Execute Magazine, Donna Festa

Donna Festa

 

  1. Could you tell us about yourself?

I am a 56 year old painter living and working in Bangor, Maine, though I was born and raised in New Jersey.   My studio is in my home that I share with my husband of 24 years and our two rescue dogs.  My preference has always been to work in my home rather than renting a separate studio space.  I treasure my solitude and work best when completely alone (except for the company of our dogs).

My work has been exhibited in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, San Francisco and the UK.  The State Museum of Pennsylvania owns my painting titled “Conversation” as part of their permanent collection.  Private collectors follow my work as well.

I am a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where I received a four year certificate in painting, the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where I received a BFA in painting with teacher certification and the University of Hartford in Hartford Connecticut where I received and MFA in painting.  I teach on an adjunct basis in the fine arts department of Husson University in Bangor, Maine.  When I’m not painting or teaching, I’m reading or digging in the garden.

 

2. Tell us about your subject matter.  Why do you paint old people?

I put myself through art school working in glass factories in southern New Jersey.  It was there that I saw what life can do a person over the years.  Etched in so many faces were signs of exhaustion, sadness, disappointment and hard knocks all along the way.  The stories of their lives were often right on the surface if you took the time to look close enough.  Being a painfully shy person, I was always an observer, watching people, calculating if they were safe or not, if they would be kind or frightening.  I became quite astute at reading people.  Over the years I have learned that there is beauty in every age.

 

3. Why do you paint on a small scale?

There are a few reasons why I paint on such a small scale.  The first is more of a protest against the bigger is better attitude.  Our society is over burdened with images everywhere, one larger and brighter than the next, flashing, screaming, always competing for our attention, practically assaulting us at every turn.  I believe that something very small and quiet sitting on a wall can attract as much attention as any oversized object.

I have always been drawn to artist’s sketches or quick studies to prepare for larger pieces.  I admire the speed with which decisions are made, the language of the marks and spontaneity of color and composition.  That is how I try to make my work look.  A small surface is necessary in order to make a painting quickly, in one sitting to keep the loose feeling of a sketch.

 

4. What inspires you to paint?

Painting has been a life line for me since I was a small child.  It is something that is all mine and cannot be taken away from me.  It comes down to self-worth.  If I can’t make something beautiful, I have no self-worth.

5. What would you like to achieve with your practice?

I would be grateful for gallery representation.  I will keep challenging myself to reach higher goals and for my work to keep growing.  I enjoy experimenting with new mediums in order to find a way to translate my paintings within other forms.  But as a wise painter told me many years ago, “It takes a lifetime to learn to paint and another lifetime to paint.”  I’m still learning.

 

6. Do you explore other mediums than painting?

Inspired by ancient clay heads that I saw in an exhibit in Philadelphia a few years back, I have been making small scale clay pieces from my paintings.  My objective is to mimic my brush strokes with my fingers with the clay.  I’m using terracotta because of its warm red tone.  After the pieces are fired, I paint them with oil paints. Drawing is a big part of my practice as well.  Printmaking also interests me but without access to a press, I must limit myself to hand rubbed methods.