Michael Polakowski began his studio practice in 2016 in Detroit, MI. In the first few years of his career, and throughout his upbringing in the Midwestern United States, he often felt like he was missing out on a sense of clarity that only existed somewhere else. His work came to focus on how mental health frames and contextualizes our view of the world, often using windows or other visual portals to represent the boundary between our present lives, and the seemingly far-off idealized world. Polakowski thinks of each painting as an opportunity to expand upon an ongoing narrative within his work, a narrative where the protagonist is grappling with finding a sense of self, maintaining presence in their environment, and connecting to the world around them. However, these abstract ideas are usually depicted in scenes like stolen cars abandoned in a river-bed, or harrowing tales of a lone explorer lost in a metaphysical desert. With his work, Polakowski is always trying to strike a balance between “heaviness” and “lightness.” That’s why, at first glance, his work is vividly colored and populated with inviting imagery. It’s only through further investigating the connection between the images that the deeper narrative surfaces.
Detroit offered Polakowski a lot of unique opportunities as an emerging artist, whether that be his first residency with Red Bull House of Art or his most recent mural completed in collaboration with the Detroit Institute of Arts. His work has been recently included in group shows in London, New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong.