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Semi-retired, artist Susan Pollins returns to her love of oil and acrylics

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Shirley McMarlin | Tribune-Review
Artist Susan Pollins of Greensburg

Susan Pollins of Greensburg has received many accolades for her artwork, including — but certainly not limited to — being named artist of the year in 1999 by the Greensburg Area Cultural Council and in 2009 by Touchstone Center for Crafts. She is a member of the Greensburg Art Center and other artist groups. An abstract painter, Pollins’ pieces are found in private and corporate collections, along with those of The Westmoreland Museum of American Art and the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art.

Also the former co-owner of Greensburg Art Supply and a longtime teacher, Pollins has taught more than 40 two-week programs in area schools as part of the SAMA Artist-in-Residence program.

Question: How do you describe your work?

Answer: I’m know to a great deal as a watercolor artist. In college I was an oil painter. I transferred to watercolor because it was more portable when I had kids in the home. I like the way the water works with the pigment to create an image and also create a feeling. I like the emotional part of it. And I like the water.

Q: Does your work have an overarching theme?

A: There are a lot of water themes in my work. I’m from Michigan – there’s lots of water. We lived on Whitmore Lake when we were in Ann Arbor. We had a sailboat and a canoe. I taught skiing, which is frozen water. I’m not an ocean person, I’m a Great Lakes person.

Q: Is it abstract or representational?

A: In teaching, I often teach still lifes or objects. Left to my own devices, I’m more of an abstract painter. I’m interested in shape and dividing the traditional picture frame, which is flat and rectangular. I tend to like asymmetry and to balance things with color, texture or line, rather than putting the subject matter in the center. I’m interested in the negatives spaces as much as the positive spaces — where the subject or forms aren’t, as much as where they are.

Q: What are you working on presently?

A: Now that I’m semi-retired I’m going back to doing oils and acrylics (like I did in college). That’s a framing thing. A traditional watercolor is done on paper and it must be glazed and matted and framed under glass. All of that is just a bother for me now.

I’m painting on gallery wrapped canvas. I paint the edges, so I don’t have to worry about a frame – or the glass. I’m using oil or acrylic on canvas and I don’t have to frame.

Q: You say you’re semi-retired. What does that look like?

A: I’m currently active on (the Greensburg Art Center) gallery committee, and we put on five shows a year. I’m active in Eastside Gallery, and we put on — I think — five shows a year. I’m part of a group called the Pittsburgh Group, and that’s a (critique) group and we have a group show every couple of years. I’ve been showing with – though I’m not a member of – Group A, which is a Pittsburgh abstract group. I’ve been exhibiting more in Pittsburgh lately than I have been here.

Q: Why is that?

A: It’s a bigger puddle. There are more professional artists — not that there aren’t professionals (in Greensburg) — and they’re both teachers and artists, so it’s been challenging to me. It’s important to be challenged.

Q: I hear that artistic talent runs in the Pollins family.

A: I have a daughter who’s a sculptor. My husband and son were blacksmiths. My other daughter is not an artist.

My husband and son have iron pieces on the gates of the Globe Theatre in London. When they were building the reconstructed Globe, (my late husband) John was very involved with the Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America, and there was an opportunity as they were building these gates – they’re called the Bankside gates and they’re about 12 feet high — the guy who designed it sent word out to the ABANA people and asked them to do something. Both of them put in drawings and they were accepted.

Like a lot of iron gates there’s a criss-cross thing at every juncture where there’s a plant or animal from a Shakespearean play. So if you ever go to the Globe, I’ll tell you where their pieces are.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter @shirley_trib.

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