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Photos courtesy of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society
Photos courtesy of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society
World-famous Hungarian-born artist Stephen Csoka lived for nearly 30 years in Woodhaven.

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 U.S. and abroad, including the Brooklyn Museum, The Met, The Whitney and the Library of Congress.

Respected in art circles around the globe, Mr. Csoka was also a resident of Woodhaven for almost 30 years, creating many of his pieces from the studio in his home on 87th Street, just north of Jamaica Avenue. He lived a long and fruitful life, passing away in 1989 at the age of 92.

A selection of Csoka’s work, much of it created while he lived in Woodhaven, will be on display at the Shelter Rock Art Gallery in Manhasset, Long Island, from April 30 through June 6.

The exhibit kicks off with a reception on Sunday, April 30, from 1 to 3 p.m., where you will be able to meet the artist’s son, Frank, who was also an art professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and was 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.”

Although Stephen Csoka compiled an extensive body of work, the exhibit will feature touching pieces from a collection called “Marital Milestones,” annual gifts from the artist to his wife, Margaret.

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

One of the anniversary gifts that will be on display 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.

One of Csoka’s Marital Milestones. This one depicts the family’s move into their house on 87th Street in Woodhaven.

“When my father came from Hungary he was rather well-known there; he had won many awards. But when he came to the United States, there was very little interest in looking at a foreign artist’s work,” Frank said. “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 you also see a stork representing the pending arrival of their third grandchild, and son Frank graduating with honors.

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

Stephen Csoka was a remarkable artist who possessed many other skills and created a wide variety of styles of art. One of the skills that he excelled at was the creation of etchings on copper plates. Once the copper plate was prepared, Csoka would cover it with a very thin layer of wax.

He would then etch the drawing he wished to create into the wax. Eventually, the plate would be submerged into acid where the wax would protect the portions of the plate that were not etched (basically, the white portions of the final product). Once the acid etched grooves into the plate, and it was cleaned, ink could be pressed onto the plate and once properly cleaned, prints on paper could be produced. These were generally limited editions, and numbered, making some of them rare and quite valuable.

One etching that Stephen Csoka created and won an award for was a detailed and chaotic street scene all created within the tiny space of a few inches.

These days, we don’t always take the time to get to know our neighbors. The shame of that is that one of your neighbors might be a very talented artist. For many years on 87th Street in Woodhaven, that artist and neighbor was Mr. Stephen Csoka.

 

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