Polly Apfelbaum was born in Pennsylvania, USA, in 1955. In 1978 she graduated from Tyler School of Art, Pennsylvania.
Apfelbaum is best known for her large-scale floor installations. These consist of hundreds of pieces of velvet, hand-dyed in a palette of eye-popping colours and arranged in sprawling configurations on the ground. To make her woodblock prints, Apfelbaum improvises compositions from multiple blocks that are carved, inked, and placed individually. She can work with up to hundreds of blocks at a time, employing bright colours to create abstract motifs.
In 2017 Apfelbaum presented a major solo exhibition of her prints at The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C. She has also been the subject of solo exhibitions at Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles (2016); Be-Part, Waregem, Belgium (2015); Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA (2014); Mumbai Art Room, Mumbai, India (2013); Yellowstone Art Museum, Montana (2010) Carlow Visual Center for Contemporary Art, Carlow, Ireland (2009) and Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri (2006).
In 2013 Apfelbaum presented a mid-career survey at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, which travelled to Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati and Kemper Museum of Art, Kansas City. Her work is held in public collections, including the Museum of Modern of Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Israel Museum, Jerusalem and the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
Polly Apfelbaum lives and works in New York.