An Interview with Dave Pollot
1) We know that you had a career prior to art in the tech sector – what inspired that switch to being a full-time artist? What was that process like?
I actually got my undergraduate degree in computer science and spent the better part of 15 years writing software for a living. I genuinely loved it and the painting was something I only did casually until I started repurposing thrift art in 2012 – It was then that I started spending nearly all of my free time painting. I was able to balance the two for a while but as my passion for art grew and my paintings started to gain a little traction, I started struggling to keep up. I reached a tipping point when I realized that I was spending a lot of my day at work thinking about what I wanted (or needed) to paint when I got home, and that just didn’t seem fair to my employers. Right around that time, I was offered a commission (a very large indoor mural) that essentially required me to leave my job – It was the proverbial push I needed and I’ve been a full-time artist ever since.
2) Is there anything in your background or life experience that inspired your current work or the thrifted painting series?
Absolutely! It’s interesting to think about the feedback cycle between life experience and art. When I was growing up, my parents didn’t have a lot, but they did encourage me to be creative, and so I’d find leftover paints and use discarded cardboard as my canvas. Although we didn’t have much (and often school clothes were donated or came from thrift stores), my parents always found a way to immerse themselves (and me) in pop culture. Books, music, movies, and classic video games were a big part of my childhood.
In 2010 I met the woman who would eventually become my wife. She’s always been compelled to stop at every thrift store she passes and as much as I hated them, I was compelled to spend time with her. What started as a joke between us wound up changing my life. Now, instead of painting on old cardboard, I’m painting (often elements of pop culture from the movies and video games of my youth) on abandoned art from the very thrift stores I spent so long avoiding. Many of the thoughts and experiences I’ve had balancing art and life over the past seven years led me to create the Calorie Composition series.
3) Your works heavily involve pop culture and commercialism – how do you see your work fitting into the greater realm of fine art, not just now but with future works and series?
I think that artists have always referenced pop culture in their work, but now it’s becoming so much more accessible and recognizable that perhaps it’s easier to pinpoint it when it’s being referenced. As information becomes more readily available, these aspects of our lives are becoming so pervasive that they’ve almost become a means of communication. If you look at the comment threads on any number of social media or content aggregation sites and you’ll see complex feelings and ideas distilled into simple images or clips from your favorite movies. I guess to more concretely answer the question, I think that the combination of art and pop culture (hopefully my work included) will continue to see a growing acceptance in the world of fine art because it’s a reflection of our shared experience.
In terms of the future – I’ve definitely started to explore more personal themes in my work, so it’ll be interesting to see how I might continue to use elements of pop culture to convey these themes. I guess it’s not really up to the artist how his or her work is received by the fine art community, but as long I can continue to create, I’ll have a voice and continue to participate in the conversation.
4) You’re an incredibly talented painter – what drew you initially to painting on thrifted canvases or repurposed paintings and canvases?
Thank you! As I mentioned above, my wife has always loved thrifting. While she was looking at clothes or dishes, I was usually looking at the pieces of dusty art stacked against the walls. What started as a joke led to a bigger question: Could I paint something funny or nostalgic into an unwanted painting, and without changing the aesthetic, change the meaning and make it wanted again? Once I started down a path to answer that question, I found that it captured my attention more than anything I’d done in the past. Blending my additions into each background was always a new challenge because I was emulating a new style each time. I always felt that I learned more in the first few months of writing software professionally than I did in four years of college – I had that same feeling again with this. After seven years, I’m continually fascinated by the way that seemingly disparate things can fit together. I’m also fascinated by the idea that discrete pieces of art can evolve over time. Perhaps someone will find one of my works in a thrift store one day, modify it, and help continue that evolution.
5) You discuss a lot of your work deals with ‘Mental Noise’ or the thoughts and distractions that take our attention away from where we are, who we’re with, and what we’re doing – what are your thoughts on platforms like Instagram, either aiding or hindering the artistic experience and autonomy of ‘the artist’?
Social media is such an easy target for social criticism, and perhaps with good reason, but I tend to skew toward optimism. Social media (namely Instagram) is absolutely changing the game for artists, curators, gallerists, and consumers. I guess I’ll answer this question from two sides;
As a consumer of art (and by this I mean someone who is just in love with art and wants to see as much as possible), it’s changed the way that I view and find new art. Everything is discoverable and however vitriolic the comment sections can be, I feel as though I’m always forced to consider another viewpoint. Filtering through the noise can be cumbersome, but generally speaking, I’ve found it to be an overwhelmingly positive addition to the artistic experience.
As a producer of art, I absolutely rely on social media and I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunities it’s provided. I do think there are some potentially negative side effects depending on how one allows oneself to use it. I’ve definitely been tempted by likes, and I find that whenever I feed the portion of my ego that needs those likes, I’m allowing Instagram to control my narrative versus using Instagram to broadcast it. It’s also been the source of a lot of self-manufactured pressure to always have something new and interesting to share, and I feel like my best work was created when I wasn’t considering how or when I’d post it to Instagram. There’s also just a simple time equation at play – more time spent scrolling, liking, commenting, and waiting for others to do the same means less time painting. Again, on the whole, I think it’s a definite net positive.
6) What does ‘art’ mean to you?
I feel like the more I learn about art (and life in general), the less I know how to answer this question. It might be easier to answer it in terms of what it has meant; It’s meant learning, growing, and exploring a career path and a creative expression that I never knew existed. It’s meant happiness, pride, frustration, and anxiety. It’s meant asking more questions than I ever thought I would, but it’s also meant that not everything (this question is a great example) needs a concrete answer.