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 January of 1959, while he was still in college. These large paintings were in the abstract expressionistic style. They can be seen in the photo above.
After graduation Poleskie was employed briefly as an insurance agent and commercial artist near his home in Pennsylvania before moving to Miami where he worked in a screen-printing shop, a skill that he had taught himself from reading a free booklet given out by the Sherwin-Williams paint company. After only three months at this shop, designing and printing billboards, Poleskie left for the Bahamas and Cuba.
His next full-time 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 after only one year, Poleskie traveled to Mexico and California, before returning by way of Canada.
In 1961 Poleskie moved to New York City, where he rented a studio on East 10th Street near Tompkins Square. He 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 was then 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, Larry Rivers, Roy Lichtenstein, 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 figures 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.
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 learned to fly, and later developed his Aerial Theater, a unique art form for which he is best known.
In Aerial Theater, Poleskie flew an aerobatic bi-plane, trailing smoke, through a series of maneuvers to create a four-dimensional design in the sky. Musicians and dancers on the ground, 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. During this time Poleskie also flew in numerous aerobatic competitions, even winning the Canadian Open Aerobatic Championship.
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 two 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; the Castlevecchio in Verona, and the Caproni Museun in Trento, Italy; The Kuntsveirn, in Kassel, Germany, and The State Museum in Lodz, Poland.
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; Varna in Bulgaria; Hong Kong in China; and Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan.
Since 1998 Poleskie has been devoting himself mainly to writing fiction, and has published five novels and numerous short stories. More recently, since 2004, he has worked with digital photography, and has been in several shows in New York City. Examples of these photographs can be found scattered about this web site.
Additional information on Poleskie can be obtained from Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who in the World, and in a Wikipedia entry linked from the sidebar.
Poleskie in Poland
* * * A Poleskie Poster from Chiron Press
Some International Exhibitions
DURING THE YEARS FROM 1972 TO 1989 STEVE POLESKIE created four-dimensional performances in the sky. He called these events, in which Poleskie flew an aerobatic biplane trailing smoke through a series of maneuvers, sometimes accompanied by music and dancers on the ground, “Aerial Theater.” The smoke was made by injecting oil into the hot exhaust. One formula for “smoke oil” called for diluting recycled motor oil with diesel fuel.
In May of 1978, Poleskie did a performance in Washington DC, as part of an international art festival held at the Washington Armory. As these performances included what are called “aerobatic maneuvers” it was necessary to obtain a waiver from the FAA before Poleskie could do them. He flew over the Anacostia River, abeam RFK Stadium. The festival spectators were bussed from the armory to the parking lot of the stadium to watch as close as possible. The folks on the other side of the river just sat on their stoops, or rooftops, and looked up. The reason for Poleskie flying over the river was that it is illegal to perform aerobatic maneuvers over occupied buildings. If Poleskie should crash it would be only be him that would be harmed.
A Large Print & Some Paintings from the 1970s
A Flying Art Gallery
. . . but we must cultivate our garden.