Daniel Pollera’s soothing oil on canvas “A Path to a Cure” pulls the eye from a lower left path of sand leading through banks of feathery dune grasses bending in the wind, up to the mid-level horizon line, where the beach meets the ocean. Misty rays fan out from a sun-streaked sky, scattering luminescence on the water. Puffed white clouds tinged with pink arch over the light below. What better metaphor for hope than this serene scene created expressly by Pollera “to evoke empathy and compassion.”
The painting will make its debut at the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation booth at ArtHamptons in Bridgehampton on July 2 and then will be on view at a private home in Bridgehampton July 11 for A Hamptons Happening fundraiser to benefit the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation. The art fair itself will benefit Guild Hall, and also honor Dr. Waxman and the actor Paul Ridley. While teenagers, both of these accomplished men lost their mothers to cancer. Though Pollera is known best for his more dramatic work, “A Path to a Cure,” pays tribute to those who died and those who survive, and can clearly be said to be one of Pollera’s most heartfelt paintings. He, too, lost his mother to cancer.
You like dramatic settings. Did the fabled East End light bring you out here?
I’ve been coming out to the East End, winters and summers, since 1962, first visiting Southold [Pollera was born in Freeport]. I loved it, the whole environment. My aunt was renting a home on the sound, and the light was dramatic because of the wide open spaces, good air quality, and surrounding clean water that reflected the sky. The farther out you go in the ocean, which I have, the more brilliant the light. I’ve always had a special affinity for the sea, a love that was renewed for me when, 38 years ago, I obtained a Captain’s License from the U.S. Coast Guard and started a charter boat business. I also always had an affinity for drawing and painting, especially the Long Island coastline. I briefly studied commercial art at SUNY Farmingdale, but then I went into the family business, cement block manufacturing, taking a sabbatical from painting. I’ve been back painting full time for a while now and delighted with my switch a few years ago from acrylic to oil, which loosened me up.
Why did you decide last year to sit for election to the board of directors for Long Island Traditions, an arts organization whose stated mission is to document and preserve the living cultural traditions of Long Island’s ethnic, occupational and architectural heritage?
I’ve been involved all my life painting those unique bay houses that sit on posts above the salt marsh, and I have a basic knowledge of South Shore waters, so when I was invited by the director of Long Island Traditions to run for the board, I was pleased to think that I could make a contribution to the organization. I’m always happy to educate people about bay houses and their history. In the 1800s, they were used by fishermen and duck hunters and in the 1920s, during Prohibition, they gave safe haven to rumrunners and stored their moonshine.
You note on your website that you are primarily self-taught, but you also say that you studied with a couple of portrait and mural artists. Did their mentoring affect your work?
Not really, in the sense of specific influences of subject matter or style, but they did encourage me to persevere, telling me I “understood the paint,” and that gave me confidence.
Several Pollera paintings are on view at Chrysalis Gallery at 2 Main Street in Southampton, crysalisgallery.com, 631-287-1883. His work is also in the permanent collections of The Parrish Art Museum and the Guild Hall Museum. For further info, visit danielpollera.com.