Artist of the Week

Polly Shindler

February 20, 2018

Polly Shindler (Hamden, CT) received her M.F.A. in Painting from Pratt Institute in 2011 and attended the Vermont Studio Center in 2013. She recently had her first solo show, Retreat, at Ortega Y Gasset (Brooklyn, NY) followed by a second at the project space, Tennis Elbow, at The Journal Gallery (Brooklyn). She was granted a yearlong curatorial residency at Trestle Projects (Brooklyn) in 2015 and was named one of “30 Artists to Watch in 2012” by NY Arts Magazine. She lives and works in New Haven with her dog Owen.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on?  I have a few things in the pipeline. Some upcoming shows include Hashimoto Gallery in CA, the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, CT, and Bird in Brooklyn, NY. I also have some benefit shows coming up, some of which are online–Far X Wide for PEN America’s Prison Writing Program, NUT Publication (an all women’s publication fostering the female artist community and contributing to the Global Women’s Fund), and a fresh stART event which helps to fund programs that provide arts-related therapies and opportunities to underserved children in L.A. I am also an ongoing participant in the online flat file,

“Pink Room with Marble Table”

What materials do you use and what is your process like? Do you typically paint from photographs, from life or imagination? In my current series, my interest usually begins with a piece of furniture that I see; it becomes the focal point. I sketch and photograph it, or I find images of furniture online. Once I have my focus, I search for other elements that belong in the room. So the room is imaginary but its elements usually exist in reality. I use acrylic on canvas, sometimes on paper.

Tell us more about your fascination with interior spaces. What draws you to a certain space?   I love privacy. I love the idea of a space that belongs to only its owner. I haven’t been camping in a long time, but I used to get a serious thrill out of sleeping in my own tent. I seek out areas in homes that create a sense of aloneness and quiet. Rooms say so much about us, and I like to read a space as you would a photo or a book. Looking around another person’s room gives you answers to a lot of questions without being nosy.

“Room with Rug”

Describe your current studio or workspace. This is a perfect example. I just moved into a new studio and I haven’t had a private space in many years. Creating a space that is just mine, where everything is designed to serve me is great fun. I am outfitting the space for comfort as well as work. My studio spaces in the past have been totally perfunctory. Now I want to really season the space and enjoy many elements of the place, not just the walls.

Shindler’s Studio

What is it like living and working in Connecticut?  Working outside of NYC is a different thing altogether. I can go into the city and see world class artists and productions and then run back to the woods in CT and hunker down for another month. For me, living and painting in NYC was a tall order; the time I had to dedicate to my paintings was meager considering the amount I had to work to maintain the studio. My situation has changed in the past year and I’m now able to be in the studio much more than I have been since graduate school.

What influence has living and studying in Brooklyn had on your work?  I never wanted to live in NYC. But when I was applying to school, 4/5 of the places I applied to were in NYC. I just knew that I had to do the work of experiencing the city to pursue my future goals. I couldn’t think of a better place in which to immerse myself. From the first week of school, my teachers had us bouncing around the city looking at galleries and museums. It was a crash course and after a month, I knew my life was going to take place there for the foreseeable future. I had the opportunity to see shows only being held in NYC and work that I would have had to look at online if I were studying just about everywhere else. I was also thrown into spaces with people who were as invested in art as I was.

“Rose Carpet Room”

What do you do when you’re not working on your art?  I am a consumer of media. I have a night table piled with books and DVDs. Movies and books inform my paintings as much as anything else. And when I need an escape, they also do the trick. I hang out at the library and I work about 6 hours a week at our local video store–yes, we still have one. It also operates as a cultural center with live music, readings and screenings so it’s a great space to learn about forms of cinema and music. I also have an 8 month old puppy so training him has become a major occupation.

“Red and White Victorian Couch”

If you had to explain your work to a stranger, what would you say? I think all artists have to do this repeatedly at social functions! I tell people that I make paintings of interiors – if I tell them I paint rooms, they think I’m an actual housepainter. I explain that I make paintings that are portraits of places, rather than people.

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? Of course, David Hockney. But I just caught an Alex Katz show while visiting Boca Raton, FL. Nice surprise. The space was filled with works no larger than around 11” x 14”, which were primarily sketches. Most of the pieces were done within the last few years, so Katz was in his mid 80s when he produced them. If that’s not inspiring, I’m not sure what is. His lasting interest in the world is something I’d love to bring along with me in my later years.

“Room with Bay Windows”