Figure 1. Carmine Santaniello, Three Graces, art of paper collage, 2022, 16” x 16”
Queer multi-media artist Carmine Santaniello incorporates his own photographs of graffiti and street art into his cut and paste collages. As an artist based in New York, Santaniello’s work is inspired by urban street art and the natural urban decay he sees around him. Santaniello works mainly on paper, creating lithographs, collages, monotypes, prints and artist books. Santaniello’s expressive collages juxtapose figuration and abstraction.
Santaniello has exhibited nationally and internationally, and his art is present in many collections. For instance, Santaniello’s art can be found in the collection of The Library of Congress, as well as the private collection of Charles Leslie and the permanent collection of the Leslie Lohman Museum of Art in New York City.
Santaniello’s work was on display at the 13th Clio Art Fair in New York from September 8th- 11th. The special section, curated by Asya Rotella, was entitled “Maybe I am your Mother: Who is Generating Who?” and featured art which questioned the relationship between the human being and the screen. Santaniello’s collages, like Paparazzi, Paparazzis, comment on the usage of technology in the modern world. The obscured eyes of the figure, covered by cameras, cause us to consider the damage done to our humanity when technology is idolized. (Figure 2)
Figure 2. Carmine Santaniello, Paparazzi, Paparazzis, Collage, 16”x16”
I caught up with Santaniello and asked a few questions about artistic process. Check out the interview below:
When did you know, or how did you know, you wanted to be an artist?
That’s not an easy question to answer because I’ve never asked or questioned it. Maybe perhaps because I have never known or done anything else. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a working artist my entire life from the time I was able to hold a pencil. It’s who I am.
How would you describe your art and process?
I am greatly inspired by urban images such as graffiti, street art, decaying paint, marred surfaces and natural urban decay. I use materials sourced/photographed from cities around the world, which serve as a backdrop of imagery creating a unique urban vernacular. I than alter these images and make them into collage papers, using various types of stocks to add texture and depth. Frottage is also an integral part of these works, done on rice paper, (I love the transparency of it.) These techniques allow me to own the process from beginning to end.
What do you hope viewers gain from viewing your works? What conversations begin because of your works?
A visceral feeling, evoking energy, movement, joy and intrigue. Strong emotion, where the viewer is drawn into an intimate world. Especially when there’s amazement at the work because it’s done with paper. There’s always a conversation about what is the medium. A lot of people think they are paintings or printmaking. People are always surprised when I tell them it’s all torn paper. At the Clio Art Fair someone told me that my art made them smile! That alone was enough for me.
What materials do you use in your works? What elements of street art/ graffiti draw you in and what do you chose to use in your own work?
For me it’s the fluidity and spontaneity of graffiti. The text, the scribbles, the writings, are the vocabulary that inspire me. I rework and reinvent this imagery into abstractions for my collages. This strongly appears in all of my work in some form or another.
Can you discuss the works you exhibited at Clio Art Fair?
The works I showed at the Clio Art fair was the cumulation of time spent in Barcelona sourcing papers from the streets and being emerged in the street art that is so prevalent in Barcelona. This body of work are my homage to Barcelona.
In what ways does technology influence your art? How does technology aid in the production of your collages?
Technology plays a role as I mentioned before I “alter” the sourced/photographed images on the computer and then print them out on to different papers to enhance, abstract, enlarge etc. Creating the imagery and paper that is used as part of my collages along with other sourced papers from marred urban billboards etc.
Finally, can you describe your studio space, or the space where you create art most often?
My studio space for me is perfectly appointed with imagery from Pop Art to the Renaissance works and a lot of my favorite objects of inspiration. I have a very large area to work on it’s a long 9’ x 3’ deep table surface that I stand at. All of my collage papers are stored in Archival boxes right underneath. It’s a great environment and it inspires me on a daily basis.
Enjoy some pictures from his studio!