BY SAMANTHA WANDERER
Queens-born Michael Gianakos has been intentionally burning his artwork for seven years now. That’s because he practices a specific form of art called pyrography, which is the centuries-old art of burning a design on wood.
He creates his art differently than most pyrography artists, though. Gianakos started his woodburning in the conventional way, with a soldering iron, but it was sloppy and he thought he could do better. So, to create more detailed works, he picked up a blowtorch and created a unique method that suited him.
Since then, Gianakos has created a wide array of designs, from comic book-inspired pieces to detailed skulls. His favorite works, though, are ones that portray the human body and hands.
Gianakos’ work is currently on display at the Red Wall Gallery at Resorts World Casino in Jamaica and will be throughout November. In December, his art will move to Industry Makers Lounge in Huntington.
“They’re doing a great thing there with local artists supporting other local artists,” Gianakos said of Resorts World.
For Gianakos, receiving this support of his art is key. He has seen a world where some galleries pick and choose who they want to feature. What he really cares about is that his art is somewhere where it is appreciated.
“I want it to find a happy home,” he said.
Whether that be a gallery like the two he is currently working with, a youth center, or another building, Gianakos said that he just wants people to appreciate and enjoy his work.
This sentiment stems partially from his experience in the art community. Gianakos began drawing and creating art as a high school student in Flushing. When he graduated, he chose to go to art school, but it wasn’t quite what he expected.
“I didn’t feel like my art was being supported,” Gianakos said.
So, he ended up switching his life plan. He stumbled upon nonprofit work as he was trying to figure out what else he did well and began working with under-resourced communities, specifically with homeless youths and “all-around youth development to create generational change.”
Finally, years after he put down the pen in art school, Michael picked up the blowtorch and started the work he does now. When deciding what kind of design to pursue, he was very conscious of the culture of comparison he felt in art school.
“I never liked how people in the art world are compared to each other,” Michael said. “No one else was doing [this art], so I couldn’t be compared.”
Today, Gianakos is combining his passion for art with his nonprofit work. He said hopes to use the “arts as a vehicle for social change” in his community.
Even though he now lives in Long Island, he recognizes the profound impact growing up in Queens has had on him and his work.
“The diverse communities in Queens and the cultures inspire,” Gianakos said, “Growing up in Queens has been an inspiration to my art.”
To the artists in Queens or anywhere in New York and beyond, Gianakos has some words of advice.
“There are a lot of us out there who are trying to use art as a vehicle, use it as a voice, keep going and keep trying. Don’t try to be in some fancy gallery, keep it in your community, keep it in a place that will value it,” he said.
Gianakos’s art will be on display at the Red Wall Gallery at Resorts World Casino in Jamaica through the end of November and at Industry Makers Lounge at 344 New York Ave. in Huntington starting Dec. 7.