By Jenny Rebholz   Published Jan 04, 2006 at 5:34 AM

A childhood filled with art, sports, outdoor activities and family, heavily guided by religious philosophies can certainly mold a man. It is only natural to face the choice of whether to conform or to rebel, but is it a battle of good versus evil or simply a coming of age? In the case of Steve Sorrentino, it is a journey. These influences shaped his personality and define who he is today, while guiding his artistic pursuits.

Growing up in Illinois, he refers to himself in the past as a human Xerox machine. With three sisters and one brother there were numerous magazines from which to replicate pictures of models, surfers and such. He perfected his drawing skills yet stayed within the confines of the image he was duplicating.

A specific high school project challenged him and absorbed him in a way that was pivotal to his artistic development. It literally pushed him "out of the box." He was finally able to abstract his art, and it expanded his mind. He began painting, writing, reading and absorbing everything he could and translating this world of information into his art.

A tumultuous road post high school led him in various directions, but in the end he found his way to Milwaukee and a home at MIAD where he could explore his artistic passions. It was here that he discovered printmaking, and today it remains the foundation of his work.

Imagery is the soul of Sorrentino's work. He gathers images from periodicals, film, the Internet or through his own video work. While his MIAD instructors encouraged him to draw his own images, Sorrentino, the once human Xerox machine, resisted. As he progressed through school and beyond, he rediscovered his passion for drawing. However, this method does not generate the majority of his imagery.

His process involves examining the images and working with layers and time lapses that begin to create compositions that capture time. When creating his own videos he works with his subjects and encourages them to engage in normal activities, only under the eye of the camera. Later he breaks down these videos second by second isolating the moments that are otherwise lost by the human eye.

"I do not think of myself as an artist, but as an active viewer," describes Sorrentino. "I love people watching."

Much of Sorrentino's current work displayed around Milwaukee examines people and in many cases, women in particular. "It does not concern me whether a viewer engages my work as sexual objectification or an intricate social investigation. What does concern me is that the viewer is engaged by my work. I take complete ownership for everything I make. When it comes to viewer associations however, I consciously attempt to engage each viewer on an individual basis."

As a viewer it is hard not to be engaged by his work, yet it is more than the work itself, it is how his work interacts with the space it occupies. Sorrentino spent his college years living in Gallery 326 where he learned the ins and out of a gallery, yet he prefers to have his art in more public spaces.

"I like putting my art in public spaces rather than art galleries," comments Sorrentino. "Some of the best conversations I have had with people about my work are those who otherwise are not exposed to art." Currently he has work displayed at several local restaurants including Sauce and The Holiday House in the Third Ward.

According to Holiday House owners James Benway and Joe Volpe, "His art fits with our theme in the restaurant, "classic meets contemporary", with his being the contemporary part. It is sexy, tasteful and catches the eye of the different aged customers that come to the Holiday House."

Sorrentino describes his current work as more playful and fun. "I have been into layering for a while. I like taking relationships between opposing images and making them collide together. I am using a combination of digital, print and hand drawings. Digital is huge to me and printmaking is profound, very tactile and physical. The drawing for me is sometimes subdued, but the playful, emotive side is coming back."

While Sorrentino works his day job as project manager for Flux Design, he continues to explore his personal artistic pursuits and finds collaborating with other artists a rewarding experience. He will work back and forth with fellow artists, layering upon each other's work to see what creativity results.

With all that he is doing, he finds Milwaukee to be a great place for his artistic pursuits. "I think Milwaukee is a unique place," says Sorrentino. He reflects on his personal decision to come to Milwaukee versus New York or Chicago. "If I had gone to New York, it is a black or white situation. I would have either drowned or had exponential success.

In Chicago, I feel it is more of an illustrator's world with money dictating the art production. In Milwaukee, an artist can afford to have the space an artist needs, and it is small enough to access business owners in order to get your art out there." He looks forward to his future in Milwaukee and the possibility of shipping art anywhere around the world.

He is still on his journey and watching people every step of the way. As he layers the images and redefines time in his work, how will you respond? It is not a question of whether you love it or hate it, but whether it captures you and engages you enough to comment on why.