While Daniel Pollera has had his work on our cover multiple times over the years, we can see that this week’s image is different. It’s a still life of bottles, which were found in an old graveyard, and shells.
The work “Bottles and Shells” is a departure from Pollera’s signature porches and chairs from historic homes. Although water still plays a big part in Pollera’s pieces, the present cover uses light and dark contrasts for dramatic effect, establishing an edgy and somber mood not usually seen in the artist’s other works. Besides the lighting contrast, there’s also contradiction in the objects’ isolation against the sky versus the sense of serenity that the items convey.
How would you describe the cover?
Mysterious, too. This is quite different from most of your past images, where there’s sunlight and an upbeat ambience. What other subjects have you recently applied this new mood to?
Salt marshes, which are lighted up with a dark sky. Both sunny and moody.
What’s your latest project?
Bay Houses on the South Shore going east, which are on the salt marshes. Sandy destroyed 18–20 of the houses, and there are only 10 left. They are historic state landmarks. I am involved in one particular structure built in 1910, the Muller Bay House. The ones destroyed by Sandy can be rebuilt within two years.
What were these places used for?
Storing liquor, especially during Prohibition. There was supposed to be a speakeasy in one building, too. Fisherman also used to store their nets and equipment there.
If a Bay House was blown off its perch during Sandy but was intact, how did people get it back to its location?
They would pick the house up with a crane and set it on its old perch. An American flag was put on the Muller House as if to say, “We’re back.” I did a painting of it and called the work “After the Storm.”
What’s been your experience with the Bay Houses, other than painting them?
I would take my boat out to see them. Some were built during the 1870s, up to the 1950s.You felt you had gone back in time. When looking from the inside to the outside, you got a 360 degree view of the open marshes.
The water means a lot to you and is a recurring image in your work. Has the idea of going out on the water changed for you over the years?
I used to go out to fish, sometimes 100 miles out. When I was younger, we’d go out at 2 a.m. to get to a place where we could fish for tuna at dawn. I wouldn’t do that now. You can’t see anything at night. It’s very scary. If I got stuck I could get back. I was knowledgeable about navigation. I go out on the bay nowadays. I love the water. Water is stimulating and so soothing.
Other recurring images in your work are historic houses. A sense of history is important, obviously. What meaning does a home have for you?
A home is like a worn old shoe. I feel comfortable and secure. I feel most comfortable in my studio. Working on paintings gives me back a reward. It keeps me grounded.
Daniel Pollera will be in a group show Landscapes from the Permanent Collection on view from October 26 – January 5, 2014 at Guild Hall in East Hampton (158 Main Street), 631-324-0806. His work can also be seen at Chrysalis Gallery in Southampton (2 Main Street), 631-287-1883.