Paul Polson

Making music, symphonic & Black

ArtsWatch Weekly: Oregon Symphony picks a new leader; we begin a Black-music column; finale for Fertile Ground

THE BIG NEWS IN OREGON ARTS THIS WEEK WAS VERY BIG: The Oregon Symphony has picked its new music director. The Austrian conductor David Dansmayr will assume the artistic post at Oregon’s largest musical organization for the 2021/22 season, becoming only the third musical director for the symphony since 1980. He’ll replace Carlos Kalmar, who led the orchestra from 2003 until this season; Kalmar replaced James DePriest, who had held the top job for 23 years. 
 

The Austrian conductor David Dansmayr takes over the top artistic spot at the Oregon Symphony. Photo courtesy Oregon Symphony Orchestra.

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Paul Polson: ‘I like to feel every place l go, I learn from it’

The Astoria artist, who has a show in Manzanita this month, has gone from designing giant inflatables to painting the landmarks of his new home

If you’ve been to Cirque du Soleil, Broadway, or any number of Macy’s parades, you might know Paul Polson’s work — a massive King Kong topping the Empire State Building, a 25-foot eagle soaring over the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium, oversized ornaments dangling from ceilings in malls all over the world.

Artist Paul Polson came to Astoria in 2018 and says he loves the small town, as well as the response to his art – and to his dog, Joey.
Artist Paul Polson came to Astoria in 2018 and says he loves the small town, as well as the response to his art – and to his dog, Joey.

Back in the day, Polson was, largely by chance, a pioneer in the world of inflatables. Big inflatables.

These days, you’re more likely to encounter him closer to earth, his oil depictions of coastal scenes hanging on gallery walls. This month, Polson is one of three artists showcased in The Gallery Presents at the Hoffman Center for the Arts in Manzanita.

The show, Feb. 5-28, also includes sculptor Chayo Wilson and landscape painter Frankie White.

Polson is fairly new to Oregon. The Wyoming native worked in a studio in Seattle’s Pioneer Square for three decades, then spent another five in Kitsap County. Seeking a fresh landscape, in 2018 he settled in Astoria, where he was lucky enough to land a downtown storefront on the river. He arrived with 2,000 pieces of artwork, including 600 large pieces, and his dog, Joey, who has attracted a following in her own right.

“It is a small town,” Polson said. “It was a good opportunity to go ahead and hang my stuff. I’ve had a really good response and have found that I get along really well with all the artists here.”

After an initial reluctance to paint Astoria’s iconic bridge and tankers, Paul Polson says he has embraced them with his own style, such as this oil, “Astoria River Walk.”
After an initial reluctance to paint Astoria’s iconic bridge and tankers, Polson says he has embraced them with his own style, such as this oil, “Astoria River Walk.”

He added that Joey, an elderly Vizsla, hangs out at the window. “She puts a grin on people’s faces when they pass by. I put a cartoon bubble right where she stands: ‘Hi! My name is Joey.’ One day, there was a cruise ship in town, and I came home and people were just crowded around the door with their cameras. Everyone says, ‘Oh, Joey’s your dog.’

“I am totally in love with Astoria.”

Initially, Polson wasn’t sure how he felt about painting Astoria. He favors landscapes and is taken by the beauty of the Oregon coastline, but he wasn’t so sure about the iconic scenes that often show up in depictions of the riverfront, history-rich city.

“When I first moved down here and saw the galleries, I was thinking the tankers, scenery, and bridge, that’s all really amazing,” Polson recalled. “But I don’t want to do that.  Everyone is doing that. I thought I really need to do my version of how this place looks to me. I really wanted to do landscapes.

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