John Santerineross is an American photographer with a background in ceramics and painting. He is considered to be a "neo-symbolist", an artist that continues or reinterprets the 19th century art movement Symbolism. Like its predecessor, neo-symbolism focuses on the spiritual, the subconscious, and dreams. Santerineross’ unique style and content has inspired an entire new generation of artists; his complex aesthetic is derived from a combination of his exposure to Catholicism and Santeria and by his fascination with Greek mythology, world religions and iconography.
Born in 1955 in New York City, he lived most of this life in the north east and now works out of Athens, Georgia. He is known for his dark, erotic images and has been shown both nationally and internationally, from the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival to the Galleria de-Arte Moderna Contemporanea in Bondeno, Italy. His largest New York City show took place at KFMK Gallery in June 2006 showing 22 of his 28” x 32” photographic images. In 2014 he showed at Vanilla Gallery in Tokyo, Japan which featured 58 of his images making it his largest solo exhibition to date.
Throughout John’s artistic career, 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. He has recently delved into the world of moving images and has already directed several short art films. Currently, Santerineross is in the preproduction phase of an adaptation of an avante-garde short story entitled “Ningyoushi”.
Ceramics 1979- 1989
Santerineross was a ceramist from 1979 to 1989, and received acclaim for his extremely large stoneware "canteens" as well as other works. He was represented by 12 major galleries, including Unlimited Gallery in NYC and Elaine Potter Gallery in San Francisco. Many of his pieces were airbrushed with intricate and colorful geometric designs, and were extremely well received in the press (as reported in the New York Times) and with collectors.
The end of the ceramics era was twofold. An earthquake in San Francisco destroyed a substantial portion of his work, and congruently a lime contamination in the clay body resulted in lime popping, which in turn ruined 80% of the pieces of his master's thesis. This led John to believe it may be time to yet again switch mediums. Turning away from ceramics completely he delved into painting which was his first love.
Painting and Artfux 1989-1992
The next phase of evolution for John was Artfux, a guerilla art group of which Santerineross was a founding member. It, as well its offshoot Cicada Core of Artists, were active from 1989 to 1992. Artfux’ art pieces spoke out for freedom of expression, equality and made bold artistic statements against tobacco companies by altering large billboards advertising the sale of tobacco products. (The "truth" commercials, in which large anti-smoking installations are performed outside of major tobacco company headquarters, use almost identical techniques.) 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 when he could not find the images he desired, he decided to pick up a camera himself. ArtFux and Cicada Core of Artists ran their course and so John decided to move to photography.
Santerineross has been influenced and inspired by image-makers such as Irina Ionesco and Jan Saudek. He started taking photographs in 1994, and his first 5 years of work resulted in the 1999 release of his first book, Fruit of the Secret God. Published in a limited number and filled with the dark erotic photographic images that would become his signature, it is now a collector's item. 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.
While all of his early photographs were all taken with a medium format Mamiya RB67 traditional film camera, John now shoots digitally with a Nikon D800. While the photographs are taken with a digital device, John Santerineross does not do any digital manipulation to any of his images. Everything you see in an image was on the set that day. The only use of Photoshop on any of his images is to remove all colorization and then hand paint the desired colors back into the image, much like when he used to hand paint the medium format film photographs.
Each still life is built within a small 12” x 12” x12” wooden box, the carefully selected contents placed within the tiny box with intent and meaning. The box is then lit with a series of flashlights and gobos to create the light and shadow that are an integral part of his imagery.
As each phase of John Santerineross’ creative outlet has been a natural extension of the previous medium, his still images have led him from photographing a single second in time, to a series of images filmed streaming together to form short films. His first short film “Child, Doll or Bone” opened a whole new world to the artist, allowing him to tell stories in his short films, the majority of which have been filmed in the intricate sets he builds for his photographic images. He has since filmed a total of 11 short films including “Sitala”, “Gears”, “Moon”, “Destin”, “Ma-Ku”, “Words”, “Church”, “In a Dream”, “Little June” as well as a music video for Vast’s song “Take Me With You”.
John Santerineross’ 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. This open-ness has allowed viewers to interpret his work in every manner imaginable. This open-ness has allowed viewers to interpret his work in every manner imaginable. Hailed “the world’s leading Neo-symbolist artist” by PROFIFOTO, Germanys leading photography magazine, John has also been called an “artistic assassin who wants to artistically assassinate Christianity, especially Catholicism” in Bill Donohue’s newest book “Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America”, in which Santerineross is mentioned along with several other groundbreaking artists including Andres Serrano, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Cindy Sherman.
Despite the wide range of responses to his art, John never elucidates his imagery for fear of limiting viewers’ personal interpretation. 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 intellect”.