Stasiuk Featured Artist at Ah Haa Gala

Stasiuk Featured Artist at Ah Haa Gala

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up,” Pablo Picasso

 Mouse Cafe, 23 X 19 X 11"

Mouse Cafe, 23 X 19 X 11″

Gepetto (of “Pinocchio” fame, in case your mother never read to you at bed time) has nothing on him.

And that’s no lie.

Multi-media sculptor and prop master extraordinaire Mike Stasiuk is blessed with an unbridled imagination and wit, reinforced by many years of teaching and collaborating with children (and adults). His figurative wooden creations, his “little friends,” are possessed of an uncanny sense of animation and character at once innocent and profound, universal and timeless. The artist’s child-like sensibility tracks with the notion of “play” (noun and verb), which comes into, ahem, play big time in Stasiuk’s life and work.

In fact, once upon a time, Stasiuk wanted to act in plays.
“I settled for using paint sometimes and being a theatrical person. The little friends I create do the acting for me.”

Stasiuk’s work is all about telling stories using props and gestures, frozen moments on the stage of life.

Mike’s work station: Found objects finding a new life

Mike’s work station. Where found objects find a new life.

While working as an art counselor at Interlocken in1985, Stasiuk hooked up with Sally Davis and Kim Epifano and wound up, for the past 24 years, making masks, puppets and visual aids for their Mudd Butts Mystery Drama Troupe, a Telluride Academy program all about bringing a total theatrical experience to young people. His signature papier mache puppets and masks, astounding variations in the sculptural syntax, help bridge the gap between the real world and theatre.

Describing Mudd Butts, Stasiuk once said:

“Kids are taught the hard work ethic necessary to produce high-quality theatre, but the learning is mixed with humor and fun, unfortunately an unusual recipe in this world.”

Learning mixed with humor and fun…The phrase also sums up Stasiuk’s fine art, found-object assemblage pieces, 30 of which are now on display at the Ah Haa School for the Arts, where he is one of two featured artists (with jewelry designer Sally Simpson) for the community arts center’s New Year’s Eve gala – and Telluride Arts’ January Art Walk.

Like Pop artist Claes Oldenburg, Stasiuk is into metaphor and the rehabilitation of the quotidian and trivial.

 A GUY WITH A SHOVEL, 21 x 11 x 10"

A Guy with a Shovel, 21 x 11 x 10″

“…His ability to animate ordinary objects and infuse them with personality and gesture is remarkable,” wrote a critic from The Bangor Daily of the recent show, (early November 2014) “Visions and Inventions,” at the George Marshall Store Gallery.

“One of the most exotic humans I have ever known. He is full of so many surprises, he never ceases to amaze and delight. No matter where he is in the world, Mike can find a leaf or a branch and turn it into a work of art,” wrote Telluride Academy founder and former director Wendy Brooks.

In short order, Stasiuk’s eye appears to take in everything and waste nothing. Everything he collects – and he collects with the fervor of a hoarder, believing it is “what you collect that makes you immortal, so keep shopping”  –  every form, image and scrap of material is put to some kind of expressive use. For Stasiuk, sculpture is not about liberating form from an inert block of material like a Michelangelo. For him, making art is a resourceful, improvisational response to found and rejected objects and confrontations with fragments of nature.

Bunny Couple, 38 X 13 X 13"

Bunny Couple, 38 X 13 X 13″

Stasiuk maintains a studio in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He has taught extensively at places like New Durham Elementary School in New Hampshire, Interlocken, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Bennington Collage, and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, where he instructs students to essentially follow his example:

Find a personal connection to your materials in order to bring meaning and a new sense of context to otherwise commonplace or discarded objects, then find out how much of the story you should tell in order to make it interesting. A key question is what have you done to appropriate an object and call it ‘yours’?”

Beyond Telluride, Stasiuk’s work is widely recognized and collected. It is the subject of books (Schiffer Found Object Art 1 and 2); the cover of the Art Guide 2015 to South Coast Maine and Seacoast New Hampshire. It is featured largely at East Coast art venues, among them: De Cordova Museum, Massachusetts; Currier Gallery of Art, New Hampshire; Noyes Museum, New Jersey; The Blue Ridge Parkway’s Folk Art Center, Asheville, North Carolina. The Clark Gallery in Lincoln, Massachusetts and the George Marshall Store Gallery in York, Maine have represented Stasiuk’s sculpture for the past 20 years.

Stasiuk’s sculpture is heavily influenced by sculptor Alexander Calder’s early circus pieces, a collection of toy figures made of wood, wire and rags – dancers, acrobats, a lion, trapeze artists, musicians, an elephant – which he played with and manipulated, giving performances in a a miniature ring for invited guests. (Calder once lived one town away from where Stasiuk grew up in Woodbury, Connecticut.)

Marco the Magician, 25 X 24 X 10"

Marco the Magician, 25 X 24 X 10″

“Michael Stasiuk constructs animated, guileless, toylike figures set alone and together who share their zesty delight in commonplace situations. Simple, prosaic daily activity and innocent pleasures become slightly madcap ceremonies. Fashioned from reclaimed, brightly painted objects, he imbues the assembled, indomitable innocents engaged in mundane playful pursuits with his highly spirited aura of optimism and ‘magic.’ The mood of zany playfulness is accentuated by a palette of primary colors and identifiable bits and pieces. He invents elementary, clearly recognizable, unabashed FUN, understanding so well that humor is a most engaging bridge of communication to each other,” wrote Philadelphia curator Gail Brown following a show at the Folk Art Center.

About Ah Haa and the Gala:

The gala and subsequent January show are fundraisers for the Ah Haa School for the Arts, Telluride’s community art center, founded 23 years ago by visionary Daniel Tucker, a book artist, as a place of personal discovery: Ah Haa is a close approximation of the Greek “eureka,” the utterance attributed to Archimedes on discovering a method for deterring the purity of gold.

Bird with a walking stick, 70 x 14 x 15"

Bird with a walking stick, 70 x 14 x 15″

Today, Ah Haa is a center of learning and culture that offers a wide variety of programs, inspiring individuals of all ages to explore, develop and celebrate their creativity.

Past board chair Josephine Fallenius came up with the idea of a New Year’s Eve Gala as a nice way to spend an evening with friends and supporters of the school when they are all in town over the holidays, raise some money for the nonprofit, but mostly promote good will and provide a venue for one or two uniquely gifted artists.

Now celebrating its 5th year, the Gala ties directly to Ah Haa’s mission: the main event is the artist exhibition, which inspires and celebrates creativity.

Past featured artists have included Bruce Gomez, Susie Billings, Judy Haas, Barbara Gilhooly, Ben Knight and Brucie Holler.

Specifically the past two years have been about choosing two artists, one from out-of-town with a connection to Telluride and a local.

The two artists chosen for this year’s event, Mike Stasiuk and Sally Simpson, also of the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art, produce very different, but very complimentary work, with a common thread about recycling and repurposing found objects. Both have collectors and admirers from diverse factions of the community, and so they appeal to a broad audience.

Gala attendees have the first choice at purchasing artwork. The exhibition, also part of Telluride Arts’ January Art Walk, will be up through the third week in January.

Mike Stasiuk

Mike Stasiuk

Why support Ah Haa?

“Ah Haa’s executive director Judy Kohin’s invitation to bring my found object art to Telluride came about through an overlap of friendship and arts programs. Judy has helped me as a Mudd Butts prop shop builder and painter over the years, and she joined Mudd Butts international in Hue, Vietnam in 2004. She visited my studio in New Hampshire a couple of years ago when I was first making wall pieces and saw the possibility of the Ah Haa connection. I said ‘yes’ to the invitation so that I could bust out of New England with this work in a community that has already shown great appreciation for what I do with cardboard and glitter. It was also a leap of learning to ship close to 30 pieces through the mail. This is my first show to open off of a freight palette.I did a fair amount of disassembling in order to ship this work,” explained Stasiuk.

About the Telluride Arts District:


Telluride Arts District logo


The Ah Haa School for the Arts, the Telluride region’s community art center, is a key player in the Telluride Arts District. 

We believe in a culture of the Arts—creativity across disciplines—and we strive to sustain, promote and expand all creative pursuits in our mountain community. Anchored on the west by the Palm Theatre, the south by the Ah Haa School for the Arts, the north by the Telluride Historical Museum and the east by the Town Park Stage, the district contains world-class exhibits, music, film, theatre, literature, architecture, design, food, and artists of all disciplines

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.