A unique exhibit will be mounted at Duck Pond Gallery in Port Ewen this weekend in the colorful work of Andrew Potolsky, which includes mounted and framed freehand drawings, augmented with computer graphic applications and featuring the evolution of his signature character Comet. And if “Outsider art” is defined as being work produced by people who have not been culturally indoctrinated or socially conditioned, operating outside the fine-art system of things and often as a sort of private theater for personal self-expression, then the term might apply to the artwork of 21-year-old Potolsky. Deaf at birth and later diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome – each a condition that could challenge one’s social ability – Potolsky has been drawing pictures since he was a toddler.
With three siblings, one who is also deaf, Potolsky’s communication skills were grounded in sign language. “We found out that he was profoundly deaf early on,” says his father, Sheldon Potolsky. “And even before he attained sign language at three years old, he’d draw pictures to express himself.”
His involvement with the medium developed over the years, and after examples of his art were shown at the Asperger’s Syndrome Treatment Center in Guilderland, the Ulster Lions’ Club voted to give the young artist a laptop with Photoshop already installed. For four years, Potolsky has spent hours each day drawing, scanning images into his computer and augmenting them. He has learned Flash and Illustrator in the process, produced comic strips and continues to add to his skill set. “He’s totally self-directed and motivated to work. He doesn’t sit around and waste time.”
The elder Potolsky comments on how social media are used by young people with Asperger’s Syndrome, how they frees them from the intrusive quality of more direct social interaction and how the Internet has “leveled the playing field for somebody who is profoundly deaf.” He says, “The Internet has been a godsend for him. He’s made many good friends, and has collaborated with them on art projects. They e-mail work back and forth until they have a finished project. Andrew communicates with friends when he wants to, on his own terms.”
When asked what the young artist thinks about the upcoming exhibit at Duck Pond, his father says that he’s excited for this opportunity to showcase his work. Although his reaction to having a show was subdued, he told his father, “I’m excited, but I don’t show it like other people.” He is aware of his own syndrome, his father says. “I’ve been working with him to choose pictures and get them framed. Once it all comes together and he actually sees it, he’ll get the full impact.” Meanwhile, Potolsky is learning to sew in order to make his characters come alive in a more physical form.
On Saturday, January 7 an opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Potolsky’s work will be on exhibit from January 7 through January 28. Duck Pond Gallery in the Esopus Library is located at 128 Canal Street in Port Ewen. For hours of operation and other information, call (845) 338-5580 or visit www.esopuslibrary.org.