There's "us"--"all of us." And then there's "us"--"us, not them." This show explores human beings negotiating life between modes of inclusion and exclusion.
"It's lonely being at the top of the food chain, dominating the earth." All her life, Iris Polos has been re-establishing the links between human beings and the rest of nature, reconnecting to the animal world, and exploring those connections in her work. She was born in Oakland, the younger daughter of parents who were artists. Her mother attended the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. Her father, Theodore Polos (1902 - 1976), came to the US from Mytilene, Greece, in 1916. Polos remembers him confessing what he missed most about Greece: the beautiful little donkey that lived with his family and that, to protect her from the evil eye, he would adorn with bright blue beads (donkey beads are still common throughout the Aegean and Middle East).
He arrived in the Bay Area in 1922, where he worked in the Federal Arts Project of the WPA and achieved national acclaim as a painter. "I grew up on his easel," says Polos. “He let me make little marks on his paintings.” She was doing her own work as well; art wasn’t a choice, it was what she had to do. She drew animals; she drew unicorns. She acquired an ever-changing menagerie: skunks, foxes, owls. Once she had a duckling that she liked to read to. From a very young age she knew with certainty that there were only two paths she would take through life: art or lion-taming. She scoured the pet stores in search of a lion, and one day in a store in East Oakland she found herself standing next to her father and face to face with a lion for sale. Her father was able to persuade her to return home with a domesticated short hair.
She graduated from CCAC in 1972. She came of age as an artist during the Sixties and took part in the glory days of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, LSD, the Cockettes. She hung out with somebody who was known to be a perfect bodhisattva. In 1974, she had her first solo show at Upper Market Street, titled “Iris in a Tiger’s Eye.” It featured what she calls a “sort of Jesus figure” on a cross six feet tall and painted blue. No loincloth. The influence of those iconoclastic times endures in her work and in her passion for social and environmental justice.
She has exhibited at Lawson Galleries with director Don Lawson; Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco (http://cclarkgallery.com/); and Bert Green Fine Art, Los Angeles (http://www.bgfa.us/). In 1997 she was part of "Hunger: A Juried Exhibition" curated by Judy Chicago. She has been exhibiting at Vessel since 2012.
In 2012, Polos suffered an injury to her right hand when walking her rescue greyhound, Zoo (so named because "he had the look of every animal," says Polos). In order to keep working she had to learn how to draw with her left hand--or rather, she had to revive that skill: when she was a student, she was so adept at drawing that her teachers required her to draw with her non-dominant left hand. Unsurprisingly, this focus on hands has found its way into her recent work and into her thinking about our connection to the rest of the primates.
In her work, Polos tries to knit together the fabric of life that others have studiously tried to unravel: animal to animal; person to person; personal to universal; abstraction to realism; life to death. One of the talismans of her life is the poem "The Tyger" by William Blake, who also wrote, in his "Auguries of Innocence,"
"A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage....
A dog starv'd at his Master's Gate
Predicts the Ruin of the State...."
And this as well:
"The wild deer, wand'ring here & there,
Keeps the Human Soul from Care...."
Iris Polos lives in the Bay Area. Her son is the writer Apollo Papafrangou. Visit her Facebook site. Hear her speak about her art and her passionate commitment to the preservation of species on Youtube.
Gordon Glasgow was born in London and as a child grew interested in design and forms.
His uncle taught him to measure and cut trousers, having learned in turn from his father, a tailor. Gordon’s parents instilled self reliance and an open mind to learn new things.
He left London for New York City; while becoming a citizen he also encountered a range of art, and cultures of artful living. A journey west propelled him to Berkeley California, where he worked in Antique restoration, model-making, and museum installations.
This work drew him in to further explore design and forms, and to learn the properties of various materials. Meanwhile, in his own studio he has sketched and prototyped handbags, jewelry, furniture, lamps, ceramics, and sculpture.
"My recent work has developed through an appreciation of the animal world, through the structures they create and their anatomy. I was inspired by daily encounters, and stories of animal exploits. These events also motivated me to use natural materials in creating tableaus which chronicle my concerns within our ever changing world.
Much of my process in creating these pieces developed by the use of dissimilar elements. These elements over time began, like magnets in a box, to attract and repel each other before they began to fit together like a puzzle . My process gathered clarity and meaning as time moved along. Through the movement of time these pieces have allowed me to understand my connection in forming a balance between man and animal." — Gordon Glasgow
"Sculptor Gordon Glasgow and artist Iris Polos pose questions that allow us to reflect on what our mind's eye sees, and on deep social cultural concerns affecting our humanity. Not for the faint of heart, these artists take viewers to a place others dare not. We're very proud to present provocative show Us - a show that hopefully will be etched in the minds of visitors as one of Vessel's most profound. Moreover, if this show can serve to motivate and inspire us towards living kinder, gentler, and more caring lives then the power of art serves us well. Us paves the way for a transcendent visual journey, and asks "what will become of us?" — Lonnie Lee, curator
JUNE 19, 6-8PM CELEBRATION Coinciding with 3rd Thursday Art Walk on 25th Street
7:00 PM Eco Friendly Sustainable Fashion Show directed by Tiffany Stewart of Underground Runway
7:30PM Musical Performance by The Haydn Enthusiasts
OPENING Friday, June 6, 6-9PM
8PM Musical performance by Gospel Flats, celebrating their new self-titled album release "Gospel Flats"