The Colorado Springs artist, whose work is currently displayed as part of the OpticalReverb show at Phantom Canyon Brewing Co., actually incorporates branches, bark, dirt and other natural materials into his abstract paintings. The rough gravel on the ground, the soft leaves of the aspen, the spiky needles of the pines they're all parts of his inspiration and his medium.
Polley, who started painting seven years ago at the age of 32, says he was a fairly conventional artist, doing work that involved straight, precise lines. When a friend suggested he try abstract art, he began experimenting with layered pieces. It was a difficult transition.
"I had to rethink the way I think I had to let my mind be freer," he says.
The result: thick, multi-dimensional paintings with rich colors and textures. When viewed up close, some look almost like 3D topographic maps, either of deep underwater landscapes or strange planets as seen from space.
But the artist tends to resist explaining his work, beyond the process inherent to making it.
"I don't want people to try and find something in what I do," he says. "It's more about emotion and feeling than anything else."
When Polley isn't using natural materials, he chooses other organic or recycled things. He often employs paint from leftover cans found in his friends' garages, and backs his works with old pieces of wood.
He says art has become a way of life: "I do art because it is what I know how to do, and I am fortunate that I do it full-time."
Polley finishes some of his pieces in one day; others take a month.
"Because the works are so layered, it just depends on how long it takes one to dry to determine how long it will take to complete," he says.
Such patience is apropos after all, nature takes its time.
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