February 2021  Vol. 2, No.2

The Indelible Boldness of Rosalind Schneider

Aerial Fragmentation Alaska Series by Rosalind Schneider

Aerial Fragmentation (Alaska)
Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass
26 x 38 US inches (66 x 97 cm)

The indefatigable artist Rosalind Schneider is a virtual human dynamo, a greater than life persona in the New York arts scene. Colleagues half-her age would be happy to muster her artistic productivity and creative energy. She radiates amazingly sharp and swift mental acuity at age 88, and she has a few important things to say when it comes to the role of women in the arts. In her lifetime, she has been a virtual artistic tour de force, a trailblazing advocate for woman artists and a pioneer of avant-garde filmmaking, as well as a visionary and innovative painter.

Transformed Realities by Rosalind Schneider

Transformed Realities (The artist’s garden)

Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass

13 x 38 US inches (33 x 97cm)

Flight Fantasy by Rosalind Schneider

Flight Fantasy (Alaska)
Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass
13 x 38 US inches (33 x 97 cm)

Despite her major accomplishments, Schneider was, and is, without major gallery representation. When she tried to break into the male dominated, elite New York art gallery scene in the 1960s, she was restrained by sexism and even told, “These paintings are so strong, it looks like they were painted by a man.” Despite that apparent strength, she was shut out. Things have not changed much. According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services, 63% of undergraduates currently studying creative arts and design are female. However, only 29% of the artists typically represented in major prominent galleries are women. In 2014, a mere 7% of the artists on view in the Museum of Modern Arts collection galleries were female. In 2013, not a single artist in the top 100 auction sales was female. Yet, Schneider persisted and persevered.

Portrait of Rosalind Schneider by Frank Matheis 2021.jpeg

Artist portrait by Frank Matheis 2021

A free creative spirit, she was raised in New York City. Schneider now resides in Westchester County, New York, in the Hudson Valley region. As a committed professional artist for more than six decades, her impressive resume packs more than a short article can hold. It is no overstatement to say that she has expanded the essential horizon of what art is. She has worked 

as filmmaker, painter and sculptor. Her work has been exhibited to critical acclaim in some of the most prestigious art institutions in the land: The Whitney Museum in New York City, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the New York Cultural Center, plus countless others. She had a solo installation in the 2000 Millennium Exhibit in the New York Hall of Science, where her innovative installation was praised by the New York Times. She has also lectured at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Her films from the 1960s and ‘70s are currently being restored and digitized by the Academy of Arts & Sciences, a massive honor for any filmmaker.

She attended the Music and Art High School in Harlem, New York, and studied at the Art Student League in Manhattan, where she was an abstract expressionist painter under the tutelage of the famous Morris Kantor. After a brief stint of studying art at Syracuse University, New York, she later completed her studies at the Empire State College, part of the State University of New York, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Wave Transformations (Atlantic Ocean)

Video Projection onto a Balloon

14 ft Diameter (4.26 m)

New York Hall of Science, Queens 1999-2000

She was part of the ‘Women Choose Women’ exhibition at the New York Cultural Center. She formed ‘Women Artist Filmmakers’, a collective which promoted and funded an art collaborative, to focus and fund women. She was active within the Soho 20 gallery, one of the first cooperative galleries in New York operated by and for women, where she was featured in numerous large exhibits. The organization showed worldwide and many of the artists rose to international fame. The organization ‘New York Women in Film and Television’ funded several grants for Schneider, for films that are now in the archives of the Museum of Modern Art.

Schneider has a remarkable record of achievements. As an early innovator of abstract film and installation art, she was among the first to get recognized as a breakthrough avant-garde filmmaker, making non-commercial, non-story telling art films. She was the first to show film as an art form at the Hirshhorn Museum. She was a pioneer in projecting film on sculpture and other objects in art installations, to show that projection can work as an abstract experience. Once her film work was accepted as a new art form, others followed.

Despite her major accomplishments, Schneider was, and is, without major gallery representation. When she tried to break into the male dominated, elite New York art gallery

scene in the 1960s, she was restrained by sexism and even told, “These paintings are so strong, it looks like they were painted by a man.” Despite that apparent strength, she was shut out. Things have not changed much. According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services, 63% of undergraduates currently studying creative arts and design are female. However, 

only 29% of the artists typically represented in major prominent galleries are women. In 2014, a mere 7% of the artists on view in the Museum of Modern Arts collection galleries were female. In 2013, not a single artist in the top 100 auction sales was female. Yet, Schneider persisted and persevered.

River Meditations by Rosalind Schneider

River Meditations (Hudson River)
Video Projection
25 ft x 12 ft (7.62 x 3.65 m)
Hudson River Museum  2003-2004
Filmed at Hudson River

River Fragmentations by Rosalind Schneider

River Fragmentations (Hudson River)
Video Projection 
20 ft x 10 ft (7 x 3.5 m)
Donnell Library, 2005

She started on 8-mm and later 16-mm film, and has now embraced the video medium, currently combining video with multimedia. She starts an image with digital photography or video, often aerial images from airplanes or drones. She then isolates individual frames, which are printed and mounted on sintra board. Next, she works the images, adding drawings, modeling paste and acrylic paint. Last, she adds tiny transparent glass pearls. She incorporated the glass after discovering that is used to illuminate road signs when the car lights are projected on to them. She sourced them, which was no easy feat, and uniquely uses the material to provide translucent elements to her paintings. The combined layered media creates textured surfaces and dimensionality, creating topographical surfaces, magical spheres that are at once earthy and fantastical. “I seek out sites where nature shows itself boldly, mountains, volcanic eruptions, the sea – at once intuitive, yet with reality expanded, an abstraction of reality, reality reinterpreted, in a sense released and recreated. I connect with reflective surfaces on landscapes and water.”

Aerial Vista 2 by Rosalind Schneider

Aerial Vista 2 (Alaska)
Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass
26 x 38 US inches (66 x 97 cm)

Glacial Flow by Rosalind Schneider

Glacial Flow (Alaska)
Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass
13 x 19 US inches (33 x 48 cm)

Her current work evokes abstractions of bold, transformed landscapes, highly textured, saturated in color and light, creating the illusion of movement and lively vibrancy. The distinct topography of the paintings, and her multimedia use of acrylic and glass pearls, create a highly unique and original vision. There are limitless dimensions, perhaps the earth from above, or inside of the earth, or even into outer space. If you 

saw the images in a scientific journal with the explanation that it was a far-away cosmic galaxy, or even the formation of a star, it would be believable. Conversely, it could be the view to the angstrom level of the microcosm. To feel the dynamics of the pieces, they are best viewed in person, up close, as much of the visual power lies in the nuances. If the artworks were to be shown with accompanying music, it could be both a dissonant cacophony or a harmonious symphony. Equally fitting, it could be Charlie Parker’s bebop saxophone or Jascha Heifetz playing Mozart’s violin concerto. The artist actually often collaborates with musical composers to interpret her art and films, to add scores and theme music. She conceives elaborate installations. For example, she might combine “Projection on Styrofoam sculpture coated with glass sand encased with video monitors.” Her work Alaskan Journey was planned as “…a three channel projected installation. The images are projected on separate walls with projections to the left and right of the center projection. Viewers will be surrounded by the left, right and front images, seen as a continuous looped installation.” 

Her current work evokes abstractions of bold, transformed landscapes, highly textured, saturated in color and light, creating the illusion of movement and lively vibrancy. The distinct topography of the paintings, and her multimedia use of acrylic and glass pearls, create a highly unique and original vision. There are limitless dimensions, perhaps the earth from above, or inside of the earth, or even into outer space. If you saw the images in a scientific journal with the explanation that it was a far-away cosmic galaxy, or even the formation of a star, it would be believable. Conversely, it could be the view to the angstrom level of the microcosm. To feel the dynamics of the pieces, they are best viewed in person, up close, as much of the visual power lies in the nuances. If the artworks were to be shown with accompanying music, it could be both a dissonant cacophony or a harmonious symphony. Equally fitting, it could be Charlie Parker’s bebop saxophone or Jascha Heifetz playing Mozart’s violin concerto. The artist actually often collaborates with musical composers to interpret her art and films, to add scores and theme music. She conceives elaborate installations. For example, she might combine “Projection on Styrofoam sculpture coated with glass sand encased with video monitors.” Her work Alaskan Journey was planned as “…a three channel projected installation. The images are projected on separate walls with projections to the left and right of the center projection. Viewers will be surrounded by the left, right and front images, seen as a continuous looped installation.”

Entering Side 1 (Yellowstone)

Photo Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass

73 x 80 US inches (185.5 x 203 cm)

Entering Side 2 (Yellowstone)

Photo Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass

73 x80 US inches (185.5 x 203 cm)

Hudson Fantasy by Rosalind Schneider

Hudson Fantasy (Hudson River)

Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass

26 x 38 US inches (66 x 97 cm)

There is a feeling of eternal spiritualism, an organic essence that connects to the core human experience. Especially the tiny glass pearls create a fluid dynamic unlike anything ever seen by this writer, like virtual tiny dancers. You seemingly feel all of the earth’s elements: water, land, even fire and wind. The imagination is unbridled. Nothing stands still. Schneider explained her vision, “Art is my life force. I am not influenced by others. I work on my own original ideas. I am drawn to power sites where the earth is recreating itself. It allows me the power of my vision, the ability to look at a site and pick up what to paint.”

Hudson Fragmentation by Rosalind Schneider

Hudson Fragmentation (Hudson River)
Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass
13 x 38 US inches (33 x 97 cm)

Hudson Fantasy 2 by Rosalind Schneider

Hudson Fantasy 2 (Hudson River)
Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass
13 x 38 US inches (33 x 97 cm)

Her topographical series has taken her around the world, from Iceland to China, to Yellowstone Park, Alaska, Hawaii and Israel. She has also focused her eyes locally on New York’s Hudson River. Her powerful project River Meditations is described as “Digitally manipulated footage of ice formations on the Hudson shoreline and river.”

Transformed Vista River Li - Diptych by Rosalind Schneider

Transformed Vista River Li (China)
Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass
9.5 US x 26 US inches (24 x 66 cm)

China Reflections 2 by Rosalind Schneider

China Reflections 2 (China)
Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass
13 x 38 US inches (33 x 97 cm)

“If there are lines to cross, I want to cross them.”

A River of Dreams by Rosalind Schneider

A River Of Dreams (Hudson River)
Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass
26 x 38 US inches (66 x 97 cm)

When viewing her work, the essence of the earth’s power is harnessed. She focuses on the cycle of terra-transformation, starting with creation, as in volcanic explosions of cooling molten lava creating new surfaces, to the destruction it leaves in its path, and the subsequent rebirth of life. Her underlying thematic is seasonal change, the continuous cycle of death and rebirth, of decay and renewal. “I seek an expansion of images and the ability to create what moves me, with passion. I use technology to enter that realm. Then, I work it with my hands. It’s a fusion of materials and the mind. It is the personalization of landscapes so that the image can allow experience expansion. If there are lines to cross, I want to cross them.”

Aerial Vision Transformed by Rosalind Schneider

Aerial Vision Transformed (Alaska)
Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass
26 x 38 US inches (66 x 97 cm)

Volcanic Manifistation by Rosalind Schneider

Volcanic Manifestation (Hawaii)
Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass
26 x 38 US inches (66 x 97 cm)

China Reflections by Rosalind Schneider

China Reflections (China)
Digital Print, Acrylic, Ink, Glass
26 x 38 US inches (66 x 97 cm)

She has seemingly crossed them all and she keeps on going as a powerful, visionary spirit. The Hammond Museum, where she had a solo exhibit, is immensely proud to have her as a member artist. Hammond Museum curator Bibiana Huang Matheis said, “One of the many remarkable aspects of Rosalind Schneider is that you can look at her vast body of work over more than 60 years, and it all stands the test of time. Be it work from the 1960s, ‘70s or any other era, it is impossible to date it stylistically. It is nothing like any other art of that period. She has always been a true original. Her work from 50 years ago looks as if it was done today.”

Stopped Time by Rosalind Schneider

Stopped Time (Israel, Red Sea)

Film Projection, urethane

8 ft x 4 ft (2.43 x 1.21 m)

Sculpture Center NY 1985

Video: Hudson Flow: a river of dreams

Video: Alaska - a fusion of realities

Video: Destruction/Creation/Rebirth

Frank Matheis

Frank Matheis
Writer. Photographer. Producer.


Contributing writer to the Hammond Museum, Frank Matheis, is a music, visual arts and culture writer and photographer. His latest project was the book ‘Sweet Bitter Blues’ co-written with National Heritage Fellow Phil Wiggins (University Press of Mississippi, 2020). His Hammond Museum column ‘In Other Words’ features member artists in all disciplines. He is also a contributing writer to ArtsWestchester, Living Blues magazine (Center for Southern Culture Studies) and thecountryblues.com.