by ALLISON MINTZ
Provocative, unexpected, and haunting are just three words to describe the captivating work of artist Toby Gotesman-Schneier. Gotesman-Schneier is a world-renowned artist and has her work displayed in private homes and museums around the world. Her entrance into art came unexpectedly. “I wasn’t an artist; I didn’t go to art school. I didn’t even know how to draw, but one day I just found myself doing these monumental things” says Gotesman-Schneier. Her work and passion are a true gift from G-d.
Much of Gotesman Gotesman-Schneier ‘s work depicts the human suffering that most people don’t want to talk about or think about. Her collections on the homeless, HIV/AIDS, and her Holocaust project have all earned her critical acclaim throughout the art world. While depicting these images may not be in the mainstream, for Gotesman-Schneier, she said, “no one wants to paint human suffering, but it’s a mission.”
The “Colors of HIV” collection was a remarkable series of work that really highlighted the impact and adversity of the HIV/AIDS crisis. “The HIV/AIDS collection serve as a visual representation of the emotional moments experienced by the families whose lives have been affected by the virus” said Gotesman-Schneier These images are real and they truly showed the suffering, anger, and controversy of this epidemic. You could sense the pride Gotesman-Schneier has for this collection as she spoke so fondly about the importance for her to get this collection to the public.
Gotesman-Schneier’s most impactful work to date has been her Holocaust collection. This collection had 110 pieces and currently only a few pieces are still available. The brilliance of the colors used create such a stark contrast to the depravity and hate of this time. Each painting is even more captivating then the next. While these paintings are beautiful and vibrant, the underlying message of sadness, despair, and helplessness still are prevalent. As I looked through these paintings, I felt a profound sadness and felt that the bright colors enhanced the emotion. Gotesman-Schneier work is not for the faint of heart. Her work draws you in immediately and you can’t help but be left with a strong emotional connection to both the artwork itself and the underlying story not told.
Gotesman-Schneier is humble and authentic when she speaks about her passion for her work. “It’s all about our art and our people. Both my parents were Auschwitz survivors. We have to have a cause that is greater than us, and this is mine. It’s not that anyone wants to paint this stuff, but I felt like I had to, I wanted to, I needed to.” In looking at Gotesman-Schneier’s paintings, the images of cages and enclosures are a consistent theme Gotesman-Schneier said, “Jail cells, geometric shapes, and the umbrellas signify being trapped, an enclosure of sorts. There are still times when I don’t even understand what I paint. I will stand back and be like, whoa, I just did that? It comes from above”
Knowing the political and emotional connection of her work, Gotesman-Schneier said she is not afraid to tell the story of suffering through her artwork. “My dream is to have a Holocaust exhibition in Berlin, Called, In Your Face, Berlin. I know how dangerous this would be, but I’m going to do it” said Gotesman-Schneier. As she explained, it is important to put these images in front of people so that they don’t forget. “I think art has to be dangerous. I can paint the pretty flowers, but there is human suffering and that story is important and needs to be shared” said Gotesman-Schneier.
Gotesman-Schneier was born in Oregon and currently resides in in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She has two adult children, who she loves. She has been active in the Jewish community since she was born. As the daughter of a Rabbi, Gotesman-Schneier took her religion seriously and attended Hebrew school growing up. Throughout her life, she stayed connected to her Jewish roots. Gotesman-Schneier was the co-founder of the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach, New York. She has also been active in philanthropy, politics, bringing awareness to humanitarian issues and spreading her message of awareness throughout the world.
Gotesman-Schneier has many exciting projects currently in the pipeline. Her messages of awareness, suffering, and peace will continue to mesmerize audiences throughout the world. While her paintings are provocative and shocking, they portray a haunting beauty that one cannot miss. “I don’t do anything small in life. I tend to patch everything together, because different moments are different and need to be highlighted.” She knows that her work is controversial, but that doesn’t stop her creativity and her story from being shown.
Anyone who has an opportunity to view Gotesman-Schneier’s work will be better for it, as her paintings have a way of being very introspective. As she said, “I see the beauty in these awful, heinous situations and it juxtaposes against how my heart feels, it’s terrible, and I feel terrible for them.” One theme that has remained consistent through all of her work is the use of color. She said that her mantra is, “tragedy happens in color. Well, life actually happens in color.” Even in the darkest moments depicted in her art, the sky is still shining blue. The colors used, while some may say are controversial, provide an extraordinary realism to the actual pain, devastation, and suffering we see in the images depicted. “I’m an expressionist, I take that thing and make it into a feeling, and not just an image” said Gotesman-Schneier.
Gotesman-Schneier has stayed extremely busy over the past few years. Even during Covid shutdowns, she was able to pivot her business to have a strong online presence. With a huge social media following, Gotesman-Scheiner has been able to connect on a deeper level with her base. She makes a point to show the paintings every step of the way to her followers. As she said, “the process is an equal or in some way has more importance than the end result.” Her social media followers almost become part of the process as they get to see the paintings transform into great works. Gotesman-Schneier shared that her paintings are never truly finished, and they can always be changed depending on how she feels that day.
She is excited about her upcoming solo exhibitions. The first Exhibition, “Deep in the Palms” mixed media paintings will be held August 18-November 1st at the Sandhill Crane Golf Clubhouse, 9500 Sandhill Crane Drive, Palm Beach Gardens. The second solo exhibition, “Still Deep in the Palms” mixed media paintings, will be held September 12-November 18th at the Burns Road Community Center, 4404 Burns Rd., Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. If you are in the Palm Beach area make time to see these wonderful exhibitions. You can also learn more about Gotesman-Schneier on her website https://www.tobygotesmanschneier.com/.