July 26: David Polka “Vanitas”



“VANITAS” new works on wood by David Polka

Drawing inspiration from abandoned and neglected places, stories and people, Polka’s work distills the ephemeral nature of human experience into a visual record of accumulated memories and emotions. Flowing, abstract forms envelop figures weary from loss and hardship in an exploration of transitory connections, revealing the lines connecting different facets of our existence with irrevocable patterns of life and death, destruction and rebirth.

David Polka is an Oakland based artist and will be exhibiting a new collection of his paintings and installations at madelife. Opening night is July 26th.

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You can also see him in action in the week leading up the the 26th as he paints a new mural on our Pearl Street wall.

David painting mural

Check out our Interview w/ Polka:

Q: When did you first get into the arts?
A: Both my parents are artists, and instilled a love for art in me from a very early age. 
Q: Why are you passionate about art?
A: It’s been the driving force in my life for as long as I can remember, it’s something that has come to me very naturally – it feels like this is what I should be doing.  In terms of a bigger picture, many people have great quotes about the necessity of art, but I do think it bears repeating that part of the function of art is to hold a mirror up to the world in which it exists.  Whether that’s to reflect beauty or ugliness or both is up to the artist.
Q: What inspires you?
A: Lately, I’m most inspired by vintage tattoo flash, tarot decks, Czech pisanki, Hopi Kachinas, Russian prison tattoos, followed by a wide array of folk art, anime, and illustration.  Artists like Alexander Grim, Jose Mertz, Joao Ruas, Sickboy, Shaun Beaudry, my good friend Lauren Napolitano, and freight train monikers from folks like The Colossus of Roads, Deuce Seven, Feral Child… the list goes on.
Q: What’s your experience of Oakland?
A: I’ve been here for three years and have seen it change quite a bit in that time.  Understanding how those changes are being driven and what role I play in it is a tricky thing to unpack – there’s a lot of dynamic change and debate revolving around race, class, gentrification, Oakland’s role as a hub for artists, and how this change will benefit or harm the people living here.  It’s a truly beautiful city that is rich with contradictions and complexity, and a very unique history.  It also has a very active and supportive art scene.  All of these things find some sort of expression in my work, and I’ve found the explosion of murals in Oakland has given me a really powerful way to connect with people through my art, and an excellent tool to encourage conversation and dialogue.
Q: How has your background influenced your work?
A: Growing up in the Southwest informed every aspect of my work – the colors, textures, and raw beauty of the desert.  Add the incredible cultural heritage in New Mexico, the overall aesthetic of the area is an integral part of my work.
Q: How do you think you’ve developed as an artist over the years?
A: My parents recognized I had a real drive to make things, and encouraged that every step of the way.  As I got older, I was fortunate to have a number of teachers who really challenged me to grow as an artist, and to take my creative voice seriously.  I began showing my work in galleries in my second year of college, and continued that momentum after graduation.  Taking on larger and larger projects over time enabled me to build off the things I had learned previously, which in turn expanded my creative scope.
Q: What is your impression of Boulder?
A: I’ve never been, so I’m really looking forward to getting the know the city for the week I’ll be there.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: I’m really excited to come paint a mural in a new city, there’s always inspiration to be found that way.
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