BY HOLLY JENNINGS
This December, there are a lot of bright-eyed dreamers waiting impatiently for one specific day- a day they will come together with friends and family to celebrate, eat together, and maybe even dress up as a Sith Lord. (A week later, they might also celebrate some holiday called Christmas.) If December 18th means more to you than “only 7 more shopping days,” you will definitely appreciate the art of Dave Pollot, a self-taught painter who turns lonely thrift store art into fantastical pop-cultural parodies that appeal to the kid in all of us.
I was born the same year Star Wars came to the big screen, so having grown up with Luke, Han, Leia, and a bunch of droids, I am especially drawn to Dave’s painting “Marina.” In it, an Imperial Star Destroyer emerges through wispy clouds and hovers over a weather-beaten marina. I can easily picture this piece in my living room, visitors admiring it above my couch, their brows furrowing as they think to themselves- hold up. Is that an Imperial Star Destroyer? Why is there an Imperial Star Destroyer in this painting? And what is she doing with it in her living room?
Dave does not just paint Star Wars parodies. In one of his paintings, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley soar over a Thomas Kinkade-like setting in the Weasley’s flying automobile. In another piece, a weeping angel from an iconic Dr. Who episode stands in front of a blacksmith shop, where a white horse peers at it dubiously. Dave has expertly altered each painting so that it seems as if these pop-cultural references have always lived on these canvasses.
Dave’s amusing spoofs have garnered him fans across the globe. Currently, he has over 29,000 followers on Instagram and over 26,000 fans on Facebook. What was initially a quirky hobby has turned into a full-fledged business. A software engineer by day, Dave spends his evenings painting. He says his two vocations balance “the left and right side of my brain.” His wife, Becca, runs their thriving Etsy store and takes care of the business side of the enterprise, marketing the work, signing them up for art shows across the area, and even locating previously-used canvases for Dave. In fact, Becca is the reason Dave began repurposing thrift store art in the first place.
Dave has been painting since childhood, when his father dabbled in Bob Ross-style painting. A Palmyra native, Dave began painting, too, and received a bit of “formal” education during his high school years. Dave also enjoyed math, and pursued computer programming in college. He didn’t take up painting again until his adult years, though he only produced about one painting per year. However, Dave was becoming bored creating what he called “traditional architectural paintings.” In 2010, Dave met Becca, a Palmyra native with an entrepreneurial spirit and love of second-hand objects.
Soon after Dave and Becca started dating, Becca began dragging Dave along on her thrift-store shopping ventures. On their journeys, they would often come across abandoned art and would joke it with one another about it, imaging how the canvas would look if Dave took a paintbrush to it. Then one day, Becca brought Dave a print from one of her excursions. “Do something with this,” she said. So he did. Soon, Dave and Becca they were actively looking for thrift-store paintings they could upcycle into original Dave Pollots. The first one featured a “silly little monster” from Dave’s head, but soon he was painting stuff he loved while growing up: characters from Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Super Mario Brothers, Legend of Zelda, and other “random geeky pop culture.”
After the Laughing Squid, an art, culture, and technology blog, showcased some of his work, news about Dave’s “geeky” art spread quickly. A feature article on Instagram gave him even more exposure. Becca, who has taken care of the logistics of the business from the beginning, became overwhelmed trying to juggle the business with her day job. So, she quit day job, and began managing Dave Pollot Art, LLC, full time. Becca runs their bustling Etsy shop, where they sell Dave’s original paintings, limited edition prints, canvas prints, and Christmas cards.
Dave believes people are drawn to his work in part because they are nostalgic for things from their youth, but also because they enjoy just laughing at something. His work takes a tongue-in-cheek jab at art that takes itself a little too seriously. Not surprisingly, Dave’s approach has garnered criticism from a select few who argue Dave is “ruining art.” Sensitive to this complaint, Dave avoid working on original oil paintings. Instead, he searches for reproductions and mass-produced art out of respect for other artists. Every piece he been languishing in a thrift store. Each provides him with a new challenge as he carefully adapts the style of the original artist when painting onto the canvases. He finds that matching the colors and the background of the paintings is much more difficult than composing an original piece.
Dave is just wrapping up a busy season of art festivals and shows, which have taken up most weekends since the weather turned warm. (His most recent exhibition took place during The Strong Museum’s “In Another Galaxy” weekend, a science fiction extravaganza that drew crowds both young and old.) This year, he has traveled as far as San Diego’s Comic Con, and as close as Rochester’s own Clothesline Festival. After an art convention in Geneseo early in the new year, Becca and Dave may be able to have an actual Saturday night out on the town, sans Slimer, Darth Vader, or Voltron.
Meanwhile, the couple has a basement full of thrift-store art waiting to be improved upon. Most evenings, you can find Dave at home with a craft beer in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. Except, perhaps, on December 18th, when local theaters might just provide Dave with new ideas for art that any sci-fi geek would love to hang on their walls.