Review Me: Anthony Santomauro: Empathetic, Contemplative
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Saturday, July 17, 2021

Anthony Santomauro: Empathetic, Contemplative

Anthony, thank you for accepting our invitation to be with you for some moments. I’m going to ask you some questions to kind of open up our appreciation for your artistic life and works. Tell us about your artistic background story and if there was a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as a visual artist?
When I was a child, my mother told me to draw and paint to keep myself busy. I enjoyed this and declared my interest in becoming a commercial artist. This did not go very far when I learned I was red-green color blind. I discovered carrots were orange when I was 26! However, all my early efforts to enter the artistic, academic, or religious life were stopped when my parents were informed my elementary school testing revealed I was a “gifted” child. My father determined I should be a physician. I went to college, then Columbia Medical school, all on full-tuition scholarships. After 13 years I emerged as an Ob-Gyn with no artist training! However, during my Ob-Gyn Residency my partner of 50 years and now husband, Jeffrey, who had been shown my early childhood drawings by my mother, suggested I have a hobby. He bought me a pad and charcoal pencils. While at the hospital, waiting for women to deliver, I would sketch, usually from magazines, especially Dance Magazine, and so started my artistic career. My art was my own creation, with no training. I worked in charcoal and pastels.

Wow! What an impressive life story! Since your education is something else and you are a self-taught artist - and this may make your way and challenges much harder - was there ever a moment of doubt to question your art career entirely?
I could not have a full-time art career because I was a busy physician until I retired from medicine at age 72. While in the South serving in the military I won many prizes in professional competitions. A wealthy patroness of the arts purchased one of my prize winners and wanted to be my patroness to promote my work to US galleries. I had to decline because I was returning to Connecticut to practice medicine. I continued to work at nights and on weekends. In 2009 I was “discovered’ by one of my patients who was a member of Salmagundi Club NY, and shortly thereafter was admitted as an artist member, then as a member of the board of directors and executive committee as secretary. This instilled in me even more purpose to create.

Anthony, do you paint every day? So, what is your daily routine when working in your studio?
I do not paint daily. Once I have tapped into my “creative urge”, I work between 11 am-4 pm daily, working usually on one piece at a time, and for about 3-5 hours, for as long as my eyes can tolerate. Classical music stimulates my productivity.

It’s very attractive to all of us when artists talk about their art creation from A to Z. So, take us through your process of making your artworks. How do you move from an idea to an artwork? Where does an artwork begin for you?
I spend much time thinking before I go to my studio. I pore over countless photos from my travels or of my models.. I often will pose my models into my “idea”, then photograph them extensively. I prefer to create from the photographs. My art begins with these thoughts. Then the hard work begins! During the first 30years of my career, I worked in charcoal and pastels, but had to abandon them because they caused me to have severe sinus infections. I decided to switch media to acrylics (I did not like the smell of oils and distillates, acrylics also clean up easily!. I took a continuing education class for several years and I now study weekly with a professional teacher. My works are drawn, placed on a grid, transferred to a carefully gesso prepared canvas (3X) which was primed with burnt sienna or for a black and white work, gray.

Amazing attempt! Do you seek a relevant and uniform concept or style in creating works? I mean, is the rea central concept connecting all your works together or each series or artwork is unique?
My works are mainly monochromatic because I am color blind, thought I have successfully completed works adding color, with some guidance. Soone connective concept is that I am interested in shades, shapes, values and contrasts. Secondly, my works, be they human or animal, are about human emotion. The eyes in each piece are the key to the soul and understanding of my art.

Occasionally, the viewer’s mind gets involved in the massage of artwork, and after a while, the secrets are revealed, but sometimes the explanation of the artist makes the message easier to understand. Would you like to give a particular interpretation of your work to your viewers or you prefer to leave the whole interpretation to your audience?
As a representational artist, most of my works are very expressive and are easily understood by the viewer. However when I use animals to explore human emotions, my interpretation is needed. In these pieces the backgrounds often talk to their purpose. For example, “We Too”, at firsts appears to be a cute picture of two chimps holding each other. In reality, created during the AIDS epidemic, the monkeys represent two men who are terrified by their AIDS diagnosis. The background is a maze out from which they cannot escape! It took we 3 years to complete this work.

It’s such an engaging portrait. And now we want to decipher your inspirations. How do you seek and use inspiration for your works?
I have collected and taken thousands of photographs over the years. I travelled extensively and took many photos of people. Friends also send me interesting photos from their travels. I also have a couple of very interesting male models. About six years ago I began to sponsor a Cambodian man who is now 31.He is a wonderful photographer and has supplied me many pictures of Cambodian life. However he himself has an intriguing face and has been the subject of much of my last 5 year’s work.

What about the subjects you choose? How do you select your artworks subjects? Where they come from?
My favorite subjects are people who have a story to tell in their eyes or actions. I know many people and have many friends who have posed for me. I do not consider myself a portrait artist, but an artist who seeks to find the soul of humanity, particularly through the eyes. As a physician I was trained to peer into a person’s eyes, analyze expressions and movement, empathize and interpret, then act and advise. I do so with my art.

You are amazing, Anthony. Is there an artwork or series that you would like to be remembered for? And if yes, what is it?
My pastels are particularly sensitive, but for the last 10 years I have out of necessity switched to acrylic painting. I am finally achieving the texture of my pastels in acrylic paintings. This to some degree is because I purchased a set of fine synthetic brushes Paint flows so easily onto the canvas from them,. I hope to continue my portraits, especially my Cambodian collection.

Some ones, some things, and some events can engage the artist’s mind and emotion and be influential in the art that he or she presents. What are your art influences? Who are your favorite contemporary or historical artists and why?
My art has been most influenced by Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt. Chiaroscuro is evident in all my works.

And, if you could meet one of your ideal artists from the past, who would it be and what will you ask about?
I would love to meet Leonardo da Vinci. He was the greatest genius to ever have lived in that during his lifetime he was a master of so much - art, mathematics, engineering, invention, etc. I often joke that I have a little da Vinci strain in me, given my art developed mostly spontaneously, with no formal training until lately, amidst a milieu of medicine and science. I would ask him, why did you paint and draw? I would ask him if being homosexual affected his creativity and if he lived in the 21st Century would his life be any different.

I’m aware that your artworks have been noticed by the viewers with any technique you’ve used. That’s why our readers are willing to follow your works. Any upcoming works or future projects that you would like to share with our readers?

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