In 2007, I knew Jason Polan because he had a website and an email address. A website could show a picture. It could tell a story. His showed someone who painted ants on walls and made drawings and zines and booklets.
I don't know which of his projects I'd heard of first, but he was exciting. And he was nice. We made a plan to have a show for him in Charlottesville, Virginia at a space I helped curate, and timed it so it happened the last week of May, while he was literally moving from Michigan to New York. In an email he said he'd make "As many as I can" - and that became the name of the show.
He arrived on a Friday morning with his car packed. For moving. And he'd brought a show's worth of framed drawings. Of giraffes. They were all giraffes. And the price for every piece based on how many giraffes; something like $20 + the number of giraffes. 30 giraffes in this one? $50, I think. 100 giraffes in this one? $120.
But the knockout was a thousand index cards, each with a drawing of one giraffe. I remember it was my first day meeting him IRL and we were hanging a grid of a thousand index cards with tiny pieces of white archival artists tape. For a show that same night. It filled a thirty or forty foot long gallery wall. It was spectacular.
None were the same. No order was given to which faced one way or another. When they were up, every one was worth spending a moment with. Seeing which way it was facing. Where it was looking. Choosing a favorite. Changing your mind. He and I watched this little world before people came to the opening. They'd pick one they wanted, take it off the wall, and give him a dollar or put it in a box. Little by little a whole other shape appeared. Gaps. The giraffes looking at each other over widening distance.
The next night, Saturday, he gave a workshop in the space called "How To Draw a Giraffe and Other Large Animals" He talked about art train and a little about moving. Kids came. Artists came. Grown-ups. He drew any animal anyone named. More giraffes left the wall.
On Sunday, Jason and I took a day trip to North Carolina to Lump, and I think Jason stayed friends with the folks there forever after. By Monday, I think all the framed pieces had sold, and about 200 giraffe cards were left. He told me to keep those. And then he got in his car and moved to New York.
What he did in New York, in all the years since, seemed to have the same good energy of those three days in Virginia. Drawing. Meeting people. Drawing. Giving drawings away. Drawing where you could see him. Drawing at home. Drawing at Taco Bell. Little challenges to himself in quantity and quality and essence. And to no other judge.
When those unsold giraffes came off the wall, we jokingly called them "WHAT WAS LEFT FROM AS MANY AS I CAN (dimensions variable)" —
"What was left from as many as I can."
We all know he made as many as he could. As much as he could. And what was left is a lot.
It will have to be enough. And we have to share it.
Thank you, Jason.
edit: found these photos of the install