Steve Poleskie, American (1938 - )

Steve Poleskie
Artist and writer Stephen (Steve) Poleskie was born in Pringle, PA in 1938. The son of a high school teacher, Poleskie graduated from Wilkes College in 1959 with a degree in Economics. A self-taught artist, Poleskie had his first one-person show at the Everhart Museum, Scranton, PA in 1958, while still in college. These works were largely abstract expressionistic in nature. After graduation Poleskie was employed briefly as an insurance agent and commercial artist, before moving to Miami where he worked in a screen-printing shop. After three months he left for the Bahamas and Cuba. His next job was as an art teacher at Gettysburg High School where David Eisenhower was one of his students. During this time he exhibited at the Duo Gallery in New York, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Leaving Gettysburg, he traveled to Mexico and California, returning via Canada, before taking a studio on 10th Street in New York City. Poleskie enrolled in art classes at the New School and studied for a term with Raphael Soyer. The two became friends, and Soyer painted several paintings of his former student. At the time, Poleskie was doing figurative work. When he had his first one-person show at Morris Gallery, Soyer bought a painting. Morris later sold a large Poleskie to the playwright Lanford Wilson. Living on 10th Street, which then was the art center of New York, Poleskie became friends with many of the artists and critics of the day including, Elaine and Willem deKooning, Frank O’Hara, and Louise Nevelson.

In 1963 Poleskie opened a screen-printing studio in a storefront on East 11th Street. This became Chiron Press, the first fine-art screen-printing shop in New York. The business was soon moved to larger quarters at 76 Jefferson Street. During the five years he ran the operation the names of the artists who had prints made at Chiron Press reads like a who’s who of the artists of the 60s and includes such figures as Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, Alex Katz, Robert Motherwell, and Helen Frankenthaler. One of the printers at Chiron Press was the young artist Brice Marden. Poleskie’s own prints from this time, rather minimal landscapes, the people of the earlier works had walked out of the picture, were purchased by numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, and the National Collection in Washington, D. C. In 1968, wanting more time to devote to his own art, Poleskie sold Chiron Press and accepted a teaching position at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. It was here that he developed his Aerial Theater, a unique art form for which he is best known. In Aerial Theater, Poleskie flew an aerobatic biplane, trailing smoke, through a series of maneuvers to create a four-dimensional design in the sky. Musicians, dancers, and sometime parachutists often accompanied these pieces. This work was very popular in Europe, especially Italy, where Poleskie lived on and off for over three years. Italian art critic Enrico Crispolti called Aerial Theater the logical extension of Futurism, and the French art critic Pierre Restany, writing in D’ars dubbed it “Planetary Art” on the scale with Christo’s installations. Poleskie’s biplane and drawings for various performances were exhibited at the Louis K. Meisel Gallery in New York in 1978.

     Twenty years later, in 1998, having reached the age of sixty, and feeling his body could no longer take the excessive G forces imposed on it by the aerobatic maneuvers, Poleskie ceased flying altogether, and sold his airplanes. Works on paper from his Aerial Theater period are in many public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Tate Gallery in London; and the Castlevecchio in Verona. Poleskie’s work has been exhibited widely. Among the cities he has had his work shown, or done performances, are New York, Boston, Washington D. C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, Toledo, Richmond, Williamsburg, San Antonio, and Miami, in the USA; London, Southampton, Loughborough, and the Isle of Wight in the UK; Rome, Milan, Bologna, Brescia, Como, Trento, Turin, Verona, and Palermo in Italy; Munich, Stuttgart, and Kassel, in Germany; Linz in Austria; Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Belgrade, in the former Yugoslavia; Moscow and Saint Petersburg in Russia; Warsaw, Gdansk, and Lodz, in Poland; Tiblisi in the Republic of Georgia; Vilinus in Lithuania; Freetown in Sierra Leone; Stockholm in Sweden; Rio de Janeiro in Brazil; Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula in Honduras; Barcelona, Madrid, and Cadaque in Spain; Locarno in Switzerland; and Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan. Since 1998 Poleskie has been devoting himself mainly to writing fiction, and more recently (2004) to digital photography. In 2000 he destroyed a vast number of his early works, and withdrew all the rest from the market. Additional information on Poleskie can be found in Who’s Who in America, (2006) and Who’s Who in the World, (2006) and on his blog, Where is Stephen (Steve) Poleskie Now?

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