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Carrboro ArtsCenter show captures ‘The Piercing Gaze of Royalty’


Michael Polomik’s depictions of humans ride the line between corporeal and divine.

Polomik’s work in his new show, “The Piercing Gaze of Royalty,” is on display in the Nicholson Gallery at the Carrboro ArtsCenter through the end of February. It depicts both paintings and drawings by the artist with one central theme in mind: the human condition’s attempt to reach a divine state.

Polomik, who grew up in a religious environment, said that he was exposed to biblical paintings of the human figure while he was growing up, which depicted humans trying to reach divinity, or a higher status.

“A lot of what I pay close attention to is classical realism paintings, mainly because they depict humans as becoming something greater than themselves,” he said.

This was the inspiration behind the conception of his characters, many of which are perpetually in a state of flux between being worldly and divine.

“I want to compare their status to the process of bettering themselves,” Polomik said. “I think of them as becoming divine, like in a transformative state.”

Polomik said that the title, “The Piercing Gaze of Royalty,” is representative of the main theme behind his work, which involves human beings becoming something bigger than themselves.

Heather Gerni, gallery coordinator at the ArtsCenter, was responsible for organizing the exhibit. Gerni said she admired the fantastical quality behind Polomik’s art.

“It has a surreal quality to it that is very interesting, kind of like a dreamlike quality.”

The exhibit primarily shows Polomik’s works on paper — some of which are drafts and sketches. One particular collection, “Banyan Anatomy,” is a series of drawings tying the elements of the Banyan tree to the human figure.

“They root back into the ground and become other trees,” Polomik said.

“It’s kind of like a connected family, but it’s sort of like one big organism. And I thought that that was really interesting and provided a lot of possibilities to relate to the human life.”

Polomik’s work has reached communities outside of the Carrboro area, as well. Leila Cartier, curator at the William King Museum in Virginia, has previously exhibited Polomik’s work. Cartier is aware of the defining characteristics of his artwork.

“He has enormous skill as an artist, and viewers can spend a lot of time with his work to look and see where the narrative unfolds,” she said.

For Gerni, artists like Polomik choosing to exhibit their work benefits the Chapel Hill and Carrboro art scene.

“I want to show the community how many amazing artists that we have here locally,” she said.

Polomik said he draws heavily from nature, and that constructing a story around nature inspires others to analyze the environment around them.

“The primary topic of my artwork is about paying close attention and analyzing your world,” he said. “In that process, there is an ability for us to really come to know our world and if we do, that gives us a lot of power, and it enriches our lives.”

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