Tag Archives: drawings

Ren
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Man

April 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A boozy brunch between girlfriends, a meeting of coworkers over coffee, a couple splitting a glass   of wine—conversations captured around the city, all serve as fodder and inspiration for Brion Poloncic’s work. In the quiet corners of Omaha’s local coffee shops and wine bars, Poloncic puts pen to paper, his ear tuned into the surrounding babble, creating art that he feels represents those around him and the experiences they discuss.

But don’t expect a still life of women gossiping between sips of their Venti mochas. As a visual artist, author, and former musician, Poloncic is a man of many hats but always remains a creator of thought-provoking and idiosyncratic work that paints middle America in a psychedelic wash.

“I’ve always fancied myself an artist,” Poloncic says. “My art is an affirmation of my peculiar skill set, and it just so happens to make me happy. It’s my own blend of therapy.”

It was through chance that Poloncic was first bitten by the creative bug. After he didn’t make the baseball team, he traded mitts for guitars and started writing music. A fan of everyone from Pink Floyd to Johnny Cash, he parlayed his early love for listening to his parent’s records into seven albums, all released under the moniker “A Tomato A Day (helps keep the tornado away).” A prolific songwriter, his discography is filled with character and colorful song titles, including ditties like “You Little Shit” and “Weirdo Park.”

For Poloncic, music wasn’t enough. He needed to sink his teeth into his next artistic outlet. So when a friend needed help setting up an Iowa art studio, he asked Polonic to draw pieces that illustrated his career. With no formal training or experience, unless coloring backpacks with magic markers counts, he dove in.

Two years later, Poloncic sold his first piece at a gallery in Lincoln. He has also shown work in Omaha and Kansas City and has a collection represented at Gallery 72, all those diploma-yielding pros be damned.

“My art isn’t constrained by my knowledge or training, and I think this makes me naturally less critical of my work,” Poloncic says.

Filled with abstract shapes, haunting faces, and stark use of color, his off-kilter yet original drawings mirror the tone of his written work. Through The Journal of Experimental Fiction, he published his first book Xanthous Mermaid Mechanics in 2012, following this up in 2014 with his second printed work On the Shoulders of Madmen. Both explored concepts of the subconscious mind, and the novel he is currently working on will follow suit.

“I’ll be surprised if anyone can read it,” Poloncic says. “It’s got no characters, no story arc, and isn’t about anything in particular.”

And he admits this is his niche, comparing his art to improvisational jazz or free-style rap where “things just happen.” For whatever he’s working on, he says the hardest part is just getting started. Once that happens, everything else just falls into place, and if he can’t get over a block, he always has another craft to turn to.

“If I stumble off the creative wagon with drawing, I get back on with writing and vice versa,” Poloncic says. “As you work on one, the other comes right along with it.”

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

The B-Word

October 8, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“I think you’re a pushy bitch.” That’s what a gallery owner once said to Courtney Kenny Porto when she attempted to get postcards printed for an upcoming exhibition. It was an instance that left the 24-year-old artist momentarily speechless, but dramatically underscored why she’s a feminist and why she often focuses on feminism in her drawings, paintings, and prints.

“I didn’t even identify myself as a feminist until recently,” comments Kenny Porto. “I was in a bubble. My mom raised me as empowered, and I felt I could do anything. She is a woman who doesn’t allow herself to be treated beneath what she deserves, and I have that same expectation.”

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As the artist has learned through instances such as the above, however, those expectations aren’t always met. “As I get older, I see things that don’t make sense, especially in terms of gender roles,” Kenny Porto observes. For that reason, she uses her art to examine feminism through myriad interpretations, including one of the most recognizable: the female figure. “I’m fascinated and drawn to the female form,” she says. “Aesthetically, I love the curves with the breasts and hips.”

Her works, though, are not straightforward representations of women’s bodies; they are explorations of deeper themes. Her Hair Series, for example, portrays women with long, flowing locks, ponytails, loose buns, and side ponytails. Kenny Porto based the works on a study that examined how women are perceived according to those styles—i.e. on hair alone. “In one style—the side ponytail—women are perceived as the most approachable,” she says. “The long straight hair was the least. And that’s the one men prefer.”

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In recent work, Kenny Porto has taken on a subject that most people—especially men—consider taboo: menstruation. She produced three large-scale works directly imprinted from a tampon, and while the images are abstract, the artist’s ability to create a dialogue is easily identifiable. “When I go to the grocery store, I still hide my tampons,” she says, “but what is a tampon? It’s a piece of cotton. A period is a natural part of being a woman. We should not be embarrassed by it. That’s the whole message—get over it.”

While Kenny Porto has gotten over her own embarrassment, she’s not about to let go of feminism.

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“People ask, ‘What’s the point of feminism today? You have voting rights, etc.’ But it’s a problem of cultural ideas and paradigms,” she emphasizes. “If a man sleeps around, he brags about it. If it’s a woman, she’s a whore. Feminism is about a mental attitude.”

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Mental attitude is exactly what Kenny Porto has. How did she handle the gallery owner who tried to use coarse language to intimidate her? She was a consummate professional and not the word to which the gallery owner attempted to reduce her.

“I shook hands,” she says, “and said we shouldn’t work together.”

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