Making it Look Real

Robots tell the stories in painter Boatright’s artwork

The Florida-based artist spends
summer in Madison, Ind.

(Sept. 20, 2019) – Robots doing everyday activities that people do is a simplistic description of the artwork of Alann J. Boatright. After that simple description is complexity. Symbolism, hidden words and significant details are just a few of the elements that make each painting unique.

Photo by Sharyn Whitman

Artist Alann Boatright poses beside his switchbox art titled “Gone Phishing.”

A copy of his painting, “Gone Phishing,” wraps the switch box on the southeast corner of Broadway and Main streets in Madison, Ind. The painting was inspired by the 2017 massive Yahoo Data Breach of account holders’ passwords and personal information. Visitors waiting to cross the street can look for symbolic clues.
This year, Boatright will be making his second appearance at the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art. He will be at Booth No. 808, located on Broadway.
Originally a realist, Boatright first painted portraits. Next, he painted architecture, vintage automobiles, gas pumps and machinery. He could replicate an individual or item with the accuracy of a photograph. After a while, “It just seemed meaningless. It wasn’t fun,” he said.
He then started painting robots as a way to decorate his Florida condo with something other than beach scenes. The 60-year-old artist signs his work, “Alann J.” He keeps a sketchbook of ideas and themes, adding details as he is inspired. “Painting robots is fun,” he said.
The comment he hears most from art show visitors is, “They look so real!”
No one has ever seen a robot come to life, but the figures Boatright paints give the viewer the impression of life. There is the subtle expression on a face, the natural positions of arms and legs, or actions that create the perception of emotion and life in an unlikely robot’s body. The real art is the layers of meaning, meticulously executed, with clues hidden in plain sight. This art is not just a celebration of color and design. Many of his paintings are three-dimensional, including found objects and other items attached to the painting. Each oil painting is a challenging, thought-provoking image that requires time and study to really grasp the whole concept. 
Recently, Boatright received the Duke Energy Award at the 2019 Regional Art Show, presented by the Madison Art Club, for “Hold On,” a 36x36-inch oil-on-wood painting. Boatright explained the significance of the title was based on the text, “Hold on to that which is good.” A tall robot is depicted holding onto a small robot, which is holding onto a favorite stuffed animal. The adult robot is dented and scarred. His gauges are down to zero.
“Everyone you meet leaves a mark on you,” Boatright said. In contrast, the little robot has gauges showing a full supply of qualities such as gratitude, love, and kindness. “As you go through life, if you look for that which is good, when you are older, you’ll still have love and respect for your fellow man. You will still be full of those Biblical principles that make a difference.”
Boatright believes his inspiration is God-given. “It’s not my own, I’m just not that smart.”
Elle Smith, Madison Art Club president, noted his strong, realistic style, plus his attention to detail. She said that the texture of the fabric on the toy and the ragged tag made her want to pick off the loose thread. “What stood out above all of the others, was the story. It jumped out at you. When you stand there and look, you can read it – the whole idea. This is life. Robots or people, it didn’t make a difference.”
Boatright said that he reads a lot because he has a very curious mind. When reading about issues presented in the news, he finds details missing and questions left unanswered. Those fascinating details may be incorporated symbolically in a future painting.
In his painting “See No, Hear No, Speak No,” the names of the three historic individuals are scrolled in cursive above each robot but faded into the background. Those three individuals, Louis Braille, Thomas Edison and Louis Victor Leborgne, changed the world in spite of their severe disabilities.
Boatright studied advertising design at the Colorado Institute of Art. He spent 14 years as an illustrator for the U.S. Air Force before striking out into business for himself in 1993. He has owned an ad agency and a business designing cycling and motorcycle apparel. But it is painting that takes him to another world, immersed in the design and execution of the concepts.

Boatright and his wife, Sharon, moved to their summer home and studio in the Madison, Ind., area in 2017. “We were attracted to Madison by the reputation of the Chautauqua Festival of Art and the many artists who live here,” Boatright said.

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