Artist Spotlight: John Salozzo's Elegant Realism

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

The first time artist John Salozzo saw a Richard Estes poster, he realized the type of art he wanted to do was photorealism. That interest served him well in his career as a successful commercial illustrator in Boston, Mass. for 20 years. During that period, his work was published in many national magazines and publications. Salozzo also illustrated the rock band Boston’s “Third Stage” album cover, which Rolling Stone ranked in the top 10 album covers of the year. Salozzo’s work will be on display at SLART’s “33 December” exhibition, Friday, Dec. 20, at Old Orchard Gallery in Webster Groves and at Clayton Fine Art Gallery, where he is a resident artist.

The Tivoli Courtesy of the Artist

The Tivoli
Courtesy of the Artist

Salozzo’s early painting influences came from the old masters and some not so old; Caravaggio, Van Dyck, Wyeth, Sargent, Vermeer and Vittriano. Even in his earliest days as an artist he was captivated by a realist style. Photographers such as Ansel Adams, Karsh, Lange and Uelsmann have also had their influence. But it was an early 1980s photorealism book that got him hooked. “ I hadn’t realized that this genre of art was legitimate and others were so terrific at it,” Salozzo says.

Courtesy of the Artist. Salozzo

Courtesy of the Artist

Salozzo tends to work on a thematic series of paintings, such as the music series he’s working on, as well as a larger series featuring St. Louis icons—largely buildings such as the Tivoli or the Moonrise Hotel. His interest in music partly stems from his work as a commercial artist that was music-based, most of which were ads that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine. “I believe you should, like in writing, paint what you know and what you have experienced,” Salozzo says.

Blue Stones and Butterfly Courtesy of the Artist

Blue Stones and Butterfly
Courtesy of the Artist

We caught up with Salozzo and asked him about his art and upcoming exhibit. Plus, we find out if he’s just painting over photographs.

ALIVE: How would you describe your art in general?

Salozzo: I like my work to project a quiet elegance, even when I use bright colors. My paintings are sometimes mistaken as photographs. I do use photos as a reference but in most cases, the painting is an amalgamation of several photos and things I make up. People sometimes ask if I paint over a photograph. Never. I use both a paint brush and airbrush to help me achieve the look I am going for in the final piece.

ALIVE: What can people expect to see in your upcoming show?

Salozzo: This show will feature three painting from my music series. One will be a photorealistic painting of a French horn, another will be a jazz player and the last will be a blast from the psychedelic area of the 1960s with a year 2000s twist.

ALIVE: What do you hope to achieve with your art?

Salozzo: Interesting question. I worked as a commercial artist for over 20 years and for that period my goal was to please my client and make a living. With fine art I hope that my work brings some happiness to folks that like to understand the artwork they are looking at while appreciating the time and talent it took to produce.

ALIVE: Pick one piece from the show and describe it: inspiration/meaning/technique…whatever strikes you.

Salozzo: I was a child of the ’60s and early ’70s and was a huge music fan. This painting (below) harkens back to those days, but you will notice the girl is from today’s world. I challenged myself to create that psychedelic background, but knowing how colorful it is, I decided I needed to render the dancer in negative. I’m calling it “Dance Little Sister Dance,” after a Rolling Stones song I always liked. I used acrylic paint and both hand brush and airbrush to make this painting on canvas.

Dance Little Sister Dance Courtesy of the Artist

Dance Little Sister Dance
Courtesy of the Artist

“33December” Art Exhibition is at Old Orchard Art Gallery, 39 S. Old Orchard Avenue, Webster Groves, Dec. 20, 2013 from 5:30pm until 10pm. For more information, visit the MySLArt website.

John Salozzo is a juried member of the GSLAA and a resident artist at the Clayton Fine Art Gallery in Clayton.

Follow Christopher Reilly on Twitter @ChristoReilly

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