Daniel Pollera’s paintings are distinctly recognizable. Painted in a tightened realist style, his coastal landscapes, back porch views and bay houses are often cast in intense lighting—resulting in emotional undercurrents that give a certain vitality and human connection to the work. Pollera paints what he sees and soaks in while out on his boat in the bays between his homes in Baldwin Harbor and East Quogue. This time of year in particular, the Long Island sunlight is remarkable—almost like we’re living in a Pollera painting. Here’s what Pollera has to say about the artwork gracing this week’s Dan’s Papers cover:
Last we spoke, I think you were working on a painting of one of these historic bay houses—and now this looks like one of them. Is this part of that series?
You could say that, but I’m looking more into it, and what I’m seeing is history happening right before my eyes. The older you get, the more you can reflect and see what’s happening. That house on the cover is called the Jankoski Bay House. It was on Ned’s Creek in Merrick, very low to the marsh, and it was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. There are really only a handful of these houses left. They were built around the turn of the century and, being where they are on the marshes, not connected to any roads, they weren’t really ever changed. Now I’m starting to see places, like the town of Hempstead and I think also in Southampton, they’re doing something to preserve them. They play a large part in the maritime history of Long Island.
It’s almost hard to think of Sandy being just two years ago.
I stayed here during Hurricane Sandy, in my house, on the water in Baldwin. The winds were crazy. Right at the end of my street you look out onto the open bay. Splashing on the bulkheads, the water surrounded but was within 7 inches from the top. Couches were floating. A 40-footer ended up in my neighbor’s backyard.
Have you ever been one of those historic bay houses?
Yeah, I’ve been inside some of them. They’re old and rustic, and they have hatches on the floor. I was inside one of them and saw a cutout with a round hole, a 2-by-2-foot hatch with a round hole to lift it. At high tide, they blow up and the house fills with water—this way the house won’t lift up and float away like a boat.
I’m looking at the bay houses as a reflection of the environment due to rising sea levels. One day we’re going to get another storm and it might happen that they all get wiped out. I’m noticing, though, that some museums out here are starting to focus on the environmental changes of our bays.
Right, like some of the projects and nature walks being held at the Parrish Art Museum.
Yes, them and also a non-profit called Long Island Traditions. This summer I was invited to be on the Board of Directors for them. My first meeting with them will be this October. They just received a major grant to put together an exhibition called Changing Landscapes Exhibit—which will explore how landscapes change after natural disasters. For years, just being out on the boat all the time, you see the changes. You get to know it. You get to know what’s happening.
Any new projects you’re working on?
Right now, I’m just getting through the busy summer season, and things are beginning to settle. When things settle down, my creative juices start flowing. I never know what’s going to come. Never know what you’re going to get inspired by. Right now everything is settling.