- Caleb Kenna
- Zach Pollakoff
Artists pictured at work in their studios often share a striking similarity: Their pants are coated in splotches and swirls of paint.
"It's such an iconic artist look," said Charlotte-based artist, musician, DJ and advertising professional Zach Pollakoff. In photos of famous people such as Jackson Pollock and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as artist friends on Instagram, Pollakoff noticed this recurring, incidental detail and was intrigued.
"It's sort of like their work is also on their pants," Pollakoff said.
He has a long history of curating events that straddle disciplines, disrupt expectations and juxtapose disparate elements. A Brooklyn transplant, Pollakoff moved with his wife and two children to Vermont at the start of the pandemic.
After getting settled, Pollakoff felt a renewed itch to connect creative communities through multidisciplinary events. For his first Vermont show, he enlisted a group of local and nonlocal artists to play with the idea of battered painter's pants.
With hardly any instructions or parameters beyond some notes included in a PDF, he sent each artist a pair of brand-new white Dickies painter's pants to use as a canvas. They interpreted and filtered the prompt through their own artistic lenses, resulting in a vibrant collection of work.
The pants will be displayed at the Painter Pants Show, a daytime, outdoor event on Saturday, July 17, at Pollakoff's rental property in Charlotte. Pollakoff, along with DJs Taka and Metaspirit, will spin tunes at the open-air gathering.
Pollakoff, 36, is an executive producer with Heavy Duty Projects, a creative firm that focuses on music composition and supervision in advertising. He's also the founder and co-owner of Twosyllable Records, an experimental label, and makes avant-garde music under the name Narrow Shoulders. But his biggest passion might be creating events.
"I love house shows and shows in unique locations ... and places you feel like you shouldn't be," said Pollakoff.
For years, he organized a DJ-centric series of house shows in New York City called One Month One Week One Day, yearly proceeds from which were granted to artists. He also coproduced Likeminds, "a well-curated weekend of speakers, music, workshops, food, and drink," according to its website, that ran from 2016 to 2019 in upstate New York. Pollakoff plans to base Likeminds in Vermont. With a federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant in hand, his team is scouting locations and aims to launch in October.
Pollakoff has a pair of Dickies that he'd been slowly working on, an accidental prototype for the show. He claimed he's "so not a talented artist," but his doodling got him thinking about how the concept could take shape in others' hands.
- Caleb Kenna
- Pants by Ross Simonini
"The idea is partially rooted in customization culture," Pollakoff explained, noting the work of style icons such as fashion designer Emily Bode.
The house he rents has its own artistic legacy. It belonged to painter Maize Bausch, who died in May at the age of 96. In the late '60s, her second husband, architect Carl Bausch, designed the house, an adjacent art studio and a boatbuilding shop, which no longer stands. Carl and his designs were profiled in the New York Times Magazine in 1978, 10 years before he died.
The house and studio are prime examples of midcentury modernist architecture. Angular and asymmetrical, they have a bespoke look and feel. Ensconced by a lush thicket and overlooking a spectacular westerly view of the flatlands behind Mount Philo, it's a gorgeous, inspiring spot.
In honor of the Bausches, Pollakoff dubbed the property Bauschaus VT, a nod to the couple and the famed 20th-century German art school, Bauhaus.
"I know both Carl and Maize would approve and get a real kick out of this to see some kind of continuation of artistic expression," said Nick MacDougal, Maize's son. He said that Pollakoff's family is the first to occupy the property since Maize relocated to a nursing facility several years before her death.
Over the last few weeks, finished pants have been rolling in. Participants took many approaches. California-based artist Ross Simonini used watercolors. Married couple Robin Cameron and Gary William Webb sewed patches on theirs.
Burlington artist Corrine Yonce, whose pants are shellacked in thick, dark paint, said she wasn't quite sure what to make of the concept when Pollakoff first approached her.
"I do mostly figurative work," she said by phone. "I was thinking about ... the conversation between the forms of putting on the pants and the pants themselves ... and didn't try to overthink it too much."
Since she often works on nontraditional objects, such as shower curtains and bath mats, she felt comfortable working with a garment.
"My [art studio] visitors didn't really bat an eye to see the pants stapled there among other eclectic items," she said by phone.
Others approached the project with a bit of trepidation. Despite the fact that her mother, Katharine Montstream, is a painter, Burlington artist Charlotte Dworshak only started painting in the last year. She's said she's even more of a novice with unorthodox materials.
"This is a cool way for me to reflect on my own work — but, like, [to] turn it into something else," said Dworshak by phone, noting the need "for artists to step out of the normal bounds that we give ourselves sometimes."
All of the pants will be for sale at prices ranging from $150 to $500. Proceeds will go to various charities, including local organizations such as Winooski Mutual Aid and national efforts such as GiveWell's Maximum Impact Fund.
But the ultimate fate of each pair of pants is unclear. An intentionally unanswerable question is: What is their actual function? Since many can't be run through a washing machine, it's unclear whether they're meant for everyday use or to live behind a metaphorical velvet rope.
"I would be OK with them existing in either space," said Yonce.
Though he and his family will soon move into a new house not far away, Pollakoff envisions a few more shows at Bauschaus VT before they leave it.
"I think this house has a certain magic to it," he said. "That's really hard to find."