Coloring Inside the Lines: Nicole Schneider at BAYarts

Nicole Schneider likes to court chaos. The works in her new exhibition at BAYarts are all titled “Negotiations” – as if in each work she is negotiating the peace between order and complete bedlam. In the end, a balance is reached – with some fairly spectacular results.

Nicole Schneider, Negotiations 15, 2019, screen and relief monoprint (installation shot)

It’s hard not to think about the scribbles of children when looking at some of the gestures in her compositions. The title of the show, “The Color of Walls,” of course puts the image of a kid taking a crayon, or god-forbid a Sharpie to the wall itself. I remember the taboo associated with such riotous acts, in fact, I’m not sure I ever even tried it myself – a credit to my mother for somehow teaching me to only use my markers on paper. It’s these “rules” that Schneider is exploring – as she explained to me: “The work is very much inspired by watching my children drawing or coloring in their coloring books. I started to think about how full of emotion and passion and chaos children are, and how it is the job of the parent to impose structure and order over their behaviors.  I thought that the coloring books were a nice metaphor for this process of teaching children to behave within the bounds of acceptable behavior – or to ‘color inside the lines.'”

Nicole Schneider, Negotiations 26 & 28, screen and relief monoprints, (installation shot above, unframed below)

All the marks you see were made by Schneider herself, made either directly on the paper in relief or drawn in a sketchbook, enlarged, and burned to silkscreens that she used across the entire body of work. So while these may appear spontaneously created, there is actually at least one step of removal of the artist’s hand from the finished piece. For instance, the direct marks are made quickly and blindly through a relief-lift drawing method where you work on the back of the page.  Schneider likes to toy with the many degrees of removal she has imposed from the original direct mark – drawing up new “rules” to the creation of her compositions.

You may also notice that she has painted blocks of color behind some of the framed works, onto the wall itself. These stabilizing geometric forms mostly accentuate the orderly geometry of her compositions, but I can’t help seeing them still as a small act of rebellion. While hardly Sharpie scribbles, the act of painting directly onto the gallery wall is in itself an intervention in a way.

Nicole Schneider, make-shift painting 2, 2019, canvas with relief printing, painted fabric, vintage linen, straight pins

In addition to her Negotiations, Schneider has included three of what she calls “make-shift paintings“. These haphazard creations captivated me immediately. It’s as if her other works broke out of the frame and exploded on the wall, all tentatively held together with a few pins, as if any minute the whole thing might collapse.


Nicole Schneider, make-shift painting 3, 2019, canvas with relief printing, hand-dyed canvas, fabric, straight pins

And like her other works, while appearing spontaneous, there is a careful attention to composition and color here, ephemeral as they may be. As Schneider explained to me: “I was thinking about how brief and fleeting childhood is, so I wanted to create works that were more carefree, temporal, ephemeral, and more ambiguous as well. I was thinking of the temporary blanket forts or slap-dash costumes I’ve made for my boys, which are not meant to be perfectly crafted or permanent, but will do for the moment.” That might be exactly what attracted me to these temporary explorations – there’s a beauty to finding what is at hand that will do the job – even if it’s just for now.

Schneider will be giving a gallery talk this Sunday, April 28th at 1pm, where she will speak about her interest in developmental and behavioral psychology and how this series is inspired by her evolving roles as artist, wife, mother and experiencing first-hand the task of socializing a toddler, or teaching one to color “inside the lines.”


Nicole Schneider: The Color of Walls | April 10-May 12, 2019 |

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.