by Nancy E. McCarthy
Canandaigua artist Dave Pollot’s unconventional oil paintings are hard to categorize. New visitors to Pollot’s gallery often register a double-take or delightedly chuckle as they view his unusual work: a classic still life arrangement that includes a loaf of Wonder Bread; a serene Venice canal waterscape featuring an oversized SpongeBob SquarePants wading between buildings; Senator Bernie Sanders seated on a chair, arms crossed with trademark mittens and mask, by a rolling seashore.
“People who aren’t familiar with Dave’s work will come in with almost a look of confusion,” says Becca Pollot, his wife and business partner. “They’ll catch on as they look around, then they’ll really dig in, and you’ll see this excitement and enjoyment build as they find pieces that they relate to.”
Pollot breathes new life into old art by adding his own artistic touch – usually contemporary popular culture parodies. He procures discarded paintings from thrift shops and then alters them resulting in a seamless blend of classic fine art and pop art. Pollot also creates original works with similar subject matter disparities.
“I just love his work. He has a way of taking iconic imagery and adding the perfect touch of irony, satire, pop culture or just plain insanity to it,” says Sean Hoagland, a Los Angeles-based television producer. “I also love the idea that he takes paintings that had a life hanging on the walls of others, been left in a thrift store and given them a chance to be loved and adored all over again by new owners.” Hoagland owns eight Pollot works and doesn’t plan to stop there.
Pollot grew up in Palmyra, one of three siblings. He and his father, a hobbyist painter, would watch The Joy of Painting television show together. Pollot loved and excelled at drawing and painting from an early age but never aspired to be a professional artist. After his junior year in high school, Pollot focused more on math and science, presuming it was a more stable career path than art could be.
In 2005, Pollot graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a computer science degree and started working as a software engineer. In 2010, he met Becca Kopf of Naples and they married in 2015.
During those five courtship years, Pollot painted but with more frequency in 2012. Meanwhile, Becca started a side business renting out vintage tableware acquired from thrift stores. “There are always stacks of old artwork sitting forlornly in the corner and Dave would peruse the artwork while I shopped,” Becca explains. During one visit, the couple joked about Pollot inserting something funny into a painting.
On a lark, Becca purchased some secondhand artwork and Pollot produced his first altered painting on one. “It was a cute little monster in a quaint English scene, and it was just so much fun,” says Becca. They never anticipated that the little monster would jumpstart Pollot’s professional art career.
“I was instantly hooked,” says Pollot who thereafter painted nearly every night and most weekends. First public reactions came while selling his paintings during Rochester’s Park Avenue Summer Festival. “People seemed to get a kick out of them,” says Pollot. “I believe we sold most of them.”
After a couple of art fairs, Becca took Pollot’s art online. By 2013 she left her job as a college admissions counselor to manage the art business full-time. Pollot wasn’t so ready to make the leap, even though he spent most of his work days thinking about what he would paint later.
“I never planned to turn this into my career. I loved writing software and honestly never imagined giving it up,” says Pollot. “It eventually got to the point where it did become very difficult to do both.” Though making his artwork the couple’s sole career was at first “terrifying” to Pollot, he left his job in 2018. So far, it’s been going really well.
Present and Future
Canandaigua has a robust arts scene attracting art lovers and artists to its numerous galleries, arts festivals and events. The couple purchased and renovated a downtown building on Main Street and opened the Dave Pollot Studio & Gallery in April 2021. The ground floor houses a storefront gallery with a spacious art studio behind it. They live upstairs with their “children” – two small mixed-breed dogs.
“Everyone has been incredibly welcoming,” says Pollot. His limited edition prints are popular with gallery visitors, but the majority of his paintings are sold through his website or during Gallery1988 exhibits (a pop culture themed gallery in Los Angeles). “We were immediately drawn to Dave’s work because of his ability to integrate pop culture influences without it feeling shoe-horned or like ‘fan art’,” says gallery co-owner Jensen Karp. “There’s a thin line between those who are just creating whatever they see on TV or in movies, and those who are breathing new life to something. Dave clearly does the latter.”
Hoagland was introduced to Pollot’s work through Gallery1988. “Dave is a master of what he does in his work. I was stunned to find that he was totally self-taught as I feel his skills are unparalleled.”
Last year Pollot became interested in producing digital works, a cutting edge trend blending technology and art, two skill sets right up his alley. Tech-savvy art collectors bid on and buy NFTs (non-fungible tokens) which track the origin of and authenticate the art they are associated with. The art can be stored and viewed on various devices or even physically displayed in digital frames. If this sounds high tech that’s because it is!
Through a new relationship with Nifty Gateway, an online digital art platform, Pollot offers virtual versions of his paintings through cyber exhibits (“drops”). Typically, drops are all-digital but Pollot favors a hybrid version that pairs a physical original painting or a limited edition print with each virtual work sold.
Pollot is excited about using his software writing skills to program movement into his artwork in the future. But he will always paint the old-school way – with brushes and pallet knives. After all, Pollot has almost 200 abandoned paintings just waiting for him to reimagine them.
Visit davepollot.com to view Pollot’s work and learn more about the artist.
The Artist’s Process
Bleed was Pollot’s first tear painting, where his altered image is viewed as though the original landscape painting was peeled back slightly to reveal a modern cityscape painted underneath it.
There’s a double irony with this technique. First, a masterful trick of the eye: the revealed bottom layer is actually applied on top of the existing painting. Next, the viewer’s expectation is that the painting behind the original landscape would be older, not contemporary.
“To get an idea of what I wanted the final painting to look like, I used a program on my iPad called Procreate (similar to Photoshop) that let me arrange the cityscape, tear, and background the way I wanted them to look,” says Pollot. Once comfortable with the composition, he used a small brush to outline the basic shapes in oil paints over the existing background and then began filling in small sections using a mix of brushes and palette knives.
The tear’s outline was painted first. Then he painted left to right and top to bottom to fill it in. The whole process took about a-month-and-a-half to complete. The original painting was purchased shortly after Pollot finished it in 2017.