The Art of Lockdown

Lori Weisbart Polson, SOC/BA ’87


lockdown portraits by Lori Polson

When Lori Weisbart Polson first picked up a paintbrush, it was game, set, match. “I was nine years old and I came home and said, ‘Ma, I’m quitting the tennis team and taking art lessons,’” recalls the Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, resident.

portraits created by artists that Lori Polson represents

After working as an art director at an ad agency in New York City for more than a decade, she embarked on what she calls “a very happy career” as an art broker. Her talented stable of almost 40 painters has captured the likeness of presidents, US Supreme Court justices, billionaire entrepreneurs, and everyday folks who want to mark a special milestone. “My job is usually associated with happy occasions: honoring people or celebrating an anniversary. I love being able to connect a subject with an artist—it brings me so much joy to call them up and tell them they got a commission.”

Polson has landed a few commissions of her own for her new series of portraits depicting life in lockdown.

The paintings—of her longtime boyfriend enjoying a game of Scrabble and a glass of tequila or her 15-year-old daughter doing homework on the couch—are inspired by Alice Neel’s “slice of life” portraits. “I decided it would be fun to consider this time in history and mark how my kids—who I would literally never see if not for being locked down—were feeling in the house,” Polson says.

Soon, friends and neighbors wanted her to paint their kids too. “It’s been interesting to see how people want to depict their loved ones,” whether it’s the young woman—wiped out but beaming with pride—who ran 21 miles for her 21st birthday, or the intense boy playing video games while the family dog looks on.

“It seems like every painting has an iPhone or an iPad in it,” Polson says with a laugh. The other common thread? Each portrait is a quiet celebration of silver linings. “It’s been scary and hard, but there are so many precious moments if you just stop to look.”