I used to pass through Washington Square and Union Square every day, and to be honest, I hardly stopped to pay any attention to the hundreds of streets artists. I love art. I paint and I write music. But there were things I had to do, places I had to get. So I can remember well the day I actually did stop and notice a humble-looking man making a very crazy painting. The styleÃ¢â‚¬â€contort ed caricatured figures, bold angles and curves, splashes of vivid colorsÃ¢â‚¬â€floods back to me right now, because IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve just seen the feature-length documentary My Name is Alan and I Paint Pictures, about the very same artist I ran into.
AlanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been drawing since he was 3 or 4, and when he saw Salvador DalÃƒÂÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“Metamorphosi s of NarcissusÃ¢â‚¬Â at the age of 10, he knew thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what he wanted to do the rest of his life. He was a wild child that used to frequently get drunk and sniff glue, and even after being accepted to the prestigious St. MartinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s School of Arts, he immediately dropped out to paint leather jackets, and soon after he moved from England to New York. But what begins as the typical struggling artist story becomes a very interesting look at a man battling schizophrenia and finding release through his art as well as physical activities like boxing.
What I love about this documentary is how much access it gives us to AlanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s art. Even the brief animation snippets in between the interviews utilize characters from AlanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s paintings. Director Johnny Boston takes what could have been a very boring observation of Alan at work and infuses it with life and character. And in perhaps the most touching sequence, Boston shows Alan interacting with an ex-girlfriend, and then with his current girlfriend. We learn that his ex was unable to handle his intense need to stay at home all the time. We learn that at this point in his life, Alan wants to concentrate on his work, but that he still needs women in his life for s-x and good cooking. We reflect that to some extent, this is universally true.
There is something archetypal at work here. I understand that every painter has different experiences, but I was shocked to find how precisely Alan embodies what making art has always been like for me. AlanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s story continues past this documentary. He is still struggling to obtain his Green Card. He is in danger of being deported. And after seeing the documentary, I really believe we need Alan here in New York. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the real thing.