Wendi Schneider Interviewed by Lenscratch

Posted on Dec 27, 2021

Wendi Schneider: On Beauty

On Christmas, I love to share a project or a practice that celebrates beauty.  I didn’t have to think long and hard to consider an artist who has a legacy of creating work that unabashedly reinterprets the natural world in ways that make us slow down, take a deep breath, and relax into wonderment.  Wendi Schneider’s photographs are sanctuaries for the soul, respites from the strife and turmoil that the world presents us with. Her photographs remind us that the natural world is waiting for us, to bask in it’s magic…and yes, beauty.

Wendi Schneider, Locust, 2016, Catherine Couturier Gallery
Old Fort, NC, 2016

Schneider’s work could be considered contemporary Tonalism, a soft focus, luminous approach to landscape that was popular after the civil war. The fragility in her fragile, glowing, and quiet images, turn us inward, away from the tangible world into an intangible space of emotion and reflection. Writer Alexxa Gotthardt shares in a recent article on Artsy “While Tonalism’s cloudy surfaces and somewhat enigmatic connotations may have propelled it out of favor in the early 1900s, it’s precisely these characteristics that appeal to scholars and viewers today. An art that can feel inscrutable, on one hand, is also ripe for investigation, analysis, and consideration. After all, at their core, Tonalism’s hazy, enveloping scenes were fueled by a desire to calm the turbulent recesses of the mind and—in the process—open it to deep contemplation.” In the past several years, Schneider has mastered working with precious metals. She pairs her glowing images with frames she has amassed over years of collecting.

Wendi Schneider, Little Black Angel, Denver, CO, 2019, Catherine Couturier Gallery, Patina Collection 

Little Black Angel, Denver, CO, 2019
Patina Collection

Congratulations on your myriad of successes! Please share the landscape of your growing up and what brought you to photography.

Thank you! I grew up in the plush Southern beauty of Memphis. It was lush with old oaks, magnolias, and maples with diaphanous wafting angels’ wings. I recall the sounds of scattering leaves and quivering grasses in the breeze, the cushiony softness of running barefoot through the lawn, the melancholy light at dusk, and the air before the rain, followed by the enveloping scent of moist bark and greenery.

Our neighborhood was developed around the time our house was built in the ‘50s, but scattered among the houses were a few lovely old homes on larger acreage. We were fortunate to view one through our bedroom window, past the spot where we buried critters who met an unfortunate demise, and the trees that separated our yards. In my earliest outdoor memory, I’m eating lunch at their grand garden table with benches, which I remember as marble, though could well have been concrete. I found solace beneath the venerable weeping willow that backed up to the neighbor’s little farm behind our house, and we were often serenaded by the great horned owls that lived there as we drifted off to sleep. When I was nine, they paved paradise.

My mother and grandmother painted in oils when I was young, and childhood friends tell me that I drew and dabbled in watercolors a great deal more than I recall. I definitely doodled my way through school. I spent hours in the attic perusing my mother’s art history catalogs from The Met, diligently attaching stickers of each artwork in their proper place. The images were small, but they made a big impression. I watched a lot of old films and still do.

In many ways, my formative years were the thirteen spent in the New Orleans I had fallen in love with as child eating beignets on a balcony overlooking Royal Street. I finished college at Newcomb painting late into the night, and it was in New Orleans, while working in marketing at The Times Picayune, that I bought a camera to create references of models for my paintings. I quickly realized I could express myself more eloquently with a camera than a brush. I was mesmerized by the alchemy of the emerging print in the darkroom and often pushed the film to make the photographs more closely resemble drawings. Missing the aroma and sensuousness of oils, I soon began painting on my gelatin silver prints.

Wendi Schneider, The Gossamer of Threads


The Gossamer Threads of Dreams, Denver, CO, 2019
Patina Collection

I have watched your career explode in the last few years, garnering galleries and exhibitions. What do you credit your success to? Have you shifted your approach to marketing?

Luck and friendships have a lot to do with it. Shortly before I left New Orleans for New York, a dear friend insisted I meet Joshua Mann Pailet of A Gallery For Fine photography; I had spent hours at A Gallery absorbing the photographs, but I was too intimidated to speak. Joshua was supportive of my early work and began representing me soon after I moved to New York in 1988. I continued creating fine art and editorial work until the mid ‘90s. I disliked the gloves and masks required for painting while pregnant with our son, so I spent many years working in advertising and portrait photography for clients, web and print design, and art direction.

In my mid 50s, I began to feel the pull to return to my personal work. After reconnecting in 2010, Joshua watched the ‘States of Grace’ series develop and invited me back into the gallery. I felt I was starting over: I had not worked in the fine art world for many years, and it was a vastly different landscape. I tentatively began entering juried exhibitions in 2008, and more vigorously in 2012 and, eventually, in 2015, I attended one of the receptions. It was at The Center For Fine Art Photography, where I was warmly greeted by Executive Director Hamidah Glasgow, and I began connecting with other photographers and later with gallerists who I would eventually work with. I traveled to more juried exhibits and portfolio reviews to get my work in front of people in the industry and to connect with the community that is so supportive of us all. I’ve had multiple incarnations of my website over the years and have embraced social media as an important part in connecting and sharing work.

To continue reading, click here.

To view more works by Wendi Schneider, please visit her artist page.


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