Meet John Santerineross. A neo-symbolist and artist living in Athens, Georgia whose photographic works resemble the darker side of the biblical Garden of Eden. Take a moment to look carefully. What you may see is the black magic swirling in all of us. Our personal demons who only reveal themselves in the most frightening ways.
But between all the details and all the layers, there is a symbolic gesture which may either arouse your curiousity—or disturb your mental wellbeing.
And isn’t that what dark erotic art like these pieces do? Stir and awaken the hidden unconscious of the human psyche.
Life is Strange
John is an artist who inspires étonnement and amazement. However, he did not begin with creating the mysterious imagery we see today. Like most artists, John’s career evolved because of a willingness to follow a natural progression of whatever life threw at him. An aspiring high school track star, John set his sights on winning an athletic scholarship to Rutgers University. That was until a severe knee injury changed his course. While taking time out to heal, there seemed to be plenty of time on his hands. That’s when Santerineross shifted from athlete to artist and began taking stagecraft and art classes. The injury was a defining moment. It altered his path and eventually resulted in an art scholarship at Rutgers.
Years before becoming a photographer, Santerineross was an accomplished ceramist. He fell in love with the medium while toiling away for hours in the studio. The sensation of wet clay spinning between his fingers and being able to sculpt forms was intoxicating. Soon after, his notoriety as a master ceramist drew interest from some prominent galleries who wanted to show his work. However, Santerineross felt frustrated in how the galleries constructed environments which prohibited visitors from touching the art. Instead of giving into conventional gallery ideology, he saw it as an opportunity. He devised a method of embedding braille messages into his pieces. This immersive experience allowed viewers to not only see the art but feel it too.
“Art Pushes, Art Provokes, Artfux!”
Before there was Banksy, there was a group of renegade artists simply named Artfux (Artist Coalition for Freedom of Expression). The founding members consisted of John Santerineross, Ray Arcadio, Orlando Cuevas, Jorge Rodrigues-Gerada, Mirta C. Del Valle, and Tony DiRobertis. This close-knit brotherhood of guerilla artists used New York City as their artistic playscape. They parodied product ads and hijacked billboards with altered and controversial messages. The group pushed the limits of free speech which garnered them international attention.
The most famous of their work being, “The Trial of Senator Jesse Helms” which took place on the steps of the Capital Building in Washington D.C. in March of 1990. This wild art performance featured a life-like sculpture of the embattled Republican Senator from North Carolina. A mortified audience believed the statue to be filled with human excrement.
Working in tandem with other artists gave Santerineross the leverage to refine his painting skills and introduce him to a new love—-photography. He believed photography would help expand his visions. And without looking back, he poured his heart and soul into every project. Yet following the natural flow of an evolving artist.
You know you’ve made an impact as an artist when the head of a prominent religious organization vilifies your work. In 2009, a book entitled Secular Sabotage accused Santerineross being “an artistic assassin who wants to artistically assassinate the Catholic religion.” Although this is all based on someone’s perception—it is fair to speculate Santerineross is not plotting the destruction America’s religious teachings. He simply dares to publically share works so powerful that it gets people to respond in one way or another.
Would the art seem safer if the naked women were removed? Probably not. There is a reason why Santerineross uses the nude, erotic, and the sexualized female form with religious iconography. It’s because of his early relationship with Catholicism and Santeria. The commixing of two distinct belief systems along with erotically charged females is what makes his work compelling.
So, whether or not you believe Santerineross is an artistic assassin sent from the seventh circle of hell to ruin us all. There is no denying he is stirring the proverbial pot with his dark imagination. Despite the response from conservative religious groups, Santerineross believes it’s important for the viewer to interpret the work on their own accord in any way imaginable.
“The creation of the mood is as important as the transmission of information.”
Yes, the work may be hard to swallow for some, but then again, isn’t that what art is meant to do? Evoke our deepest emotions and strike a passionate chord within all of us.
John Santerineross only produces twelve images per year. Each step along the creative path is devised by him and is inspired by nightly visions. Akin to painting on a canvas, Santerineross’ set serves as a palette. It is there he blends his philosophical beliefs with handmade symbols from Greek mythology, world religions, and iconography to make his work look graphic, forceful and brutally candid.
Most of the photographs shot by Santerineroos represent versions of his darkest dreams. A purist at heart, crafting the right aesthetic often takes up to three months. From the stage setting to locating found objects to the elaborate lighting to contracting with just the right model, everything is placed perfectly, and then a few clicks of the camera’s shutter—it’s over.
God Given Talent
John’s artistic career is based on integrity, passion, and dedication. Authenticity is critical when it comes to outputting his images. While most photography we see today is heavily manipulated or enhanced, John’s is not. He relies more on his talent and technical skills than PhotoShop. In fact, any enhancements must have a precise reason. If needed, he will add a delicate wash of sepia or acid burns along the image borders, giving them a slightly worn vintage appearance similar to collodion or ambrotypes.
Robert Maplethorpe and Helmut Newton all had one thing in common—the love for photography. Their unstoppable passion was what pushed them further. John Santerineross is no different. From the time he first touched paint brush to canvas, dipped fingers into moisten clay, loaded a film roll into a camera Santerineross has been certain to follow his heart.
Not looking for stardom or fame, Santerineross wants people to engage their mind, personality, and intellect. He wants us to follow him into a new realm of creativity.
John Santerineross is once again embarking on an entirely new path. His one-of-a-kind assemblages are most likely the most daring creations yet. Entirely made in his Athens studio, John constructs each piece by hand. Using construction foam core, he cuts each frame and applies a wood backing. Each piece wrapped with an elegant tapestry. The delicate material serves to accent the enclosed photographic images as well as a backdrop for the embedded elements. To appreciate, one has to see it in person.
According to Santerineross, “assemblages like these are costly to produce.” In order to complete the series and have them exhibited, Santerineross is asking art collectors and art lovers alike to take part in his Assemblage Fund Raiser.
The work of John Santerineross is fundamentally mysterious and erotic. Much like painting and poetry, his imagery emphasizes the use of suggestion rather than an explicit description. It grants you the power to make up your own story. This is not to say, however, that his photographs are no less disturbing—because they are.