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Honors thesis student expresses emotion through art

By Victoria Aronson

Section: Arts

January 31, 2013

Through his artistic renditions of close friends, Lenny Schnier ’13, a studio arts major pursuing an honors thesis project in painting, seeks to convey the turbulence of emotions experienced by students on the brink of graduation as the progression into adulthood looms in the imminent and increasingly encroaching future.

Originally from Long Beach, New York, Schnier recalls his passion for the arts as a child, yet he did not begin to seriously cultivate his artistic capacity until high school. Despite intending to continue his artistic ventures as a compliment to another course of study, Schnier soon found himself enamored and immersed with the program, leading to his declaration solely as a studio arts major. Although his work consists mainly of portraits of individuals he is close to, he reveals that they also serve as a mechanism of self reflection, projecting his innermost concerns and trepidations.

Describing a painting leaning against the studio wall, Schnier explained his desire to capture “a transitional phase, an element of the future, the fear of the unknown” within his work. The striking combination of the nude figures lounging against the vibrant colors of the painting is meant to convey anxiety regarding not only the future, but relationships and the process of unearthing one’s identity as well. Bearing a sense of intimacy through the rendition of the subjects without clothing, the painting exemplifies Schnier’s close relationship with his subjects. Titled “Do you think Virginia will go blue in 2012,” the painting has been exhibited to the public at gallery showings in the past. Noting that the titles of his pieces often bear personal connotations, Schnier emphasizes that his paintings “speak in a way to what I’m thinking about, my future and anxiety.”

While browsing through the studio, the spectrum of distinct styles and techniques utilized by students working within the studio becomes evident. Schnier described his own personal techniques, using lines to emphasize and portray the forms of the figures he paints. Displaying a sense of intimacy, his paintings usually reflect nude figures cast within domestic environments, although he acknowledges the limitations he faces in terms of space. Despite Schnier’s deep involvement in the program, he acknowledges the challenges faced by members who must commute to the off-campus Prospect Studio, revealing his aspirations for the university to someday provide more accommodating conditions on campus.

Tracing the progression and evolving nature of his art, Schnier explains his former tendency to use less-representative colors to create the image of the figure he was painting. Deeming these colors arbitrary, he now focuses on generating closer renditions of skin tone and using colors more indicative of his intent as an artist.

Beyond his personal transformation as an artist, Schnier recognizes the personal nature of his interactions with the individuals who model for his portraits. In particular, he recalls a close friend finally demonstrating acceptance and comfort with her body by modeling in the nude, stating, “it was a moment of triumph for her and for me.”

When questioned as to the process underlying the generation of his paintings, Schnier echoed the sentiments of a previous professor who described the ever evolving nature of art. “The concept of a painting being done is very ambiguous,” Schnier said, commenting that as an artist he may return to a previous piece completed weeks, months or even years earlier. Prior to devising the grand scale version of a piece, Schnier will at times create a series of miniature paintings to play with the usage of distinct colors and techniques. He has also created a series of miniature scale portraits of iconic celebrities, demonstrating his interest for pop culture and the field of Americana.

Schnier recognizes this to be his next challenge as an artist, and nevertheless asserts his desire to “keep being weird, a little angsty, upset, confused, yet also very purposeful” in the manner in which he creates his paintings. In terms of his future aspirations, Schnier hopes to continue pursuing artistic endeavors, possibly teaching and gaining some experience within the workforce before pursuing graduate studies to further his skills.

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