Zoe Polach —> Yellow Barn Gallery Show


While some kids know they’re born to do something from the minute they start it, senior Zoe Polach admits that this was not always the case with her and art. Although she enjoyed drawing and painting from an early age, she scoffs at the notion that she was naturally talented from the start.

“Slowly–and trust me, it’s been slow-I’ve gotten better,” said Polach, who has taken art classes at WJ since her freshmen year, in addition to outside of school art classes since eighth grade.

Polach held a show of her work at the Yellow Barn Gallery in Glen Echo, Maryland, from Feb. 28-29. She recently entered the Presidential Scholar in the Arts competition, where she got an honorable mention, and she takes figure-painting classes at the Yellow Barn twice a week for two and a half hours with the director of the gallery, Walt Bartman, who encouraged her to put together the show.

“The elder Walt Bartman…is always pushing me to put myself and my work out there” said Polach, who was also mentored by his son, former WJ teacher and current Yellow Barn and Landon School instructor Walt Bartman III. “One day last year, Bartman said to me, ‘Call up my wife and schedule a show for next winter sometime,’” said Polach. “So I did.”

According to art teacher Liz Stafford, who has known Polach for four years, her talent makes her a unique part of WJ’s art department.

“Zoe has a really wonderful understanding of space,” said Stafford. “She’s an excellent draftsmen, and she has a way of dividing up the space in really interesting and unusual ways. Her work is just magnificent. It’s really exciting.”

Although Polach loves art, she does not plan to major in it in college or consider it a potential career path.

“I’m planning to take art in college, but to major in something else –math or literature, probably,” she said.

Whether or not art is in her future, Polach is content to continue it for the time being.

“I love how difficult it is,” said Polach. “When I’m painting, I sink into a state of complete concentration. It’s both very relaxing and very tiring. I come home after my night class and I’m a complete wreck, just exhausted. Exhausted but happy.”

According to Stafford, Polach could have a future in art if she chooses.

“I think she could take her art in any direction that she wants to go,” said Stafford.



What medium of art/type of art do you prefer?

I love oils. There’s a great tactile quality to oil paint. it’s smooth, thick, expressive, smearable, scrapeable. I also like chalk pastel, because of the layering of colors and textures.


What inspires you artistically?

Art inspires me to make art. I love to look at art of all kinds, genres, periods, media. My favorite way to make art is to take a subject and ask, how can I make this interesting?


Does your work tend to favor a certain style, signature element, theme, etc?

I love to paint people. Portraits, but also bodies more generally. It’s probably the most persistent question, subject and challenge in art: what do we think of humanity, what do we think of bodies?


Who is your favorite artist?

Just one? Too hard! There are some whose influence you can see in my work, especially my recent work. Degas, Modigliani, Lucien Freud. But I also like artists who do things completely differently from anything I’ve ever thought of: Henry Moore, Willem de Kooning, Alberto Giacometti, Georgia O’Keefe. And I love Matisse and Rodin.