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Our Shared Past: Highlight on Kurt Polkey

Apr

18

Written by Nicole Gaudier

Kurt Pokey’s works Little Boy and National Pastime,  will be in the Our Shared Past exhibition, on view in the Stein Gallery from December 17, 2013 to May 25, 2014.

A statement from the artist:

“I’m not a portrait artist. Most portrait artists say they’ve made a successful painting if it “captures” the sitter.  My work however does not attempt to depict the essence of the sitter; rather I aim to make art that engages conversations with art history, while also challenging notions of what art is.  I’m not a conceptual artist either.  Like me, conceptual artists place their ideas first; yet conceptual artists—think of Duchamp’s urinal—typically challenge the existing paradigm and use unconventional materials.  My work is about the idea, but the idea is conveyed through the aesthetics. And the materials I choose are traditional ones, like paint and pencils; materials that allow me to contribute to a long-standing artistic practice.

Kurt Polkey, Little Boy, 2013, from the film stills Bite Size Pieces, Marker, white out, pencil, and glitter on paper and oil on panel.

Kurt Polkey, Little Boy, 2013, from the film stills Bite Size Pieces, Marker, white out, pencil, and glitter on paper and oil on panel.

I’m not a portrait artist and I’m not a conceptual artist. I sit uncomfortably somewhere in between.Producing a work of art for Our Shared Past was a daunting task.  I was paralyzed by my own sense of nostalgia. When I looked at Jef’s family photos I couldn’t help but think of my own family. Like Jef’s photos, I too have collections of family photos depicting fathers and sons playing ball; mothers with bouffants and big ‘80s hair; and little kids sliding down slides.  I have also used family photos as inspiration for my own work—with greater and lesser success.  I imagined Jef’s family showing up to see this show and being overwhelmed by the scope and scale of these artists’ renderings of their personal family memories.  I felt pressure to make a picture that would live up to such a moment.  But how could I possibly create something that would capture the essence of someone else’s family when I have struggled to capture my own.

Kurt Polkey, National Pastime, 2013, from the film still Watching Dad Hit, Marker, white out, pencil, and glitter on paper and oil on panel.

Kurt Polkey, National Pastime, 2013, from the film still Watching Dad Hit, Marker, white out, pencil, and glitter on paper and oil on panel.

I searched through nearly 200 images for one I could make my own. I wanted to find one that could capture the feelings I have about my own family, and especially the innocence and wonder I projected onto my earlier self.  I settled on the photo Jef titled “Bite Size Pieces” due to the naïve composition of the work.  In keeping with the simplicity of my work, I cropped the image to show only a little boy.  I then created a new image, one inspired by this photo, by drawing and adding other media, including glitter and marker.  In this way, I was able to resolve the tension between being inspired by someone else’s imagery and producing a piece that was faithful to my aesthetic.”

There will be artist appearances at the Stein Gallery January through April. Each Saturday, artists form the exhibition will be in the Gallery from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.  Others will make appearances throughout the day on Weaver Free Saturdays, and on Tuesday evenings during the exhibition.

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