's firmly outstretched arm, a common gesture in other scenes in art; and, also, the picture in the background half suggesting a window, a reference to all those windows in earlier art that half suggest a painting.

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Feltus, Studio Days (2004)

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In The Green Pencil he becomes a woman using his own face, colors his pencil green the symbol of fertility, and suggests ever so subtly that, as in earlier art, the figure in the foreground is drawing the background. Besides, as a woman again, his poetic mind is androgynous and whole.

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Feltus, The Green Pencil (2003)

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Any reclining nude with another figure recalls the nudes of Giorgione, Titian and Manet, all of which are “paintings” painted by the attendant. See the entry on Olympia. (Titian’s nudes will follow soon.) Here “the painting” is of himself as a woman again with the cups suggesting not only the pots of paint that appear in studio settings but inspirational liquids, perhaps caffeine, that stimulate the mind. The nude and side of the bed, moreover, are on a single plane suggesting that they are indeed flat, like a painting.

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Others have remarked on the feeling of interiority and absorption in Feltus' images, the disquietude that prevents them from being read as representations of real life. It is clear to others that all his figures are aspects of himself.2 They fail, though, to recognize these images as scenes in the artist's mind in the process of creation. Feltus has absorbed past art and understood it. He gives it back to us in a modern setting filtered through his own personality. For many years, while abstraction and then post-modernism reigned, his work may have looked wildly out-of-date, less so today. Besides, whatever his craft, Feltus is a significant poet.

More Works by Feltus

Notes:

1. Teana Newman 
Catalogue Essay: "Reflections on the Work of Alan Feltus,
Forum Gallery, 2005 available at http://www.alanfeltus.com/pages/essays/essaysframe.html

2. See extracts of essays at http://www.alanfeltus.com/pages/essays/essaysframe.html 

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 26 Nov 2010. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.