A visionary is defined as one who sees
vision; one whose ideas or projects are impractical; one who is a
dreamer. I have known Arthur Polonsky and his work for forty-five years
and it is appropriate to say that by all three definitions he is a true
visionary. Arthur Polonsky may base an idea on an objective reality but
he brings to that idea a mystical, mysterious inner life that is unique.
Grass moves or is agitated by a strange force – a head emerging or a
figure appearing seem symbolic of more than what his titles indicate.
One may or may not know that there is a biblical source, but in his
images there is a sensibility that can be haunting in its poetry.
Apart from a most
imaginative mind nothing is truly resolved without a gift for handling
paint. The brush loaded with paint achieves an expressive lyricism when
it makes contact with the canvas. Every artist handles paint in a
personal way. For some it means clear smooth surfaces; for others it can
be a highly agitated surface. Arthur Polonsky has a beautiful sense of
brush stroke. You will never find a boring area in one of his paintings.
The dialogue between color, texture and subject is always alive.
Mask, Life-mask II
importance is Arthur Polonsky’s remarkable gift as a draughtsman.
Drawing remains a true revelation of an artist’s command of his skill.
An artist who cannot draw is easily exposed. Many artists now rely on
photographs to copy rather than risk the adventure of direct eye to hand
to paper. Arthur Polonsky’s drawings have the excitement of a direct
response to a subject, a daring use of line or tone, a sense of charged
intensity. His portrait drawings not only have likeness but express a
mood that is part artist, part model. To achieve a likeness is a gift in
itself. When the gift for likeness is matched by a commanding talent for
drawing, the result is a masterful work.
Child & Symbols
In the definition
of a visionary there is the second category: one whose ideas or projects
are impractical. I would be remiss not to mention Arthur’s various
electrical gadgets that for a period consumed much of his time. Some may
have had a purpose, but others were delightful little twittering
machines mounted on pedestals that moved or had lights that went on or
off. Once when I was in the hospital in the heat of the summer he
brought me a fan for my nose made from a flashlight to which he attached
a small whirling blade. My nose felt quite refreshed.
In 1969, Arthur Polonsky made a
portfolio of lithographs based on fragments of thoughts expressed by Leo
Bronstein, the art historian. There is such empathy between artist and
writer that these thoughts by Leo Bronstein could describe Arthur
Polonsky as an artist: “Artisan, I grasped everything with my hand or my
extreme body; with the hand of my fingers, the hand of my eyes, of my
lips, of my ears and of what else could be added.
From mind to heart,
From heart to hand –
From hand to heart,
From heart to mind.”
printed in the exhibition pamphlet issued by the Fitchburg
Art Museum in March 1990 for the exhibition Arthur Polonsky: Selected
Works 1944-1990, March 11 – May
27 (Curated by Linda Poras, Curator of Contemporary Art, Fitchburg
Art Museum, 1990).
with permission, in April 1990 by the Boston Public Library during
the Wiggin Gallery exhibition The Teaching Drawings of Arthur Polonsky,
March 22-April 30