Lecture to examine Woodhaven painter
by Ed Wendell
Apr 19, 2016 | 3917 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Artist Stephen Csoka, a 30-year Woodhaven resident, shows  one of his works.
Artist Stephen Csoka, a 30-year Woodhaven resident, shows one of his works.
Another one of Woodhaven artist Stephen Csoka's works.
Another one of Woodhaven artist Stephen Csoka's works.
Artist Stephen Csoka was born in Hungary in 1897 and trained at the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. In 1934, he moved to the United States with his new wife, Margaret, and over the next few decades his paintings and etchings won many awards.

He taught art for many years, both at Hunter College and at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and today his work can be found in the permanent collection of over 34 museums both in the United States and abroad, including the Brooklyn Museum, The Met, The Whitney, and the Library of Congress.

Stephen Csoka was also a resident of Woodhaven for almost 30 years, creating many of his pieces in his home studio on 87th Street just north of Jamaica Avenue. Csoka’s work will be the subject of a free lecture at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27, at Emanuel United Church of Christ at the corner of 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard.

The lecture will be given by his son Frank, who was also an art professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and a longtime resident of Woodhaven. Frank compiled his father’s work together in a beautiful book entitled “Endless is the way leading home: The art of Stephen Csoka,” which can be purchased through Amazon.

One of the highlights of the presentation will be pieces from a collection called “Marital Milestones,” annual gifts from the artist to his wife Margaret, which will be displayed next year in a show in the city.

“He gave my mother a drawing or a watercolor painting every year on their anniversary,” his son explains. “And it would depict the important things that happened to them in the previous year of their marriage.”

One of the anniversary gifts is from 1963 depicting the family’s move to Woodhaven. In it, the family is shown working together on the new house, which needed plenty when they bought it.

“When my father came from Hungary he was rather well-known there, he had won many awards,” he said. “But when he came to the United States, there was very little interest in looking at a foreign artist’s work. So for the first seven years that he was in this country he was actually a house painter.”

In it, you see the artist climbing up a ladder to paint their new home and a stork representing the pending arrival of their third grandchild, as well as son Frank graduating with honors.

Starting in 1935 and continuing throughout their marriage of over 50 years, this collection is a unique visual autobiography that allows the viewer a very personal, and at many times humorous, glimpse into the life of an artist and his family.

Another piece of Csoka’s work is a fascinating representation of the Forest Park Carousel. In 1966, the original carousel burned to the ground and the artist, living just a few blocks away, used the charred wreckage as the subject of a painting.

The presentation later this month will not only include that painting, but will include a photograph and sketches of the devastation, giving us an opportunity to see how this piece of art developed.

“I’ll be bringing a small painting, my father’s oil sketch done on location,” Frank said. “The finished painting is quite large and you will be able to see how his mind worked and the changes he made to turn it into a painting.”

So if you are interested in adding to your knowledge of Woodhaven’s history, we look forward to seeing you at this free lecture on Wednesday, April 27, at 1 pm. Refreshments will be served.

If you are unable to make any of our weekday presentations, please keep in mind that we do meet at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at the Avenue Diner where we look at Woodhaven’s past through old photographs and old news articles.

The next evening meeting of the Woodhaven Historical Society will take place on Tuesday, May 3. We hope to see all our potential Woodhaven Historians at one of these events in the very near future.

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