Memory Lane



Portrait of an Oakdale Artist

In Chapter 31 of Memory Lane, we spoke with Rhoda McManus and Sallie Kachel about the Artist Colony in Oakdale. During our conversation with them, they mentioned that there are still artists living in our area. We decided to interview a contemporary Oakdale artist to explore his life and also to learn what it is about the local environment that has been nurturing or inspirational to him during his artistic life. Mario Politi, an artist who has been an Oakdale resident for 45 years, agreed to sit down and have a conversation with us to discuss various aspects of his life, including his experience in the United States Navy during the Korean War and his later life as an artist.

Mario Politi grew up in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, where he attended Lafayette High School, which for decades after it opened in 1939 was considered “a gem of a neighborhood school.” At his 1949 Lafayette High School graduation, Mario received the St. Gaudens Medal for Excellence in Art. After graduating from high school, with the Korean War looming, Mario put his art education on hold, and enlisted in the United States Navy. He was assigned to a position as a radar technician on board the USS Tarawa. When his military service was completed, he enrolled in the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California, where he spent three years. However, because his wife was expecting their first child, they decided to return to New York to be close to family. After relocating to Massapequa, Mario commuted by train to the School of Visual Arts in New York City to continue his art education. He received a certificate of art from New York State, and after retiring he became a substitute teacher for the Connetquot, Blue Point, and Sayville school districts.

Mario is a member of the Wet Paints Studio Group, Inc., a non-profit organization of artists that meets weekly in Sayville, New York. The group, which has been in existence for 69 years, provides workshops, demonstrations, and networking opportunities for local artists. Mario explained how belonging to Wet Paints has helped him to become more disciplined in his art work. Although Mario is 87 years old, he has no plans to retire from his artistic endeavors, and he continues to create and show his work. He often attends the Thursday night car shows on summer evenings in the Chase Bank parking lot in Oakdale, to display and sell his work. His passion for art continues with full enthusiasm and inspiration.

Mario Politi Interview