SHOESCAPES.com

Craig Schneider, Artist

One Art professor observed that looking at my shoescape paintings as a group made him feel a little "creepy". I wasn't unhappy at all with that response although it wasn't my intention. There is something oddly intimate about feet even though they are on public display in our current culture. The point of view in several of the paintings is at the feet of the woman. It's an unusual focus and has led some to share that they will never see feet or shoes in the same way again. That is my intent. I hope to convey that they are somehow informative and communicative if not actually important. 

I see the paintings as part portrait, part landscape, and part still life. I want the viewer to look at specific things like veins, muscles, tendons, points of stress, and details of the sometimes hazardous surroundings. To me, these are beautiful. I feel that depicting women in this way reflects a modern aesthetic embracing the toughness, resiliency, and raw reality of woman. This aesthetic is reflected in contemporary images of women as athletic, sinewy, and earthly. It is consistent with new body images that accept the body’s natural features, even those that were previously perceived as flaws. Think: women on the television series "Survivor" or "Fear factor".

Women's shoes are also descriptive of contemporary women. While often sometimes delicate and feminine looking (Okay I wrote that a few years ago), they must be exceptionally strong to survive the great stress of every stride. Shoes today suggest a greater range of possibilities for women than 30 years ago. Women may be seen wearing everything from "Doc Martens" army boots to trendy platforms and stiletto heels of four inches and up.

The idea of doing portraits of feet and shoes has been with me a long time. An axiom for writers is “write what you know”. The same might be said for visual artists. I know shoes from my long-time interest in shoe design and three years selling women’s shoes. From that experience I came to understand the powerful feelings many women attach to shoes.

Shoes are highly symbolic of human existence and have been documented throughout history and literature. To be wealthy is to be "well heeled," bien calzado. Selling shoes I learned that many women have strong feelings toward their feet both positive and negative. For some women at least part of the energy spent shoe shopping was an attempt to camouflage a perceived flaw. For one close friend, the mere mention of the word “toes” at one time made her uncomfortable. For others, the mood-altering shoe shopping experience is a form of medication, a psychological lift when other clothes don't fit.

High heels, at first condemned by Feminism as ‘hobbling’, have been revised as symbols of feminine power. My paintings are intended to reflect a post-feminist aesthetic where women perceive and project themselves as athletic, confident, and powerful, but with enough ambiguity to allow for interpretations of misogyny, exploitation, and vulnerability.

As a painter, I did not set out to be a realist or hyperrealist. What I wanted was for the viewer to share my sensual response to the flesh, leather, metal, and other surfacesi. Realism, at present, is how I strive to get there, but by no means the only pathway. My painting technique continues to evolve. I use photography to create and compose images. The limitations of photography are compensated by observation and studying multiple views.  I depict unlimited depth of field, with near, mid and far ground in focus, more faithful to human vision than the fixed focal plane of photography. I also want the viewer to appreciate the stark beauty of the desert and bright light and contrast of the Southwestern U.S. where I grew up. 

 

 

"Lechugia number 2" 

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