If this week’s cover image by Mike Stanko looks familiar, it should.
Visiting the North Fork near Aquebogue will bring you to the Modern Snack Bar, an iconic place with its bright neon sign and upbeat ambiance. It also represents something special to Stanko—a slice of Americana. The artist paints other subjects that reflect Americana as well, such as snowy local landscapes and fields. Such images are cheerful and energetic, just like the artist himself.
How did you get started in art?
I’ve been drawing since I was a child, since I was six years old. I was happy running around with the other kids, but I also liked being by myself and drawing.
Did you have formal art training?
No. In fact, I majored in creative writing at New Paltz, which is part of the SUNY system. I remember it was a happy place in a happy town.
Did writing help you in your art?
Not really. I’m not interested in fantasy, but Americana and pop culture.
Speaking of pop culture, tell me about your interest in the Beatles.
I was the biggest Beatles fan in high school. I heard about this girl who was also the biggest fan. One day I saw someone walk past me wearing a “Yellow Submarine” shirt. I went up to her and said, “You must be the Beatles fan.” That was in the 10th grade, and she became my wife.
You and Karen have a lot in common besides the Beatles, right?
Yes. Karen studied art at the School of Visual Arts and does portraits even now. She also plays classical music on the piano. (She works with the Provost at Adelphi University.) We also travel a lot. We were recently in Cape May and Asbury Park. Talk about Americana.
How about your travel in Europe?
We’ve been to London seven times, but we just got back from Paris and the South of France. We hired a woman who lives in Provence to give us a tour and show us well-known artists’ houses.
That was a treat. How about Paris? Were you inspired to paint from what you experienced there?
Yes. It was raining one day, and then it stopped. The sun came out, and I could see the buildings’ windows and the architecture. I was inspired to paint those windows and roofs.
Where are your favorite places to visit?
New York, London, Paris and Washington, D.C., in that order. But we’ve also been to Budapest twice because I’m Hungarian. We took a trip down the Danube.
How about places here in the area?
Montauk. We go every year for a week. I grew up going to Montauk as a child, and that’s where I learned to fish.
Speaking of fish, do you like to cook?
I’m a foodie and the cook in the family; I especially like pasta and mushrooms.
I asked about food because you paint food a lot.
Food that reminds me of Americana, like cheeseburgers on a grill, although hamburgers come from Germany, and bacon and eggs.
What other images do you paint that are iconic and part of Americana?
Sneakers and the American flag.
Your sneakers are unique, believe me. You’ve also donated paintings to Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York (including a beach scene). What a wonderful thing to do. What’s your perspective on why you paint?
My images are autobiographical. I paint things that hit my heart. I appreciate everything.
Mike Stanko’s work will be on view at Art in Southold Gallery at Rothman’s, 54100 Main Road, Southold, from September 28 through December 31. For more information, call 631-765-3770.
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