Scrolling through Mike Stanko’s Instagram feed, the usual landscape shots, food close-ups and animal pics pop up. But what distinguishes the Valley Stream resident’s social media posts is that he doesn’t need to use Photoshop or the latest filter app to enhance them. Instead Stanko’s eye-catching images are captured purely with paint.
“I get my ideas from what is right in front of me,” says the 64-year-old self-taught artist, whose many followers — on and offline — find great pleasure in his signature bold and vibrant depictions of commonplace subject matter. Whether delineating Coney Island’s famed Cyclone roller coaster or a tray of cocktail franks, Stanko’s canvasses are relatable.
“The works, like the artist himself, are incredibly charismatic and colorful,” notes Deborah Katz, curator of an exhibition of Stanko’s recent paintings at South Huntington’s Alfred van Loen Gallery from Saturday through Jan. 29. “His style combines the Americana of Norman Rockwell, as in his nostalgic portrayal of old-fashioned candy and historic buildings, with the graphic visual language of Pop art.”
Stanko’s coloring-book aesthetic, as defined by the bold outlining of his subjects, grew out of his love of drawing, an activity he incessantly engaged in from a young age. Years later, while also working the Boar’s Head delivery route owned by his father, he tried his hand at painting, encouraged by his wife, portrait artist Karen Zang. “I am what they call a ‘tubist,’” says Stanko of his practice of using fast-drying acrylic paint directly squeezed from the tube. “I don’t mix colors.”
It wasn’t long, however, before evidence of his love of contour returned, and he began to demarcate the areas of flat color he painted with a continuous black line. “It really makes the image pop,” he explains.
For some, the artist’s buoyant compositions of everyday objects and scenes may be more familiar than to others. Over the past 25 years, Stanko’s works have been regularly featured at regional venues, including the lobby of the Empire State Building, and, the artist notes proudly, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Ronald McDonald House, where they have elicited particularly positive praise.
His bright and punchy imagery has also graced a number of book and album covers, as well as Dan’s Papers, the popular Hampton’s weekly. As iconic as the publication itself, Stanko’s cover illustrations have included depictions of the classic mid-century-style signpost for Aquebogue’s Modern Snack Bar, Flanders’ Big Duck, the Montauk Lighthouse, and even an old-fashioned wood sled and a lone fish.
Regardless of their subject or season, notes Katz, the implication is always the same. “They all convey Stanko’s sunny outlook on life.”
WHAT “The Colorful World of Stanko”
WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, Monday-Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday, through Jan. 29, Alfred van Loen Gallery, South Huntington Public Library, 145 Pidgeon Hill Rd., Huntington Station
INFO Free; 631-549-4411, shpl.info
INFO free admission, 631-549-4411, www.shpl.info