Steve Argento has a long list of life experiences that would make even Forrest Gump feel unaccomplished.
“I’ve got quite a bit of tags to me,” says Argento. “I’m a disabled vet. I’ve been homeless. I’m a drug addict in recovery. I’ve built a lot, lost a lot and then got diagnosed with prostate cancer.”
Argento’s roller coaster ride began with his stint in the military and culminated with him being diagnosed with stage-three prostate cancer in May 2011. And a lot has gone on in between.
After his service in the military, from 1987 to 1990, Argento worked as a personal trainer, an advisor for Monroe County and even owned his own painting company.
However, in 1994, he found his true calling. That’s when Argento began working for his uncle Ramon Santiago, a famous Rochester artist.
Argento became Santiago’s agent and publisher up until he passed away in 2001. Then, Argento purchased the Ramon Santiago estate to carry on his uncle’s legacy.
Art suited Argento well. He went on to create SC Fine Art and became a rep for more than 20 international artists. However, with success came personal strife in the form of drug addiction.
“I don’t care what anybody says. You cannot recreationally use drugs and operate at 100 percent,” proclaims Argento.
Eventually he got clean, fueled by a desire to make good on the faith his uncle and others put in him. Argento celebrates those people in the form of ink that takes up a good portion of arms.
“It’s a collection of things that represent people in my life who have passed away done by some very talented artists,” says Argento. “Tattoo artists were always artist to me, but now they are getting the credit for it. The human skin is a canvas you cannot throw away.”
While art has helped Argento fight addiction, his battle with cancer has helped him give back. Argento had surgery last August and his cancer remains in remission.
Just a few months after his surgery, in November, Argento opened Ramon Santiago Studio on Atlantic Avenue. Now, virtually everything Argento does goes towards charities like Camp Good Days, ARTWalk Rochester or the Veteran’s Outreach Center.
“I’ve made a decision in my life,” he says. “Based on all of my experiences, the one constant is going to be to give back to the community.”
For more on Argento and his gallery, visit RamonSantiago.com.
~ Story by Peter German
~ Photo by Chris Cardwell