'The Art of Stanko' exhibition is a colorful ode to Valley Stream


It was a full house at the Pagan-Fletcher Restoration turned exhibition gallery to showcase the work of New American painter and hometown darling Mike Stanko. The record-breaking turnout on opening night on May 3 illustrates that Stanko’s work remains prolific after decades of painting. 

Dubbed the “Norman Rockwell of Valley Stream” by some locals, Stanko has humbly shrugged off the comparison, yet there is no denying his now-signature style, which colors the world around him in bold, vibrant colors that pop off the canvas.

It’s perhaps with good reason that the exhibition was simply titled: “The Art of Stanko.” The subjects of his paintings are pulled straight from Stanko’s immediate world with an affection for the mundane from a grilled cheese sandwich to a pair of Keds sneakers. Stanko recreates these commonplace sights and objects to exude a buoyant almost carefree energy. And yes, it’s a lot of fun.

“Some of the paintings I whip up and dream up, but most of my paintings are autobiographical. They’re images of my breakfast or my sneakers,” said Stanko. “I’m like the every-man painter and people can relate to it.”

An incurable optimist, Stanko says his art is an illustrative window into how he enjoys the world, and the muse he seems to return to again and again is Valley Stream. Dozens of his landscape paintings act as a time machine, capturing iconic village landmarks and institutions for posterity — some still with us, like Ancona’s Pizza, and others etched into local lore, like the ‘Sip This’ coffeehouse.

A lifelong resident, Stanko has plenty of eclectic historical tidbits and anecdotes jostling inside his head, which he uses for creative material. But Stanko isn’t merely documenting village history through his artwork, in many ways, it reflects his family’s deep ties to the village. One painting on display, for example, was that of Wheeler Avenue Deli whose history traces back to Stanko’s family.

“My father, grandfather, and uncle built that building in the early 50s, and when I was born, I was brought to the house right next door,” said Stanko. “It was a real conversation starter at the exhibit.”

“My mother-in-law, Helen Zang, was one of the founding members of the Valley Stream Historical Society,” said Stanko. “And I know she would be thrilled to know that my wife Karen and I have taken such an interest in helping out the Society, such as with these fundraisers we participate in.” All proceeds from the exhibition went to the Valley Stream Historical Society.