John Santerineross: A Dark Voyage
Born in 1955 in New York City, John Santerineross began working in ceramics in 1979. His refusal to be limited by any one
medium has lead him to master multiple artistic disciplines; he has been
a ceramist, sculptor, painter, and mixed media artist; his early work was well received, with
shows in major galleries including Unlimited Gallery in NYC and
Elaine Potter Gallery in San Francisco. His early ceramic pieces were
airbrushed with “intricate and colorful geometric designs”, but an earthquake in San Francisco
destroyed a substantial portion of his work and lime
contamination in the clay ruined 80% of the pieces for his master’s thesis.
In 1989 Santerineross was a founding member of ARTFUX, a guerilla art group based out of Jersey City, New Jersey. ARTFUX helped pioneer “Culture Jamming”, the practice of parodying ads and
hijacking billboards to drastically alter their messages; they also developed street and
gallery performances that received international coverage, including
“The Trial of Senator Jesse Helms” performed on the steps of Capitol Hill. Artfux
also created numerous posters that received international acclaim for their design
and message. During this time, Santerineross was creating very large (8 to 10 ft)
acrylic paintings as part of Artfux installation pieces; he began using
photographic images from newspapers and other reference material within
his paintings, but by 1994 he
decided to begin working in photography himself.
Considered by many as a “neo-symbolist”, Santerineross’ complex aesthetic is derived from his exposure to Catholicism and Santeria combined with a
fascination with Greek mythology, world religions and iconography. He is
influenced by the early symbolists’ belief that “the creation of a mood
is as important as the transmission of information; (it must also) seek
to engage the entire mind and personality of the viewer by appealing to
the viewer’s emotions and unconscious mind, as well as to their
Neosymbolism can be defined as a current movement that continues or
reinterprets the late 19th century art movement Symbolism. Like its
predecessor, neo-symbolism focuses on the spiritual, the subconscious,
the idea of “correspondences”, the “emblematic order” of a world in
which technology and the industrial reality have not yet drowned the
forces of mysticism and belief.
In a world where visual images primarily exist to
generate sales and revenue Neosymbolist imagery attempts to preserve the
relationship between image and the human soul. The imagery is
necessarily representational rather than abstract; it borders on the
narrative, but stops short of the commercial trap of illustration to
convey an idea for profit.
known for his dark, erotic images and has been influenced and inspired by image-makers such
as Irina Ionesco and Jan Saudek. His themes often delve into bondage and sado-masochism, which has resulted in a predictable backlash by some mainstream critics while propelling the work into a growing sub-culture genre. Writing for the New York based “M” publications, Joel Simpson stated that “The work has a documentary feel, which invariably gives the
false impression that the artist is merely depicting events
as they are rather than directing the shots” and then continues to postulate that “… Santerineross’ approach tends to reduce the impact
of his subject’s pain and suffering (even if only virtual),
since he treats this as a mere component in a larger aesthetic
scheme. This is a problem that we often see in fictionalized
documentary work, where the focus on constructing a believable
scene distorts the essence of the subject at hand.” Yet this ignores the neosymbolist ideals in which sexuality, bondage, blood and even pain may be considered as symbolic representations rather than literal “documentation”.
In 2006 Santerineross had a solo exhibition of his large format (28” x 32”) prints at KFMK Gallery in New York City, which soon garnered international attention. One image, “The Transformation of the Madonna” was (is) a photo of a woman with her genitals cut and bleeding; a crucifix was placed below the woman, and the blood from her mutilated genitalia was shown running into a wine glass. Catholic League President William A. Donohue refers to Santerineross’ work in his 2009 book “Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America” (ISBN# 978-0446547215), saying that “These artistic assassins want to artistically assassinate Christianity,
especially Catholicism. They are not artists who are simply making a
statement. They are nihilists. Not to understand the difference between
artists who protest Christianity’s teachings on sexuality, and moral
anarchists out to sabotage Christianity altogether, is not only to miss
what is at stake, it does an injustice to their work.“
“Despite the wide range of responses to his art, John never elucidates
his imagery for fear of limiting viewers’ personal interpretation.”
Santerineross currently works out of Athens, Georgia. While all of his early photographs were all taken with a medium format
Mamiya RB67, he now shoots digitally with a Nikon D7000. His use of digital manipulation is extremely limited, and blurs or distortions
are created by either the model actually moving at his instruction or objects
that are moving in the set by means of a variety of intricate motors,
wires and mobiles. Due to the complexity of his sets he only
shoots approximately 12 images a year.
His first 5 years of photographic work resulted in the 1999 release of
Fruit of the Secret God, published in a limited edition. His second
book, Dream, was published in 2004 and
serves as an exploration of John’s dream imagery and iconography through
the use of the photographic medium. In 2009 a multimedia DVD was released, John Santerineross-Neo-Symbolist Photography which features interviews, short films and photographic work.
The December 2007 issue of PROFIFOTO, Germanys leading photography hailed Santerineross as “the world’s leading Neo-symbolist artist”. He has been shown both nationally and internationally, from the Seattle
Erotic Arts Festival to the Galleria de-Arte Moderna Contemporanea in
Bondeno, Italy. In
2010 he showed at Le Cabinet des Curieux in Paris, France and in Mondo
Bizzarro Gallery in Rome Italy. John’s latest solo exhibition at
Jinbochogarou Gallery in Tokyo, Japan features 24 of his images , making
it his largest solo exhibition to date.
He has recently delved into the
world of moving images and has directed several short art
films. Currently Santerineross is in the preproduction phase of an adaptation of the avante-garde short story“Ningyoushi”.
artistic career is based on commitment, integrity, passion and
dedication. He is an artist who does not like to be classified or
categorized, and prefers to let the viewer decide and define.
John Santerineross: Official Website
John Santerineross – webesteem magazine
John Santerineross: KFMK Galleries- by Joel Simpson
ARTFUX! – The execution of Jesse Helms
ARTFUX (Ray Arcadio)
Great photographs, Need some inspiration. All I need now are the girls, the old houses around here would make terrific sets and enough excuses for Pauline!! she doesn’t seem to trust me. 😉 Love Saudek’s work too.
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