Over the summer, curious creatures have popped up on the North Fork, seemingly overnight, in front of businesses and a few homes. Some of the colorful, often spotted, figures appear alone, while others stand in groups like visitors from another world.
Since about 2011, they’ve been fixtures on the South Fork, spotted on telephone poles by passersby, and they are now catching eyes along Main Road.
They are the work of Michael Zotos, 59, of Holtsville, who says there are currently 33 pieces across the East End.
The “spontaneous entities” made their way to the East End after Mr. Zotos had been trying to sell earlier versions of the figures in Manhattan, but “there was not a big market” for the artwork, he learned after attempting to show some pieces at a gallery.
“They’re all out east,” a gallery employee told him of potential buyers. That migration pattern was further proven to him later when a woman spotted his work on West Broadway and said she’d recognized the creatures from the South Fork, Mr. Zotos recalled Friday at his home.
Mr. Zotos, whose professional background is in real estate, quickly freehands the figures and translates the images onto plywood he paints white, then adds colorful details, such as eyes with long lashes, smiles and spots.
It’s an outlet, he said in his workspace, where there are two tables covered with paint, brushes, and a few blank figures. A few completed works were propped against the wall, ready to be deployed.
The designs come to Mr. Zotos quickly, he said, “like an energy out of my head.” He recalled doodling in class as a schoolkid. While living upstate for a time, there was a pond in his backyard, with frogs, tadpoles and plants. He said he wonders if some of the shapes he draws were somehow inspired by those memories.
There’s nothing else like his creations, he noted, adding that at this stage, they are not for sale, though that is an eventual goal.
“There’s no frame of reference for my artwork other than my artwork,” Mr. Zotos said.
He chooses locations for the figures on a whim, always asking business owners if they’d like to display them.
“I just drive around and say, ‘OK, that looks like a good place,’ ” when deciding whom to ask, he said.
He started on the North Fork recently at The Ranch antique shop in Aquebogue, where four smiling creatures stand as if they’ve sprung up out of the ground. Other works have appeared at Junda’s Bakery and O’Neill Outdoor Power Equipment in Jamesport.
The Jamesport Country Store also displays a single figure next to the road. The North Fork is an interesting place, and is a place for interesting art, said the store’s proprietor, Howard Waldman.
“I certainly appreciate it,” he said.
Mr. Zotos said his artwork is spontaneous not only in how it’s created, but in how it is discovered. He imagines a family of four, of all different generations, with various interests, driving past the entities and wondering what they are, examining them collectively.
“They’re all seeing it together,” he said. “They’re all getting the same kind of feeling.”
Photo caption: A “spontaneous create” on display at The Ranch antique shop in Aquebogue. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)