Hot Wheels! The Artistry of Karolina Polak

The Artist at Work - Karolina C. Polak 2019

Karolina Polak, at the Boys & Girls Club Car Show, Clifton, NJ, September 2019. Photo © Grazyna Polak

Karolina Polak, a.k.a. KAR, creates luminescent drawings of cars as well as intricate paintings on actual cars. Trucks, too.

Here’s the artist’s introduction to her work: “So, to start off, you may wonder (or not at all) how I came to do what I do. Drum roll, please … hotwheels. That’s it, those little tiny toy cars are what started me at a very young age to loving anything and everything automotive. My mother, god bless her soul, says all the time ‘I should of just bought you dolls’. Those 5-packs of hotwheels were cheaper than one Barbie for us back then. But, hey, I’m not complaining now.

“After those toys, my father taught me how to change tires, and by the age of 6, I think, I was already doing engine work with him on his Caddy. That’s pretty much where this came from … The art part, well, that little piece belongs to a woman named Cathy, she lived across the hall back when I lived in Brooklyn. My guess is she saw something in me being an artist herself and she just let me explore different mediums in her apartment. The best part is to this day she still has my art work from back then. From then on I’ve been self-taught, mostly.

“The other person that helped not only with my artistic abilities but also got me through high school (which was dreadful) was Maria, my lovely and amazing art teacher that just let my mind go wherever it wanted to. To this day, she’s like my second mom.”

Now, a collection of KAR’s four-wheeled art stars … Beasty Orange, That S2000, The Rustang, Sky McLaren, Sunset Foxbody, and her personal truck – the exquisite 1993 Nissan D21, acquired for free, cherished because it is lowered and tiny, sanded down, primered white, and then painted with celestially delicious detail.

Beasty Orange © Karolina C. Polak 2020

That S2000 © Karolina C. Polak 2020

The Rustang © Karolina C. Polak 2020

Sky McLaren © Karolina C. Polak 2020

Sunset Foxbody © Karolina C. Polak 2020

Her 1993 Nissan D21 © Karolina C. Polak 2020

KAR also expresses an ominously romantic landscape, in her large, freestanding paintings (acrylic, glow-in-the dark, and oil paints). It’s a rugged place I recognize well. You hit the proverbial wall. Disconnected. Lost. Seemingly forever.

Three Paintings © Karolina C. Polak 2020

Yet resistance is not futile. You take a tip and grab some power, ultimately knowing this: we were born to live. And hot wheels rule.

All artwork © Karolina C. Polak 2020

Ms. Polak’s newest work appears at Though she now resides in New Jersey, splendidly, we still get to see each other every once in a while.

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Herstory’s Fragments: Postcards of the Space Monkey/French Kiss plus SOTVC era, 1988-1999

Whispering Invitation © Catherine Rutgers 1987 and 2020They were labors of love, deeply personal yet public, mostly designed by hand, and dependent on access to a very cool copy shop.

They were more love note than publicity as practiced in the current century. No email address, no website. They don’t tout an event, they’re valentines or happy new year or spring equinox or may day. I liked not using capital letters when you’re supposed to. I always spelled always as allways. Ragged edges, odd sizes, suggest some editions were cut by hand, on a kind-of-scary cutting board.

I wanted to connect. And I did. A few readers might even remember them.

The first year, 1988, reflected my long-term love of drawing freehand squiggles (there’s a sample above). Photocopied onto cardstock, they’re cryptic maps to a destination no longer recalled or perhaps never known. Adorned with spray paint, through a stencil and also not. Then a final touch of gold ink, from a pen with a ball bearing inside that makes a satisfying sound as it stirs up the liquid gilt.Hold On 002 © Catherine Rutgers 1988 and 2020

Season's Greetings 1988

Hold On 001 © Catherine Rutgers 1988 and 2020

1989 was an odd choice. The clip art is for “Summer,” the greeting unremarkable, and the stamp inexplicable. (Buffalo Bill, really?) Drops of silver spray paint (snow?) made it worse. But it was exciting to watch a designer friend of mine create the layout and place the text—hot wax, X-Acto knife—her profession was physically demanding.New Year Peace and Joy 1989

Stamped 1989


Three years later, I rallied back to making postcards and making them from original art, with a concept. Four corners, cut from one intricate piece. Each person received one part, though there wasn’t any way for them to know that.Original Heart 1992 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

To Be Here 1992 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

Glad 92 001 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

Glad 92 002 © Catherine Rutgers 20201993’s image reverted to collage from appropriated sources. A full-page photo of an installation by Hiroshi Teshigahara, in 1989. [1] Plus more vaguely Victorian clip art.

I don’t know what made me think this was OK. Nor could I pinpoint what event conjured Tommy James and the Shondells—but that band is always good for a shivery romance jolt, isn’t it? Crimson and clover forever.

This card also has four versions, but there isn’t much drama between them. The silver paint was applied in two brushstrokes. I had the good sense not to include a signature.Happy Valentine 1993

Crystal Blue 1993 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

1994 is irrepressibly simple and fresh.

Irrepressible Spirit 1994 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

What was used to create the type is hard to trace. There are no computer files for any of these cards. By 1989-1990, I had learned how to “word process” and was a happy explorer in the land of XyWrite. [2] This text, however, looks like Quark, which I definitely knew how to play with as of 1994, possibly earlier.

Shine On 1994 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

In 1995, I decided to tweak the “Love is …” cliché, which no doubt keeps on cropping up in a juggernaut of what are now known as “memes” though I’m not going to search to verify because I just don’t have the stomach for it. A gold-ink pen was used to add my famous squiggle and fill in two symbol boxes on the front plus place a little heart over the word “happy” on the back. The stamp, this time, is on point.

Have you noticed how gorgeous many new stamps are? If not, check them out. Maybe even send somebody something. I still pop some bills in the mail just for the opportunity to place a stamp on an envelope and hope someone, somewhere enjoys looking at it.

Love with a Twist © Catherine Rutgers 1995 and 2020

LOVE Stamp 1995

Valentine from Space Monkey 1995 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

Back to spray paint in 1996, and two different colors for the cardstock!! I also got extravagant in the message theory, with a straightforward definition of strength coupled to a not readily apparent belief that utopia is ever to be worked toward, not achieved. Soft-core anarchist in the house.

Strength Means Taking Care 1996 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

Space for Freedom 1996 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

Be Perfect 1996 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

1997’s card shows how purple paper tends to fade and there’s a lot to be said for allowing yourself to be flexible when it comes to celebrating holidays. Just a hint of clip art here, confined inside spray-painted paper cutouts. The poetry still rings true, though now through a murmur of seasons gone awry and butterflies disappearing from the planet.

Making Space Lavender © Catherine Rutgers 2020

Making Space Lemon © Catherine Rutgers 2020

Equinox Kiss 1997 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

The next to last year, 1998, was the most spectacular in every way. [3] 400 cards printed, message on the back, simple signature on the front. Took a six-sided nut and set it on a card, then sprayed it with Krylon in three colors—two fluorescent and a semi-gloss grape. All kinds of insane, lovely things happened in the mix, and it’s really, really hard to choose which ones to show. Yet I will.

SOTVC Touch One 1998 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

Sign of the Vibrating Colors (SOTVC) makes her first appearance here. Pre-postcard working notes: “What are your signals? … Zodiac Cat … Resonate.” [4]

Iron Butterfly 1998 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

Once I made the commitment to create hundreds of small paintings, Touch of Grey was a tour de force. I was determined the cards would be postmarked May 1st, and they were. Finished the night before, subwayed to the Post Office (the iconic James A. Farley Building), walked in a bit before midnight, stepped up to the window, handed them over in open-topped boxes, and the teller exclaimed, these are beautiful. They were.

Posted on May 1st 1998

SOTVC Touch Too 1998 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

SOTVC Touch All 1998 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

When 1999 rolled around, you can kind of tell I’m rolling into other things. On the verge of immersion in cyber world, actually. Now how did that happen?

Seek Grace 1999 © Catherine Rutgers 2020

Find Each Other 1999 © Catherine Rutgers 2020


[1] The hijacked photo used for 1993’s collage appears in an article by Janet Koplos, “Through the Looking Glass: A Guide to Japan’s Contemporary Art World.” I have the original pages, but there’s no magazine name and no credit for the photograph, which proves to be elusive. Fortunately, other documentation of Teshigahara’s work in ikebana abounds, for example, Sogetsu Foundation, “Hiroshi Teshigahara: The 3rd Iemoto 1927-2001,” 2010, and, especially, Sogetsu Kai Foundation, “Exhibition Catalogue: Hiroshi Teshigahara,” National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea, 1989,

[2] On the beauty of XyWrite: Amy Virshup, “The Xy Files,” Salon, August 25, 1998, I loved it for writing because there was nothing on the screen except a cursor and green or amber text shining through a black background. Seriously poetic.

[3] People who received the card in 1998 called and wrote notes … “Your postcards are beautiful; please find reason to write about the summer, fall and winter so I can get mail from you four times a year.” “I feel empowered, girlfriend.” “It will be a treasured part of my postcard collection in the rack on my wall.” “Where the blue meets the purple, it looks like the eye of a peacock feather. It’s just spectacular.” “I’m going to frame it.”

[4] If you’d like to read more about the self-identities, check out SOTVC: The Violet and Green Edition.

Postcard Box © Catherine Rutgers 2020

To everyone who is, has been and will be part of this, even if we don’t allways know how: you light up my life.

Words and images by Catherine Rutgers © 2020

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Difficult Liqueurs (have more fun with spam)

The following public service announcement is brought to you by Star-Sprung Counter-Intuitions, an extraordinarily local not-for-profit organization dedicated to the support of all things that take time, and rightfully so.

Organic Chard Detail One © Catherine Rutgers 2020

Feel over the collapse when making your messages. In magazines, something on top of the page folds up, functions much more plainly than materials that decrease in the web page. If somebody must scroll downward to view your phone or measure components, odds are pretty decent they will likely not actually look at it, significantly less simply click it.

Make sure you’re only consuming alcohol sparingly. For people beneath 65, this means you shouldn’t ingest greater than two glasses per day. If you’re over 65, this means you shouldn’t ingest several cups a day. If you’re planning to consume alcohol, try consuming red wine instead – given that it’s demonstrated to advantage wellness in little doses, as opposed to dark beer or difficult liqueur.

People who have successfully handled to repay their charges and placed away a great deal of dollars inside their price savings accounts all agree – in case your objective is always to acquire charge of your personal financial situation, environment a budget, and adhering to that price range, will probably be necessary to your ability to succeed.

Created: Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 7:30 PM
Modified: Monday, February 10, 2020, at 10:53 PM
And who knows when the spam-bots did their thing.

Images by Catherine Rutgers © February 2020

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Catalog This (Starting Year 10 of CatRutgers4Art)

New Bit by Bit © Catherine Rutgers 20202010
Bit by Bit
Urban Sky
[Digitize This]*
Blessed Be the Glue
When You Subscribe
[Method and Purpose]

IMG 2119 Corner Sky of Blue © Catherine Rutgers 20202011
Hue-Happy Forever
Party Over Here
[Dominated by the Visual Sense]
Handwritten, Typewriter, Type
[Within Straight Lines (Like a Photographer without a Camera)]Handwritten Time © Catherine Rutgers 2020
[Smell This, Please]
Altered State: In Motion
[Un-Groovy Kind of Love]
Revealing the Image Within
[Andalusian Dogged][Let the Women Out]
Guest Spot: Tom Burnett
[Objectified][Lucid Swim]
On Valentines
[Personal, Artistic, and Dogmatic]Little Wing © Catherine Rutgers 2020
Containing Fire
[Orange Ya’ Glad I Didn’t Say Banana]
Juiced Orange: The Death and Rebirth of Vinyl
[Up Against the Wall]
One Woman’s Trash
[Both Sides Now]
No Fear of Flying
Guest Spot: Samm Cohen
Interlude with a Goddess
[Wrapping It: Conclusions on Dada and Surrealism]IMG 2329 Interlude with A Goddess © Catherine Rutgers 2020[Full Steam Ahead]
Guest Spot: Jamie Kelty
[Bed, Sleeper, Bathtub]
[Building a Mystery]
Sift, Freak, Reap: Morning After
Guest Spot: Brian Olewnick
[Metal and Skin]
Good Friend Down
Guest Spot: Kristen Terrana
“Wake Up in the Morning Feeling Like P Diddy”
[Innovate, Expand, and Dance]
[Pop Objects: Banal or Sincere?]
Guest Spot: Ellena Rutsch
[I Am Nothing Without You: Audience-Activated Art]Orange 12 © Catherine Rutgers 2020[‘Stoned Moon’ Trail]
The Origins of Origins and Then Some (on the Infinite Instances book, curated and designed by Olga Ast)
24 Ecstatic Minutes: The Clear as Mud Session
Guest Spot: Carolyn Rutgers Clark
[Clear as Mud]
New Year’s Eve 2011

Experiment This © Catherine Rutgers 20202012
Street Smart
One Love
Random Image
[Rock Solid][Lust for Life]Image 2790 Unfurling Green 2013 © Catherine Rutgers 2020
A Valentine for Everyone
Sea of Joy
[On the Hypervigilant Edge of Internal Extremes]
[Geometry Bent][Bursting at the Seams of Disquiet]
Green Springs Forth!
The Art of Compost: Do you promise to funk?Am back again 1908 - Scanned in 2013 © Catherine Rutgers 2020
Oh, Those Violets Are Driving Me Crazy
Dear Dada: A Review of Maintenant 6 (Three Rooms Press)
Radiant Twigs
Beyond Perfect
You Are Here: Sultry Summer Sweeping Sweetly into Gentlest Sumptuous Night (with Cicada)Molecular Origins © Catherine Rutgers 2020
Like Trying to Wash Grease Off of Plastic with Cold Water and No Soap
Greetings and Salutations
Unnatural Nature
The Flip Side of Venus
Foot(note) Fetish
I’m Hopelessly Devoted to You: Addenda, Credenza, Epilogue (Everything Plus the Atelier Sink)
A New Beginning of Time
Home Zone

Fingertips © Catherine Rutgers 20202013
Night Moves
Serious Playground: A Time-Release Capsule of Art in the Studio
Guest Spot: Susan Scutti and
Sarah Valeri
Almost Blue
Vale o’ Right-in-Times
Cutting-Edge Domesticity and the MedicineScore One (Experiment) © Catherine Rutgers 2020 Cabinet, circa 1938
Color Studies
Will O’ the Wisp
Elastic Bridge
Perennial Love Light: The Very Cherry Edition
Ova (Part One)
Hot Fun in the Summertime
Fresh Take Intensified © Catherine Rutgers 2020And, Now, a Bit of Green
This Little Twirl
Le Retour
Longing for This
One Hundred, One Love
The Very Last Rose of 2013

Fun with Friends!
Ping Pong Mood
My Collaborative Valentine
Another Day, Another ExperimentMoving Forty-Seven © Catherine Rutgers 2020
[Slow Hand]
“How Technology, Science, and Art Are Changing Our Perception of Time” (ArcheTime at Central Booking)
Laced for New Noise (video for New Noise Continuum)
The Colors of June
The Epic Proportions of “Aliens Glyph”
Yours Truly!

Anatomy of An Illustration: Exquisite Corpse
[Uncommon Thunder’s Delectable Revamp]
Night Street v01 © Catherine Rutgers 2020Fun with Filters!
SOTVC: The Violet and Green Edition
Behind the Scene (Preparation for an Exhibit)
Sweet Fun in the Summertime!
Meet Zen and Stormy
Lush July
Extravagant Possibilities
’Tis Always the Season
Stripes! (Art for Music)(created for Loop 2.4.3)
Botanical Matter (More Art for Music)Space Dish RGB © Catherine Rutgers 2020

The Street and the Sky: Samm Cohen’s Photos of Istanbul
Double Vision circa 1893-1905
Colorfields and Folds (Ever More Art for Music)
Riding the Culver Line DreamExquisitely Arched © Catherine Rutgers 2020
OMG Blue
Beautiful Traveler: JoAnne Lobotsky’s Mixed Media
‘O’ Is for Outtake
Three Easy Pieces
Persona Conundrum
Iconic Dimension
Winter’s Lamentation (and Reprieve)

Day One (Wordless)
Sheer Color (Sunday Morning)
Tiny Dancers and the Earthsprung Star
Entered Here (Second Sunday)Some Comes Back © Catherine Rutgers 2020
Kitchen Twenty-Seventeen (Another Kind of Paint)
The Sound of Nothing (is a loud noise)(in gratitude to Lone Vein)
Some Mums (A vaguely Victorian secret language of flowers)
Zen Storm (translating canvas to screen)
Extreme Gardening (the 2013 season)Love Sweep One © Catherine Rutgers 2020
Eighth Friday (Wordless 2017)

Unconditional Love: Aunt Marian’s Handwork
Concepts for Main Street
Seemingly Distracted (images from “Everything Dies, Some Comes Back,” sound by Tom Burnett)

Fruits of a Recent Proposal
CatRutgers4Art … Welcome Home
Did you see the full moon?
The Counter-Intuitions (could be a postage stamp or as big as the sky)
And I am swimming in this …

2020 … We are here.

Words and images © Catherine Rutgers 2020
* Uncommon Thunder is not viewable at the moment, though it will reappear.

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And I am swimming in this …

I Am Swimming in This © Catherine Rutgers 2019

© Catherine Rutgers 2019

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