Helaine Schneider’s solo exhibit showcases unusual sculptures in clay
Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 16:01
Urns are not something one would expect to see at an art exhibit; but then again, what is normal anymore?
On Friday, Jan. 13, Orlando-based artist Helaine Schneider presented a solo exhibit, "Beyond the Vessel," featuring sculptural clay work in the Alice & William Jenkins Gallery at the Crealdé School of Art. The curator of the show was painting and drawing director Henry Sinn. The show was bustling with around 50 attendees who were all waiting with excitement to see the young artist's new work.
Schneider has an extensive background in figurative sculpture, having sculpted clay figures for nine years. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University, where she focused mostly on anatomy and form taking precedent over meaning in her sculpture. Over time, however, more of a narrative began to emerge and a conversation began with her work, each piece communicating an individual essence in a much more simplistic way.
Her work at the show included figures ranging in height from two to four feet in different poses conveying different attitudes and emotions. Cremation urns accompanied the pieces. The urns provided a much more maudlin atmosphere than the figures alone, and they represented the artist's feelings about loss and mortality, the tangible and the intangible.
The urns themselves were often difficult to spot, as they were not urns in the typical sense. One could only tell if a piece was an urn by looking closely and seeing that the top of the sculpture could actually be removed.
Schneider first began making urns after being approached by a woman whose close friend was dying of cancer. After initially being shocked by the request, Schneider began asking herself existential questions about life and death, and she further explored those questions in future work.
"Beyond the Vessel" is Schneider's first large exhibit since becoming an artist. The name of the show also has a greater meaning. In her primary medium of clay, Schneider wanted to explore what it means in our society to be a thinking being with a spiritual inner life. Themes of nature were prevalent with motifs of birds and water present throughout her sculptures.
Art enthusiast Rita Lasota noted the spiritual narrative emerging from the pieces.
"I see a story of passage from one place to another emerging, and a story of flight," Lasota said. "It is as if the sculptures are moving to an otherworldly place."
Lasota's favorite piece was "Mirror Mirror," a clay sculpture of two heads fused together.
Another spectator, Roy Hernandez, noted the different stories that were being told through the artwork.
"The pieces are all very intricate, and I like how each piece has a different story," Hernandez said.
Hernandez was at somewhat of a loss for words as he thought about what specific stories he saw.
"I haven't quite put it together yet," Hernandez said. "I just see the passing from the extraordinary to the ordinary."
Schneider's clay figures each seemed to have their own personality. The different figures displayed expressions ranging from ambivalence to love to defeat. Many of the pieces, such as "Inner Bean," had portions that would open and allow the viewer to literally see inside of the sculpture.
Local artist Cicero Greathouse noted the wide range of emotions displayed by the clay figures.
"The figures are dynamic as they open themselves up to show different emotions and become animated," Greathouse said. "The sculptures seem very human; their humanity comes out in their stylization."
"Mirror Mirror" seemed to be a crowd favorite as Greathouse also chose it as his favorite piece.
If you are interested in learning more about the artist, you can visit her website at http://helaineschneider.com/. The exhibit, Beyond the Vessel, continues through March 10 at the Crealde School of Art.