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  • Writer's pictureLuke Stoffel

Luke Stoffel: The Adventure of a Lifetime

New York, NY

Follow me on instagram: @lucasstoffel

Luke in Java photo by Lucas / Luke Stoffel

Travel, Paint, Repeat...

For the past 25 years, New York City has been my anchor. But this Iowa-born Catholic school boy has always been eager to find more. So, when the cold January winds blow, I head out on the road to immerse myself in photography, painting, and to seek a spiritual connection that binds us all together.

My experiences traveling this worlds well worn roads have been my greatest teachers, imparting lessons about life, compassion, and the pure joy of connecting with new people and cultures. The inspiration I've found in this vibrant part of the world is beyond measure, and I'm eagerly hopeful for more opportunities to explore and leave behind a positive impact on this earth.

In my journeys, I've always aimed to give back. In Laos, I volunteered to teach English and worked to raise money for a small after-school program at Sunrise Classroom. In Myanmar, I met Tun Tun, a young artist who sold his paintings and offered local tours to make ends meet. Using my social media expertise, I created an Instagram account for him, @lovebagan, to attract fellow travelers. I deployed internet bots targeting millennials traveling Southeast Asia to boost his online presence. Thanks to this increased traffic, he was not only able to start his own small travel agency, but years later, I learned he had become a certified government tour guide—a transformation that significantly improved his family's life.

And so, travel and my creative spirit have really become inseparable for me, especially after setting foot in over 35 countries. My guiding thought? If I'm traveling somewhere, I want to grow from the experience. I've dropped everything to spend a year in Hawai'i learning to surf. It wasn't always smooth sailing, but between the waves, I found my way onto the pages of Hawaiian Airlines Magazine as a contributing photographer. Then, one time, I spent three months in Taiwan helping my sister set up her new home. The country's traditions were captivating to me. So much so that the time there inspired an NYC Art Exhibition I called "Made in Taiwan," focused on the beauties of how the landscape weaves together the spirituality of Buddhism and Taoism. A few years later, I found myself looking for peace in the Philippines, diving deep — quite literally. I spent two months, faced my fears, and transformed from a newbie to an advanced scuba diver, diving the WWII shipwrecks of Palawan.

These journeys of exploration has shaped me into a passionate traveler and artist, instilling a deep appreciation for the beauty and diversity that the world has to offer.

Luke Stoffel: Growing up in Iowa

I grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, in a big family with five siblings. We all went to Catholic school, and my dad worked on the assembly line, building tractors at John Deere. Our lifestyle was pretty much straight out of "Leave it to Beaver." Except I was gay... and being gay in Iowa was no picnic; the hardships I endured growing up only made me realize that leaving was probably the only road to happiness. Heading off to college did make life a little easier. I spent four years studying graphic design and forming valuable, lifelong friendships on and offstage in the theatre department. And when those connections made the big leap to New York City, I followed them right out the door!

Starting out in the bustling streets of the greatest city in the world, I found my footing with those Iowa State classmates off-Broadway with an off-color, underground hit show called "Urinetown." What was my role? Assistant House Manager. My illustrious duties spanned from serving beer to scrubbing toilets. It may not sound grand, but I was fortunate to have incredible bosses who saw my hard work, and invested in me. When the show transitioned to Broadway, I was right there with it. For five years, I played the role of the unsung backstage hero for the cast and crew. True, my "office" was a broom closet, but it was on Broadway after all. Amidst the dazzle and drama, I was also plotting my next adventure. I buckeled down between shows watching classic Disney movies in French. You see since high school, I had dreamt of finding love on the streets of Paris. So as I worked with Mickey on mastering "le français" with more than a passing grade, I packed my bags with passion and courage, said my goodbyes to "Urinetown," and jetted off to Paris. My mission for the ensuing six months? Immersing myself in the essence of French culture and language.

Luke in Central Park photo by Lucas / Luke Stoffel

As it turned out Paris had this magical effect on me - it awakened my inner artist. My passion for painting collided head-on with my love for travel photography. In 2005, I had my first art show, and fast forward to 2012, I even snagged the Starving Artist Award for a series of paintings titled "iCon" that explored the unique dissonance of the world in juxtaposition with American consumerism.

How does all this translates into my Art?

I draw my deepest inspiration from the awe-inspiring beauty of this world, especially when that merges with our devotion to the unknown. In those rituals, songs, and dances where we as a people have crafted god, I find color, joy, and a deep fascination with our human spirit. Through my art, I'm on a journey to explore and convey these cultural interpretations of spirituality and bring all of our unique traditions to a wider audience.

Little Japan Art Exhibition by Lucas / Luke Stoffel

My artistic style is a fusion, mixing hand-painted contemporary aesthetics with the iconic screen-printed vibes of Pop Art legends like Lichtenstein and Warhol. What you'll see in my work are visually arresting pieces, with vibrant colors, dynamic compositions, and clean lines, often on pretty big canvases. It all starts with photography, which I use as my canvas, and then I take those images through a digital journey of transformation before bringing them to life with acrylic paints.

But at the core of my artistic mission: I want to break down the walls between diverse belief systems and promote inclusivity. The first time I went to Asia, I wasn't aware there was anything beyond Jesus and Mary, but Bangkok opened my eyes to a new world of buddhas and golden temples. This is why I translate the intricate narratives of various religions into accessible, relatable forms, hoping to prompt viewers to reconsider their perspectives on spirituality. In my own way, I'm trying to bridge cultural and religious divides, all in the name of understanding and unity.

Luke celebrating Holi in Nepal photo by Lucas / Luke Stoffel

My journey as an artist has been quite the ride, from the Starving Artist Award to taking part in the amFar Rocks Benefit for AIDS research, where my work took center stage. You can catch my art at some pretty cool spots in New York City, like the Art Directors Club, The Prince George Gallery, GalleryBar, and New World Stages. Through my time on this earth, I'm on a mission to spark beauty, unity, and a deeper appreciation of the common threads that connect us all, no matter our diverse beliefs.

Follow me: @lucasstoffel on Instagram


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