Polly McCann is an artist, author, speaker on imagination and the creative practice and founder of Flying Ketchup Press. Polly often draws inspiration for her colorful pieces through her research on the creative subconscious and dreams. McCann’s artwork is on display at the Shawnee branch until August 21, 2022.
Introduce yourself and describe your work.
Hi, I'm Polly Alice, an oil painter who uses imperfect stitching to show the beauty of the daily improvisational life. Aren't we all just trying to piece it together with the best we can? I've been creating art for over twenty years. My work often shows symbols, especially those that are flying or floating, because I want to inspire the energy to rise up, be whole, mended, and to be creative. I sometimes use dream imagery in my work. Some of my favorite modern-era artists are Chagall and Matisse. Right now, my painting of a griffin-phoenix bird for the Parade of Hearts is also showing in Shawnee through the beginning of June at the KC Ice Pavilion. I hope you'll check it out.
What did you have to develop, try or learn to create this artwork?
I use upholsteries and burlap as my canvas to show earthiness, my family's roots as farmers, sewers, and makers. My materials also prevent landfill waste. I took art lessons as a child at the Nelson Atkins, Then at the Art League School in Alexandria, VA. Finally, I went to get an art studio degree with an emphasis in painting and writing at Messiah University near Harrisburg, PA.
Talk a little about the “feminine values” celebrated in your work.
The sewing imagery in my work relates to the heritage of sewing assigned as women's work. When my grandmother went to college, Home Ec. was the only major they'd allow her to take. I'm still using her supply of sewing materials that she never used because she was too busy volunteering and doing work outside the home. There is still a long way to go for equal rights for women. Sometimes I think that a feminine perspective values the world with a more creative outlook. For example, outside of gender, I see this perspective as promoting a different set of values that raise relationship over power, aesthetics over utilitarianism; process over results; acceptance over control and isolation; collaboration and intuition or “spirit” over it all.
You are also a writer. How much do your stories and poetry influence your pieces? Are they interpretations of your written work?
I often make poetry about my art and vice versa. I'm now working on my fourth poetry collection, to be released in November. I'm sometimes an illustrator, and my art has been on book covers and magazines. Some day I might do more paintings about my writing. I don't know. I know that poetry allows me to be more creative and continue generating new ideas.
What is your most important artistic tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Sewing supplies are something I find myself going back to; I like to make my own canvases, so I use a staple gun to attach the sewn canvas to the supports. I also make my own gesso or sizing, the glue that protects the canvas. When I paint, I have to have a cotton rag. It helps me clean my brush and sometimes becomes the brush. I always use pastels or ground minerals (color) in all my work, whether on canvas or paper.
What books, movies and/or music have inspired you recently?
I make Spotify playlists for all my painting series. I have a bit of synesthesia, so to avoid music that feels too distracting, I like to listen to folk music that emphasizes words. I have one playlist about home; every song has the word home in it. I have a playlist where all the songs mention oceans, rivers, or water. I like to read fantasy like the Wizard of Oz series and J.R.R. Tolkein. As a kid, my favorite books were by Dr. Seuss; then, I began to read the C.S. Lewis Narnia series and Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time series. I loved Gene Stratton Porter and the Secret Garden. I still go back to those books today. Many of my paintings are based on studies I've done on scripture, especially the creation's story from Genesis and the Beatitudes from the book of Matthew in the Bible. I like to read really old spiritual books about saints, and I'm writing several books on prayer as well as some children's books and poetry books.