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Michael and Jodie Rogoff of Shaker Heights take in Hutch Stoller’s paintings while visiting Mandel JCC.

Howard “Hutch” Stoller and Joe Polevoi have been friends for at least 52 years – years filled with many memories and good jokes. As of early September, the duo added a new achievement to their already lengthy list of accomplishments: create and display an art exhibit.

Named “Inspirations,” Stoller’s paintings and Polevoi’s photographs will line the wall in the entrance hallway of the Mandel Jewish Community Center Beachwood through Oct. 30. From tackling powerful messages of politics, freedom and hate to colorful and whimsical depictions of European cottages and flowers, Stoller and Polevoi encourage viewers to really stop and ponder the pieces and not just give them a passing glance.

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Framed and hung photos and paintings line the wall at Mandel JCC where Hutch Stoller and Joe Polevoi’s art will be displayed through Oct. 30. 

“I hope that when people see our show, they see and not just look at our work,” Stoller said. “They really see what we have created as opposed to just walking by Joe’s photos or my paintings, like, ‘Oh, that’s nice, that’s interesting or that’s colorful there.’ There’s a lot more to what Joe does and to what I do when we create.”

The exhibit came to be after Stoller and Polevoi, both members of Mandel JCC, met with Deborah Bobrow, the director of arts and culture at Mandel JCC, and asked about the possibility of showcasing their work. After working together, Mandel JCC agreed and thus the “Imaginations” exhibit came to fruition.

“It is an honor to be able to show our work here at this place that is really aggregated by a lot of people in the community and to be viewed by this cross section of people because of what the JCC means to a lot of people, not just Jewish people, but all kinds of people, black, white, Catholic, Buddhist, Indian, everyone,” Stoller said.

“Imaginations” features dozens of the duo’s creative pieces.

Stoller, 81, of Richmond Heights, has dabbled with creativity and art his entire life and describes his unique style as “moving toward as much siplicity as possible, imaginative and fun.”

“I like simple, big, powerful and some humor. It gives me a chance to express not what I see so much because I like to paint what I feel, not just what I see,” he said.

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Howard “Hutch” Stoller with his favorite piece of the “Imaginations” exhibit titled “HATE KILLS, R U A KILLER?” The painting stands 4-by-5 feet and was created in a graffiti style with black and red acrylic paints on a bare canvas. “It’s strong, it’s powerful and it has meaning,” Stoller said about his painting. “I believe in the subject matter. Hate kills, it goes back generations and is even more prevalent today. The more I see and hear what’s going on, not only in our country but in the world today, I was motivated to interpret what I’ve been hearing and seeing in my own way, in my own artistic way. I did not want to do it small. I did not want to do it very precise. I thought the message should be as strong as the message I feel it is; I thought it should be that impactful visually. I tried to get the feeling as a graffiti effect, like it was spontaneous. It’s not so much 'are you a killer?' That’s not what I’m trying to say. What I’m trying to say is hate kills. The thought of thinking hate-wise is a killer motivation, unfortunately. So this is not a painting to imply that if you hate, you are a killer, but it’s the fact that if you hate, there’s an impulse that could lead to something that tragic."

Polevoi, 91, of Pepper Pike, has also always been intrigued by expressing himself through art and photography, and he uses a special kaleidoscope attachment to help people see the world as he does.

“I don’t try to be too realistic,” Polevoi said. “I like to try things that are different, that maybe haven’t been tried yet. I may not like it, or I may find, 'wait a minute, this makes a lot of sense.' Just to try something you haven’t seen before, you either like it or don’t, but that’s apart of being an artist. I was an artist before I was ever a photographer.”

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Joe Polevoi stands with his favorite piece of the “Imaginations” exhibit titled “Freedom Partners” on display at the Mandel JCC. The photograph, taken with Polevoi’s special kaleidoscope lens attachment, depicts the U.S. flag and Israel flag intermingled. “I hadn’t seen it done quite like this way before, with the idea of the kaleidoscope vision,” Polevoi said about his photograph. “The two (nations) seem to be always together and that’s great for the world. It’s wonderful because there’s so much mess going on everywhere. This is a great tie in, all the years – It’s been 70 years since Israel was made a state but never has peace because they won’t allow it. It’s different, but it makes a statement on the marriage of the two. I want people to take away the marriage of the two literally, they’ve always been together especially when Israel was made a state. The Jews finally had a homeland for the first time in our history, and the United States has always supported them, regardless of what the president talks about.”

Despite the two sharing different tastes that help contrast their work, all the pieces match the theme of urging people to tap into their imagination that’s strongly woven within both artists’ styles.

“We all have an imagination,” Polevoi said. “The trouble is, so many people don’t use it that much. You can see (my imagination) in my work and you can see Howard’s as well because it is more contrast. We want to use something that we have in our head, and we kind of make up stuff as we go along. You can see there’s a resemblance as my stuff is more complete because I’m trained to do that and Howard is more abstract, but the end result is the same. We don’t want to just create everything that’s for real. That’s boring.”

All artwork on display is for sale. There will be an artist’s reception for “Imaginations” from 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Mandel JCC.

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