In Italy I eked out a living giving English lessons and teaching Italian and Art History to American college groups in Siena. With three children of our own, my wife and I, living in a farmhouse with neither electricity nor running water, led a secluded life, out of touch with contemporary art but very much in touch with Sienese and Florentine art.
In 1966, when it came time to decide whether our three boys were going to grow up as Americans or as Tuscan peasants, we moved to New York City, where we have lived ever since.
Because of a friendship formed in Italy with two young New York writers, Peter Schjeldahl and Ron Padgett, I immediately became part of a group of poets centered around the St. Marks Church In-the-Bowery. Because I had majored in English literature in college, I felt at ease among writers. Since 1966 I have painted portraits of my writer friends, produced flyers for their public readings and cover designs for their books, and, in a variety of media, done a great many collaborations with them (documented in a book published in 2004 by Granary Books called Painter among Poets: The Collaborative Art of George Schneeman). In the late 1960s and early 1970s I was influenced to some degree by Pop Art and Minimalism, which in some ways are remarkably similar to early Italian painting.
In 1970s I turned to fresco painting, which I had learned in Italy, and I have worked extensively in this demanding medium. I make small portable frescoes because it is the fresco techniquenot mural paintingthat attracts me. At the Holly Solomon Gallery in 1979, I exhibited 100 fresco portraits. I showed regularly at Holly Solomon from 1976 through 1982. Only one of my shows therea series of plaid shirts in frescosold well. One of the images from this show was reproduced as a greeting card by the Museum of Modern Art.
In the 1980s I began painting on ceramics, at first those thrown by a professional Japanese ceramicist, before I learned to throw and slip-cast my own. I find it exhilarating to paint on three-dimensional objects and rounded surfaces.
For fifteen years, until the spring of 1996, I mounted my own solo exhibitions every two years at my studio on the Lower East Side, showing paintings and collages along with ceramics. Although the sales went mainly to cover expenses, this system maintained an audience for my work, until, that is, the landlord raised the rent to a level far beyond my means.
In 2006 a friend who had bought a building on the Lower East Side offered me the use of the entire renovated first floor for a retrospective showing of work from 1968 through 2006, including large figure studies on canvas, egg tempera landscapes on board, oil pastel drawings, fresco portraits, collages, ceramics, and mixed media collaborations with poets. I sold some work and, although the show was outside the gallery world, it was a personal success.
I work in a studio in my apartment, making collages, painting landscapes and other subjects in egg temperaapproximately 60 of these each yearand doing collaborations in mixed media with writers.
For my art I have received several grants, including the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1969); a National Endowment for the Arts grant (1980); and a grant from the Fund for Poetry for the work I have done with poets (1996).