European edition, Monday, July 30, 2007

You were born in Israel to German Jews who narrowly escaped the Holocaust. What was it like for you growing up? I belong to the typical second generation. It’s a well-known idiom — they all have the same problems and fears and nightmares. My mother was just a young girl. Her mother took her to Berlin and put her on a train to save her. My grandmother was killed in Theresienstadt (concentration camp). My father was a young man. His family was killed ... All his life he was thinking he was guilty.

Why did you return to Germany? I could give you many different answers. I could say, “Oh, I just got a good place to learn film-making at Baden-Baden. They paid everything for me.” The other answer is that even though my parents never said it out loud, it was a wish maybe that I should go back and fulfill their dreams, that I make everything good and repair their broken lives. My father, before he escaped, he loved the theater, and he had a big career in front of him as an actor. So I go back to Germany and become a big artist.

And did you succeed and make your parents happy, do you think? It was never enough. Very Jewish parents. I think even an exhibition at the Guggenheim would not be enough. You learn to live with it and laugh and accept.

How did you know you should be an artist? You know a little bit about the Bible? The prophets? They were all pressed by God to go and tell the people what they had to tell. All of them had a moment of crisis, and some tried to escape. God says, “I didn’t ask you if you want or you don’t want. You are a prophet.” I think an artist is the same, you don’t decide. By the way, it is a nice life.

Would you say your paintings have major themes? I think honest artists have the same themes: themselves, their lives. The only difference is how to express it. My way to express it is by figurative art. By showing people, like people who dance or people on the stage. It seems to be a snapshot but it is much more. In 2007, it’s not up to date and not a typical art form for the big galleries. People want flowers and dancers. Serious collectors want a name. But I stay honest and continue my way and I find people who like it and buy it.

How much does a painting of yours cost, on average? 1,000 euros.

What are your art classes like? It’s not a situation like a class with a teacher at the front. It’s more like a group. It’s very social. We start at 7 o’clock and at 9 we stop for a while. We eat and drink and sit together. It’s very fun. It’s like a party.

But what do you do to make people better at their art? First of all, I try to encourage them. That’s not easy. I never tell people what to paint or in which style to work. There are people who come and at first they are very, very happy. But then in three weeks they do not come — there is too much freedom.

Interview conducted by Nancy Montgomery.

Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball? Send the person’s name and contact information to:

Name: Oded NetiviAge: 56Title: Artist, art teacher and bon vivant, with a three-story atelier in Heidelberg.

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