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Art & Life with Joyce Polance

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joyce Polance.

Joyce, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I’m originally from New York and studied illustration which never beckoned much as a career. I moved to Chicago to join my husband in 1994. After teaching myself fused glass and doing that for a few years, I had the sudden desire to switch to oil painting in 1998 and have never looked back.

My work has had many incarnations: Initial impressionist landscapes led to large, semi-abstract cityscapes. In 2002, I began experimenting with encaustic and worked in that medium until 2006, mostly using the figure as my subject. But I found myself missing oils and wanting to explore more emotional narratives. I began working on very large paintings (up to 7 feet) of nude women, usually in groupings of two-three. I was fascinated with breaking up the flesh into smaller, abstract shapes which seemed representational from a distance.

By 2013, I was getting that restless feeling that my work needed to change again, that my figures needed to unravel somehow. For the last four years, there’s been a feeling of constant experimentation, learning new languages, using the paint differently. I’m doing both figure and landscape now, and I’ve probably scraped out or painted over 1/3 of the canvases I’ve begun. I have less and less control over what I paint. I try to let whatever wants to happen happen and just stay out of the way. It’s been frustrating and rewarding, and I’m continually buoyed by the challenge.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
In our current political climate of polarization and fake news, I feel there is nothing more important than authenticity. For me, this means a willingness to be vulnerable, exposed, to reveal my inner, chaotic experiences in my work. Through letting myself be known, I hope to inspire others to let themselves be known, forging genuine human connections as resistance to a world where we can’t believe much of what we read.

I explore the theme of vulnerability through both my subject matter and my painting process. I begin with a specific reference, but once the image is initially laid in, I cease looking at it. Instead, I engage in dialogue with the painting, letting it lead me to unknown places. Objects begin to change shape; planes become distorted, crashing into one another, melting. I often paint upside down in order to view the subject as an abstract composition, enabling me to focus on color and movement rather than on representation. I throw myself into the work (using brushes or my fingers) with abandon, covering up or breaking apart surfaces I have just created. In becoming willing to destroy my work, I allow for something entirely new to emerge. These processes occur multiple times during the creation of a piece, removing the image even further from reality. My use of thick, impasto paint, gouges, intense color, and expressive brushwork all contribute to obscuring the specific features of my subject while revealing (perhaps previously hidden) emotional qualities.

When I sense the painting authentically reflects an element of my own vulnerabilities: being a woman, loneliness, obsessive thinking, sensitivity… it is complete.

Artists rarely, if ever pursue art for the money. Nonetheless, we all have bills and responsibilities and many aspiring artists are discouraged from pursuing art due to financial reasons. Any advice or thoughts you’d like to share with prospective artists?
I’m fortunate enough to have extra support from my spouse so I’m able to paint full-time. I’ve had good years and bad years with sales, so I understand the struggle with having a consistent income and the stress that can cause for so many artists. And when I try to paint something I think will sell, it never does, so I’ve learned to paint what wants to come out.

I think the art world is changing so quickly. I’ve only been on Instagram for a year, but I’ve gotten a few sales inquiries there just through doing a daily posting. People find me online in unexpected places. I wish I could offer more, but truly, after 20 years, I’m still trying to figure it out. Like many artists, I can be a bit of an introvert, but the more I put myself out there in any way, it always helps. You never know who you meet in any capacity that may want to buy art one day.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I am represented by Elephant Room Gallery in Chicago and Judy Ferrara Gallery in Three Oaks, Michigan. 

My studio is in Ravenswood, and I welcome studio visits. I also keep my website reasonably up-to-date with new work:

I also have an upcoming solo show at the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art in Wausau, WI, opening in January 2019. This will be an exhibition of my “Exchanges” series, the large nudes with multiple figures.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Joyce Polance or Tom Van Eynde

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