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‘Big Mike’ makes a big splash

This will be his second show at The Dollhaus II gallery

Michael Saviello, known as “Big Mike” in the art scene, is coming home to Bayonne for his second show at The Dollhaus II art gallery.

Big Mike’s show will open at The Dollhaus II on Nov. 24 from 5 to 9 p.m. More than 30 of his paintings, primarily portraits and flowers, will be on display until Jan. 10.

The Dollhaus II is at 23 Cottage Street, open from Thursday to Sunday from 2 to 7 p.m.

The Dollhaus started in Brooklyn and ran steadily for six years until gentrification and the invasion of “commercial art.” It then reestablished itself in Bayonne as The Dollhaus II.

Home sweet Bayonne

Big Mike is returning to Bayonne following the closure of his studio at the Astor Place Hairstylists. After 75 years, the barbershop closed at the end of November due to financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Big Mike was a manager at the shop for more than 40 years. He began painting during his lunch breaks three years ago at the age of 58.

In his permanent studio in the back of the barbershop, Big Mike often enjoyed a bottle of good wine and a self-prepared lunch while he painted.

With only one hour of productive painting during his lunch break, Big Mike paints fast and furiously but with incredible accuracy.

Impressionistic paintings

According to The Dollhaus II, Big Mike paints quickly and messily, but his work does not look unfinished.

His style is influenced by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Gaugin, and Cezanne. Despite being a late starter, his paintings have reportedly caused a stir in the art world.

“Nailing a Chelsea Gallery show later in life in his painting career is kind of rare,” The Dollhaus II said in a press release. “The art world is simply captivated by his work.”

Big Mike, in search for a new studio, will return to Bayonne to The Dollhaus II. The gallery will show all Big Mike’s newest works.

Looks a lot like the notorious RBG

Big Mike’s love of boxers will also be on display at The Dollhaus II with a wide selection of his portraits of Bayonne’s native son “Bayonne Bleeder” Chuck Wepner.

The exhibit will feature many other portraits, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Donald Trump, Lil Peep, Larry Gagosian, Marilyn Monroe, and fellow artist Maidenfed.

The Dollhaus II likes to refer to Big Mike as the working man’s or woman’s artist. It has observed that his paintings immediately cause one of three reactions: “You either love it, hate it, or burst out laughing.”

But The Dollhaus II says most people love them and can’t get enough of his bigger-than-life characters and fun paintings. As Big Mike frequently says, “Bling it up.”

“It reminds us that art has really gotten out of hand these days when there’s no fun in it, and apparently the joke is among a very elite crowd having their jokes at the humiliation of the viewer and excluding the normal working man and woman,” according to The Dollhaus II.

The Dollhaus II will keep regular hours during Thanksgiving. For more information, visit www.xdollhausx.com.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

Bayonne artist has first local solo show

Mike “Big Mike” Saviello is coming home for his first solo exhibition in his hometown Bayonne.

With over 20 paintings primarily of portraits and flowers Big Mike, 58, started painting two years ago.

Nailing a Chelsea Gallery show and upcoming exhibit at Miami Art Basel, Big Mike has had more press about his paintings and his style and his story over the last year than any other contemporary up and coming new artist could possibly hope for, and he has only just started.

The Astor Place Hair Stylists is a buzzing, no joke kind of serious barbershop with over 40 chairs and an influx of activity and well known clientele.

Big Mikes work day lunch consists of his permanent studio in the back of the cavernous space, a bottle of good wine and a lunch usually cooked and prepared by himself.

Allowing himself only a one hour lunch of productive painting, Big Mike paints fast and furiously and with incredible accuracy. His style is loaded with influences of Michelango and Leonardo Da Vinci, and are extremely colorful and strong.

When you are in the room with his works you feel Big Mikes frenzied style by the way he transforms colors, line and form. It’s emotional. His works are true to original great impressionists of the past. They are quick and messy but, unlike impressionistic paintings where they look unfinished Big Mike’s certainly without doubt are finished works.

Opening Reception Friday, November 22, 5-11 p.m., FIRST SOLO EXHIBITION IN BAYONNE

Dollhaus II focuses on Big Mikes portraits and flowers with his love of boxers and baseball players. There will be a wide selection of his Chuck Wepner paintings Bayonne’s finest aka The Bayonne Bleeder who endured 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali and lived to tell quite a story.

The exhibition will have many portrait characters that inspire Big Mike from Robert DeNiro, Biggie Smalls, Tupac and clearly a reoccurring theme of the great Marilyn Monroe and, of course, Harriet the love of his life. The exhibition shows his obsession with painting flowers. They are simply beautiful. Big Mike is the new contemporary of current pop impressionism.



Midtown Community School named for William Shemin

Midtown Community School was officially renamed William Shemin Midtown Community School during a ceremony created by faculty and students on Nov. 15. It completed a trifecta of public spaces named after Bayonne’s three Medal of Honor recipients.

Shemin was a World War I veteran who received the Medal of Honor posthumously, due to the fact that Jewish soldiers were not afforded that distinction at any point in his lifetime.

He received the Medal of Honor in 2015 after his daughters campaigned to make it happen.

Shemin is one of three Medal of Honor recipients with roots in Bayonne. The other two are Nicholas Oresko and Stephen Gregg, who have an elementary school and county park named after them, respectively.

Shemin was born and raised in Bayonne. He was an army rifleman who fought in France after joining the military in 1917. Shemin earned the highest military honor after running through an area in which he was in the direct line of machine gun fire in order to rescue wounded brothers-in-arms.

During that rescue effort, he took a bullet to the head and was wounded by shrapnel, but survived after a three-month hospitalization.

Shemin received the Purple Heart posthumously in 1996.

The board reached a decision to name the school after Shemin unanimously, after other names were floated, such as Dr. Patricia McGeehan, a former superintendent in the Bayonne School District who spent 45 years working there.

Mike Saviello to host art exhibit in Bayonne

Mike Saviello, a barber who spent a lifetime dreaming of breaking into the art world, is now one of Bayonne’s most popular painters.

After hitting the easel during breaks while managing a barbershop for more than 40 years, he had a massive breakthrough at the E.S.P. Gallery in Chelsea, where his works were shown with artists across the globe.

The press has been buzzing about “Big Mike” in recent months, and he’s bringing an exhibit back to his home town of Bayonne. In his contemporary portraits and flower paintings, he channels works by Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cezanne.

The exhibition, run by a venue called Dollhaus II in Bayonne, at 23 Cottage St., will feature Saviello’s works until Jan. 5. Dollhaus II is open from 2-7 p.m. Thursday-Sunday.

Bayonne craft vendors will raise funds for Relay For Life

The Bayonne Community Museum will host a Bayonne Holiday Vendor and Craft Fundraiser on Dec. 1 from noon to 6 p.m.

Funds will be raised for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life Foundation.

Vendors and crafters are still needed. To find out more about the event, contact Joanna Baran at jmbaran@aol.com or 201-858-2380, or call Linda Freeman at 201-823-4508.

American Legion hosts annual coat and toy drive

Bayonne’s American Legion Post 19 will hold a coat and toy drive until Dec. 20. Last year, it donated more than 400 coats to homeless veterans and school children. It’s hoping to break that record. All coats and toys can be dropped off at the Post on 683 Broadway, between 31st and 32nd Streets from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. Tuesday-Friday; 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Saturday; and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Coats will be donated to the Hudson County VA clinic in Jersey City and a nonprofit called Community Hope. The American Legion will also donate children’s coats to the Bayonne School District.

For more information, contact Mike Wilson at the American Legion location, or at 201-858-9349.

Sweeney, Scutari seek recreational cannabis referendum

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Nicholas Scutari announced that they introduced legislation to seek voter approval of a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational use of cannabis by adults in New Jersey.

The ballot question reads, “A concurrent resolution proposing to amend Article IV, Section VII of the New Jersey Constitution by adding a new paragraph. Proposes constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis for personal, non-medical use by adults who are age 21 years or older, subject to regulation by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.”

“We will have the Legislature vote on the plan during the current legislative session and expect the proposal to be on the ballot in 2020, when voter turnout will be maximized for the national election,” Sweeney and Scutari said in a joint statement. “We are confident it will be approved by the Senate, the Assembly, and the voters. … We will now move forward with a plan that helps correct social and legal injustices that have had a discriminatory impact on communities of color. …”

Telethon to raise funds for Chuck Wepner statue in Bayonne

Tune in to hear stories from the "Bayonne Bleeder" on Nov. 13

Telethon to raise funds for Chuck Wepner statue in Bayonne
Tune in for a fun discussion on Facebook Live.

The next fundraising event that will support the ongoing construction and placement of a statue of Chuck Wepner atop the steps at Stephen R. Gregg County Park will be an online telethon hosted by Hudson Media Group.

Viewers can watch the 60-minute telethon, streamed live on facebook.com/hudsonmediagroup, on Nov. 13 at 6 p.m., and will be able to call in to donate at a number on the video.

Wepner will be one of several special guests on the show, along with Bayonne-based painter Mike Saviello, who will be auction  off paintings.

Wepner’s right-hand man, Bruce Dillin, has been putting together fundraising efforts for a finished product based off Bayonne sculptor Zhen Wu’s creation for years. Wu, who is next door to Dillin’s tire shop, completed the mold for the bronze. It shows Wepner in boxing gear, encapsulating the moments leading up to his 1975 bout with Muhammad Ali.

Those who tune in to the telethon will stories from the Bayonne Bleeder about his many boxing exploits which made him a hometown hero.

For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.

Roasting Chuck Wepner

Raising funds for a statue of Bayonne's 'Rocky'

Chuck Wepner isn’t a guy most people would take jabs at, but wisecracks reigned supreme at a recent Wepner roast at The Chandelier.

The roast’s participants included members of the New York City’s Friar’s Club, a private comedy club that’s roasted a huge roster of celebrities since its formation in 1904.

“It was a pleasure to be able to come out for such a great cause,” Sean Morton of the Friar’s Club told the Bayonne Community News. Morton was the night’s roast master.

That cause is raising funds for the completion of a towering bronze statue of Wepner in his prime slated for Stephen R. Gregg County Park, atop the steps Wepner ran on during his workouts leading up to his bout with Muhammad Ali.

The steps are enshrined the “Rocky Steps” in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Wepner, 80, was born and raised in Bayonne, and still lives in town. His 1975 heavyweight bout against Ali in Cleveland, many believe, was the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s iconic “Rocky” series.

Wepner was one of the few boxers worldwide who knocked Ali down, which happened shortly before he lost by a technical knockout in the 15th round.

Wepner’s got a loyal following in Bayonne to this day. His fans hope he will get his very own sculpture at its rightful spot in Bayonne where he got his cardio training prior to the world championship bout.

Since “Rocky’s” debut, Wepner has earned the title “the real Rocky,” as well as the “Bayonne Bleeder.” His opponents include George Foreman, Andre the Giant, and even Victor the Wrestling Bear.

Today, Wepner’s opponent is cancer, but the roast raised his spirits. He said that the support he receives from his friends in Bayonne accounts for his positive outlook.

“They’ve been rallying around me for the 80 years that I’ve been here,” Wepner said. “This community is great.”

Immortalized in bronze

Bruce Dillin, one of Wepner’s best friends, has been at the forefront of fundraisers for the statue to immortalize Wepner’s boxing legacy. He was the chief organizer of the roast.

“We wanted to raise funds by doing an event that people will remember for the rest of their lives,” Dillin said, adding that the roast was a successful as any put on by the likes of Dean Martin.

“I told the mayor [Jimmy Davis] that I thought this was the most memorable Bayonne moment of 2019,” Dillin said. “He told me it was the most memorable Bayonne moment ever. We brought in professionals, who all came together to do everything free of charge for the cause. While it was about raising funds, we also wanted to put on an event that people will always remember.”

The statue was sculpted by Zhen Wu, a prominent painter and sculptor whose workshop is next door to Dillin’s tire shop.

With Dillin’s encouragement, Wu donated his his time and talent, but needed funds for the materials to create the mold and the final piece.

The design is being made into a reusable mold for bronze. It depicts a ’70s- era Wepner in full boxing getup, looking calm, collected, and ready to brawl.

Bayonne-based artist Mike Saviello donated several Chuck Wepner paintings to be sold at the roast, with the proceeds going to the statue.

One of the paintings depicted Liev Schreiber, who played Wepner in the 2018 biopic Chuck. Dillin gave that one to Schreiber when he turned up to the roast, to everyone’s excitement.

Wepner and Zach McGowan recently met. McGowan portrayed Wepner in “The Brawler,” the second of two recent Wepner biopics.

McGowan was in Bayonne for the production of an independent comedy called “Crabs in a Bucket.”

For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.

LIGA, ROSA (nee: Carbone)

67, of Bayonne passed away on February 14 at Bayonne Medical Center, with her family and friends by her side. She was a wife to the late Andrew Jr., a mother to James Liga and his wife Debbie, Maria Kiniery and her husband Neal Sr. and to Helen Hanson and her husband Bruce. Grandmother to Heather Hanson and her fiance, Gino Fiori, Brandon Hanson, Neal Kiniery Jr., Nicolas Kiniery, Marianna Kiniery, Kayla Liga and Katie Liga. Sister to Francesco Carbone and his wife Sandra, Maria Mundell and her husband the late Henry, and her sister-in-law Helen Liga. Rosa was especially fond of her niece Christina Daly and her children Rebecca and Michael, with whom she treated as her own daughter and grandchildren.”Sweet Aunt Rosa” is survived by many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends, especially her friends Josie Smyczynski and Barbara Paladino. Rosa was also predeceased by her parents Vincenzo and Elisabetta (nee: Bellome) Carbone, her grandson Patrick Kiniery, and her sisters Angelina Saviello (Michael), and Pasqualina Barone. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Rosa’s memory to either St. Jude Childrens’s Research Hospital or to the Veterans Fisher House Foundation. Envelopes will be provided at the funeral home. Funeral arrangements by MIGLIACCIO Funeral Home, 851 Kennedy Blvd.

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