Before the COVID-19 quarantine, I had no idea who Mark Oberndorf was. Then, one day in April, I stumbled across a Facebook post. A friend of a friend shared Mark’s painting of the Tick Tock Diner sign—a blue and red masterpiece of my favorite diner’s Route 3 neon emblem.
I was intrigued. I clicked on his profile, a purple-dreadlocked, green-bearded avatar wearing red glasses. It was confirmed: I dig this guy.
The Art—and the Artist
Like all proper social media busybodies, I spent the next half hour scrolling through his timeline. One iconic Jersey eatery after the other.
Each painting embodying the essence of Jerseycana. Mark perfectly captured the cheerful-yet-slightly-terrifying clown peeking over the demolished Circus Drive-In in Wall Township and evoked my Italian American pride with the green, white, and red façade of Tommy’s in Elizabeth.
His artwork feels familiar, not just the subject matter, but the hyper-realistic style. His attention to the smallest details—like the rusty water marks left on a Chinese Noodle Bar sign—add a photographic realness. He has successfully captured the nostalgia of many bygone-era Jersey institutions and his paintings are resonating with his Facebook audience, many of them Garden State expatriates longing to relive their favorite food memories.
While I had no idea who Mark Oberndorf was, I should have. Except for a stint in LA, Mark was born and raised in New Jersey. If you cut him, he bleeds Bruce Springsteen.
He has been a professional artist since 1990 and has been Bergen County’s most prolific painter of county landmarks and restaurants ever since. Not just a painter, he considers himself “a historian of NJ iconic locations. Those places need to be recorded as paintings in order to be preserved.” Some of his pictures are hanging in NJ galleries and museums. He has also sold a few of his pieces to a well-known Hollywood producer or two.
I had a pleasant conversation with Mark and had to ask if his love of Jersey culture translated to a love of food. I’m happy to report that he answered, “I enjoy everything that NJ cuisine has to offer.” When I asked if he could only eat in one of the restaurants he painted, which one would it be, he didn’t hesitate: “White Manna in Hackensack”.
Order Your Own
He is currently working on multiple commissions for homeowners, business owners, and now Facebook Friends. I encourage you to check out his catalog www.markoberndorf.com or his growing popular Facebook page and if you fall in love with his work like I did, reach out to him directly firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Oberndorf’s art is available for sale. Prints start at $150 for an 11 x 14 inch and you can buy original paintings starting at $250 for 6 x 6 and higher for bigger sizes. He is also available for commissions.