John Stango and the business of pop art 

Art Whore

John Stango's collection of vibrant paintings include Americana ("July Flag," detail), animation-inspired, and abstract works

Images by John Stango/courtesy of SCOOP Studios

John Stango's collection of vibrant paintings include Americana ("July Flag," detail), animation-inspired, and abstract works

A fast-talking former stand-up comic from Philadelphia, John Stango has been painting for more than 20 years. After graduating from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philly, he initially worked as a visual merchandiser for Macy's and Bloomingdales. Earning minimum wage behind the scenes at the high-end department stores, he got a little too familiar with the fickle world of fashion.

Seeking new inspiration, he began making silk-screened T-shirts in his mother's basement when he was in his twenties. He traveled from Philly to New York City to pitch his line to retail buyers, where his natural charm opened doors. Before long, he found himself scrambling to create enough shirts to fill department store orders.

"The rag trade is really tough," he says. So he ditched the T-shirts to paint full time. "With paintings you become more of a rock star," he explains. "Like the musician who gets asked to play the same songs over and over again, I get bored with my Audrey Hepburn paintings." But he's also a realist who knows that his fan favorites pay the bills.

From Obama to Marilyn Monroe to Batman, the large-scale Americana-style acrylic paintings range in subject matter. Spider-Man and the Statue of Liberty compete for attention within the same frame. Claiming to be like a chameleon or a whore, or maybe a cockroach, Stango says he always keeps working. From sports stuff (for man caves) to Absolut Vodka commissions to American flags and flowers, he paints what looks cool and what will sell. All jokes aside, this pop artist has a solid fan base for a good reason: His images are colorful, fun, patriotic, and sexy.

Stango is interested in the juxtaposition of different elements, like The Cat in the Hat and a bottle of vodka or Clint Eastwood and Versace. These clever combinations reflect the artist's humor and willingness to look at iconic images in a new light.

A prolific artist, Stango says he makes a painting a day. His recent series depicts glamorous, sexy stewardesses in thick brushstrokes and vivid colors with saucy titles like, "The Stewardess, Playgirl After Dark." Another reads, "The Stewardess, It Was Love at First Flight." Stango's fiancee has worked as a flight attendant for 20 years, and he knows firsthand the gritty reality of the job. His stewardesses remind us of the age-old glamorous stereotype, and his tongue-in-cheek commentary ("The Stewardess, Horizontal Hostess") offers a new way of looking at familiar images in his signature lighthearted style.

"The artist's energy is contagious and as soon as we met I felt like we've known each other for years," says SCOOP co-owner Colleen Deihl. "I instantly fell in love with his 'Audrey' paintings, and we are now excited about his new Stewardess series debuting at SCOOP. There is a good vibe coming from his brightly colored and heavily textured paintings of familiar iconic images."

Stango has traveled far from the humble origins of making T-shirts in his mom's basement. His passion for making art is evident in the work, and his chameleon sensibility will surely win him a Southern following. Bring your checkbook when you visit SCOOP— Stango's pieces, starting at $400, were made to go home with you.


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