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  • Interview by Rosie Osborne

Polly Shindler

Sunday Clutter. Polly Shindler. 2017.

Tell us a little bit about where you grew up and the atmospheres that you were surrounded by.

I grew up in a semi-suburban woodsy area in Connecticut. I took nature for granted and as an adult, I found myself gravitating toward more urban environments (Boston, Austin, New York City). Coming back to Connecticut this past year has had a huge impact on my work; the quiet, the solitude, and the greenery have all changed my outlook and in turn, the work I make.

Mantel. Polly Shindler. Acrylic on Canvas. 14'x11'. 2017.

When did you start painting?

I always drew and made collages. I got into printmaking in college; I loved it even though I didn’t really have the patience for it then. I began painting as an adult on my own. I just experimented with what paint could do, and in the process made an absolute mess and a lot of horrible paintings. I feel as if I'm still learning the right tools and techniques to get my intentions across.

Would you say that you are self-taught?

That’s an interesting question. I had art classes in school growing up and I was an art major for one semester in college. I was in foundation so we hadn't begun painting at that point; it was 2-D, 3-D, figure drawing, and theory. After I left school, I never stopped making work. I began playing with paint but it was a lot of trial and error. So, in that sense, yes, I am self-taught. But it's tricky to say that when I have an MFA in Painting.

Red Curtains. Polly Shindler. 2017.

What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work?

I am fascinated by lived-in spaces. I research the interiors and furniture of different time periods, and the way people curate their surroundings. I look at textiles, flooring, and furniture, and I place them into imagined spaces. I think of the person who had occupied that space, where they are now, and why they made the choices they did in designing their lives.

Little Kitchen. Polly Shindler. 2017.

Do you remember a particular moment that you saw a painting that will always stay with you?

When I first saw a Basquiat painting as a teenager, I was so happy. I felt liberated. An artist can create their own language to make art that isn't about imitation or technique. That he made work about his own ideas in his own voice was an epiphany to me. Basquiat is not my favorite artist, but I'll never forget the way seeing his work for the first time made me feel.

Early Morning. Polly Shindler. 2017.

Do you remember the first piece of art that you ever sold?

I remember the first painting I sold. It was an early experiment, an abstract oil painting on a large canvas. It was awful. I cringed at it even then. I just wanted to clear out the cobwebs and get something down. A friend came over, loved it, and bought it, which was a blessing because I didn't want it in my house. I don't think I would let something I didn't care for leave my studio with my name on it again.

Which artists would you say have inspired you the most?

I am inspired most by artists who have struggled. And really, who hasn't? I look at the work of Van Gogh and Cezanne, listen to Bruce Springsteen, and read Virginia Woolf. I see how their struggles impacted the art. Without the complications, what would their work look like? Would there be any work to speak of? I find their perseverance and effort inspiring. Likewise, I look to artists who have had setbacks, either by age or injury, who have no choice but to continue creating. That makes me push harder on my "off" days.

Floral Sofa. Polly Shindler. 2017.

Do you have a special place that you go when you need to replenish your mind and seek inspiration?

When I lived in NYC, I’d go to the Folk Art Museum. It never disappointed. The work there opened me up to unique possibilities, of novel methods of expression. Materials employed were nothing you could find in an art store, with any amount of money. Now I find any museum can get my brain working.

Communal Kitchen. Polly Shindler. 2017.

Which piece of art from history would you choose to have on your wall right now, (with no budget!) if you could pick any one?

This is too hard. How about five? Currently, I am working on paintings of interiors, so the first pieces that come to mind are Matisse's Piano Lesson and Bonnard's The Yellow Shawl. But if I wanted to feel small and blown away, I'd love to have Caspar David Friedrich's The Watzmann 1824-25 to stare at all day. Charles Burchfield's Gateway To September to fill the spirit, and Hockney's A Bigger Splash to remind me of refreshment and rejuvenation.

Window Seat. Polly Shindler. 2017.

If you could choose one artist from history to paint your portrait, who would you choose?

Alex Katz

Cat on the Stairs. Polly Shindler. 2017.

What’s the best piece of advice you have heard and try to repeat to others when you can?

My favorite piece of advice was told to me by several professors at Pratt. The idea was that you don't only go to your studio when you have an idea; you go to your studio every day. It must be your place. Surround yourself with books and materials, food and drink. Don't wait for inspiration to strike. Now, you don’t have to paint every day. You can nap, you can clean, you can have friends come by. But you need to set up the circumstances that accommodate a creative motivation. You must be in the room for that to happen. When I used to wait tables, my manager said that everyone was complaining that they weren’t making money. Her advice: you have to be in the building, by which she meant that you actually have to be present to do the work. I think that applies here. I was having a hard time devoting substantial amounts of studio time after graduate school as my responsibilities grew. But since then, I've pared my life down to essentials and am able to spend valuable time in the studio, sometimes just puttering around.

Polly Shindler. 2017.

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