Last month, Forest Hills Connection brought you up to speed on what some artists in the neighborhood have been up to. Here’s an update on another neighbor/artist.
by Lee Armfield Cannon
All summer long, Annette Polan’s Covert Autobiography exhibition has been on display at the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Polan’s alma mater, Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. This solo exhibition focuses on the process of aging and the experiences of women in the middle of life, and prominently features self portraits in addition to other forms.
“Portraiture is often the most self-expressive form of art,” Polan said of her frequent use of the form.
The exhibition’s opening in June coincided with the official unveiling of Polan’s completed portrait of the current president of the university, Nancy O. Gray.
The exhibition runs through Sunday, September 17th.
Since Forest Hills Connection last caught up with Polan, she has completed a commissioned portrait of General Wilma Vaught, USAF (Ret.), the first woman to deploy with a bomber unit and the first female brigadier general in the Air Force’s comptroller field, for the Women in Military Service Memorial.
Other commissioned portraits she has completed since are of Michael Lerner, the founder of Commonweal and a MacArthur Genius Award winner; retired Episcopal Bishop Neff Powell; and two private commissions. Polan has begun a portrait of Shanti Norris, the director of the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts.
Recently, Polan won an Art Cart grant from Columbia University’s Research Center for Arts and Culture for documenting and archiving her large body of work. The grant will provide software and the assistance of an intern to archive 1,000 pieces of Polan’s art. Archiving one’s own work is essential, Polan says, particularly because it can put the work in front of curators all over the world.
Also in the works is another exploration of aging, this time in book form. Polan is curating a collection of essays and short stories by a diverse group of professional women, including a documentary filmmaker, an author, a curator, a photographer, as well as doctors and PhDs in a variety of fields. All are in their 70s, and all have achieved their goals in spite of the obstacles they’ve encountered. Polan is optimistic the book will serve as another way for her audience to engage with questions of what aging means and how women in particular can navigate its often choppy waters.
Polan is also continuing her work to expand her nonprofit, Insight Institute, which uses visual intelligence to train professionals. She is now working with the military as well as civilian professional groups in disciplines such as medicine and law enforcement.
“It’s challenging to convince people this helps develop their observation and communication skills,” she said. However, they come around. Polan receives such positive feedback from participants that she is happy to continue the work.