The artist known as mykulanjelo sits next to a sunny window in his parent’s cheerful living room in Oconomowoc. His palpable joy is easily backed up with a laugh that seems to bubble up from his toes, shooting from his fingertips - daring anyone within earshot not to feel it, too.
He’s been told his contagious laughter is inherited from his dad. “Of course it is! After all, I’m a chip off the ol’ block,” he says. More laughter.
Born Michael Steinke, the eldest son of Mary and Brian Steinke’s five children, mykulanjelo grew up in a home filled with love, faith and family.
“Our home in Wales was an open door. We had Bible study on Wednesday nights and there would be 100 kids in our living room. So I always say that I am the oldest of five natural-born children and 500 supernatural ones,” he laughs.
Brian Steinke taught social studies at Kettle Moraine High School and was the boys track and cross country coach for more than 30 years. Following in his dad’s footsteps, mykulanjelo helped coach boys track and cross country at KMHS for several years.
“My parents encouraged us to give back and to live in the fullness of our community. So many people came through our doors. I was blessed to be surrounded by musicians, poets, painters and hippies. I just absorbed it and took it all in,” he adds.
The art of life
All through grade school and into high school the margins in the budding artist’s notebooks were filled with doodles and illustrations. “I would sketch dinosaurs and animals and pretty soon the other kids started asking me to draw things for them,” he says.
mykulanjelo earned a degree at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in 1989 and was soon noticed in the commercial and publishing worlds, his vivid works of art featured in advertising and promotional materials, on billboards and buses.
His paintings have also been featured in art galleries and shows, and he continues to create commissions and personal pieces from his studio.
“Being an artist is a way of life. It’s what I was created to do and is my ultimate joy and purpose. I’m honored to be able to express the art of life,” he explains. “We were created from God’s poem. We were created to reflect our Creator. It’s a mystery to me and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Lately, mykulanjelo has been expressing his artistic reflections of life onto discarded windows. “Windows are just a functional piece that we look through. But when you add layers of paint to them, now that object that you once looked past can really reveal its true beauty,” he says. “They are like windows to the soul and they are always a revelation to me.”
A prolific writer and poet, mykulanjelo often exchanges brush for pen to express his thoughts on art, faith and life.
He writes, “I often think of how Michelangelo sculpted, how he saw the sculpture waiting, already complete, in the uncut stone. He would often say that his job was to carve away the excess, freeing the thing of beauty and soul just waiting to be released. It helps me to think of our spiritual journey this way. Facing ourselves, facing God, uncovering the meaning of our hard experiences.”
mykulanjelo and his wife, Jodi have been together for 27 years and have four children, Ariel, 22, Mayli Grace, 21, Carter, 19 and Manning 17. “Jodi came through my family’s door in 1982. It was destiny, and it’s been over the top since. I am heavily delirious,” he says with a smile.
mykulanjelo recently moved his art studio into his parent’s basement when the building where he worked sold.
“My family is the root of where my art comes from, so it seems fitting that my new studio space has come full circle in the basement of my parent’s home,” says mykulanjelo. “It’s my hobbit realm, and it’s all I need.”
Every Thursday, extended family, along with friends, neighbors – and sometimes even a few strangers sprinkled in for good measure – get together in Mary and Brian Steinke’s Oconomowoc home for “Gramma-meal.”
“At least 15 to 40 or more people show up here every Thursday. This is the family hub and the focal point of our week. Gramma-meal symbolizes what mom and dad have established from birth in our family – to share our love for each other to the next generation,” says mykulanjelo.
Mary admits the food is not the most important thing about the Thursday meals.
“There is a lot of other stuff happening here, and it has nothing to do with eating. It’s about real family life. It’s about trials and challenges, forgiveness and restoration. We are sharing the real feast of life that is going on in our lives. It’s noisy and wonderful,” she says.
“And the only rule is you have to eat your dinner before you can have ice cream,” chimes in 9-year-old great-granddaughter, Charis.
His living art
“My life is about bringing something forth. My art is born from my heart and soul. It is alive, and it’s magical to me when the piece draws people to it. The pure attachment to a work is making that connection to another person – it just keeps on giving,” he explains.
Making those connections and giving to others can be witnessed in everything mykulanjelo does. Throughout his life, he has also shared his passions for life, faith and family through music, coaching, bicycling, youth ministry and more.
For the last 10 years he has also worked as a patient transportation specialist for ProHealth Care. “My purpose isn’t to just space out in my studio. I have a family that I need to support. God landed me in a place where I can be there for others,” he says.
mykulanjelo looks forward to transporting patients to their doctor and therapy appointments each week.
“I really get to know and I am touched by these people. I listen and quietly pray. My friend dubbed it the mobile chapel,” he explains. “There are a lot of wonderful moments of giving peace among the storm. I understand my role. God brings his agenda to me, and I serve to my capacity.”
For more information about mykulanjelo's art, visit www.mykul-anjelo.pixels.com.