ART
IN THREE DIMENSIONS

The Paintings of Tom Schneider

 

BROOKLYN BRICK. Oil on Canvas with bricks. 1998. 10' x 4'

 

~When I was in second grade the teacher took us all to the library one day.

I saw an oversize book on the top shelf. I had noticed it for several weeks but because it was so high up I could never reach it. That day I climbed up the shelves and took the book down. I sat on the floor in the corner with a book almost as big as myself. I began turning the pages and just stared at the pictures. I thought only a couple of minutes had gone by but twenty minutes or more had passed and my class had returned to the classroom. I sat there transfixed by the most beautiful things I had ever seen. The teacher returned to find me sitting with that oversized book in my lap. The pictures were photographs of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. I think that that was the moment I knew I had to be an artist. Something inside me wanted to make a statement as powerful as those paintings.

 

As a child growing up in Minnesota
I developed juvenile arthritis and an illness which affected my intestines. After a number of surgeries, most of my intestines were removed and I was left with an ileostomy.
So I have been "disabled" for most of my life. Nevertheless, I have never liked that word—"disability."
It pigeonholes people. Doesn't everyone have a disadvantage they must confront, whether it's physical, emotional, psychological, cultural, or economic?

SEDUCTIVE STILL LIFE-LUV FRUIT. 1998. Oil on Canvas. 5' x 3'

 

My physical condition has motivated me
to do things I might not have done. It has made me a stronger person because I have learned not to let what I cannot do define what I can do. My physical being is a small part of a many-faceted being. It is just one part of the whole of who I am—and I like who I am. My sexual preference, like my physical self, is only a part of who I am, a part that exists as a very personal thing between me and a partner. It has always seemed natural for me to approach friendships in the same way. If the whole person displays qualities that are enduring, the rest seems to fall into place. By focusing on "wholeness" I have met innumerable supportive, exciting and interesting people.

BLACK BOWL. 1999. Oil on canvas. 5' x 2.5'

 

Ever since graduate school at Pratt Institute
I have lived in Brooklyn, New York. My paintings, some inspired by the city, are three-dimensional shaped canvases that explore ideas and imagery associated with still life and landscapes. I incorporate floor- as well as wall-space in my compositions; it's a format that I believe draws the viewer more closely into the picture plane. Shaped canvases represent my desire to escape from the confinement of the traditional square and rectangle. The canvas itself has qualities I want to investigate, too, as I cut, mold or stretch it into untraditional forms.

BROKEN DREAMS. 1999. Oil on canvas. 5' x 3'

 

I've discovered that I do not feel the need
to relate the images in my paintings to one another in a logical manner. I will use forced perspective or objects with different perspectives in the same composition. It is the shape of these images and their relationship to one another that concerns me. Humor is a big part of my personality and it can play an important part in my paintings, too. I hope you will see the humor as well as the seriousness in my work. To me, it is all part of the wholeness I talked about earlier.

SATED. 1999. Oil on canvas. 4.5' x 3'

 

~When I was eighteen I was hospitalized in pretty bad shape.

The prognosis was grim and surgery was ordered. In fact, I had deteriorated so much it seemed likely I might not survive. After the surgery my body refused to tolerate what had been done to it. I went into shock and things started to shut down: my kidneys, my pancreas, pretty much my entire immune system. I began to bleed internally. You hear people who have had a Near Death Experience recall looking down a long dark passageway with a white light glowing from the far end beckoning them forward.

That was the experience I had. I remember that as I was lying in that state, aware of my condition and what seemed inevitable, I made a clear statement to myself: "I CAN'T DIE. I HAVEN'T SEEN THE SISTINE CHAPEL." I believe that is one of the reasons I survived.

When I look back at that incident now, and I do often, I laugh sometimes. It seems so silly. But that is the connection I draw between art and life.

 

DEAD OF NIGHT. 1998. Oil on canvas. 8' x 5'

 

"The images in my landscape paintings are derived from my experience living in a large metropolis. In some of my paintings I strive for a theatrical effect that utilizes both wall and floor areas. I make no attempt to create idyllic, serene, or realistic depictions of the city."

~TOM SCHNEIDER (TSchnei554@aol.com)

 

Text and Paintings © 2000 Tom Schneider