Arboretum gallery features the fabric artistry of Barbara Schneider


Textile artist Barbara Schneider explores and interprets natural images such as leaves, pods and grasses, reshaping them into sculptural objects emphasizing light and shadow on their undulating surfaces.

“Summer’s End,” on exhibit at the UW-Madison Arboretum’s Steinhauer Trust Gallery from September 1 through October 29, showcases Schneider’s work and her creative transformation of common objects in nature.

“I collect leaves, pods, flowers, grasses and look closely at their structure and shape,” says Schneider. “In particular, I like to collect these natural objects at the end of summer when they have begun to wither and fragment.”

Schneider explains that by looking at them closely and then enlarging them, she sees them as sculptural objects. “I take lots of photos of found objects, nature, shadows, and tactile details,” she adds. “These have had a strong influence on the direction of my work. Much of my earlier work has been about reflections and shadows on surfaces, and these shaped pieces introduce a new element—the interaction of light and shadow.”

“Another reason I am drawn to this subject matter is my ongoing interest in the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi, finding beauty in things that are imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete,” says Schneider. “This aesthetic focus is at the core of all of my art work. I like to try and capture the essence of images made of light and movement, images that are infinitely variable.”

She began quilting in 1996 and has rediscovered the pleasure of working with cloth, paint, dye, and thread. Her background is in visual design, having worked for many years as a designer in the publishing industry. Schneider also makes handmade paper and collects Japanese folk art. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is in many collections.

Schneider’s hope is that in addition to enjoying the exhibit, visitors will then look more closely at the world around them and find beauty in unexpected places.

Located in the Arboretum Visitor Center, 1207 Seminole Highway, Madison, the Steinhauer Gallery is open during regular Visitor Center hours – 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 12:30 to 4 p.m. weekends.

The gallery has a two-fold purpose—to celebrate Wisconsin’s natural heritage and the human connection to the land through the visual arts, and to showcase the creativity and talent of artists who draw their inspiration from nature. Most items on exhibit are for sale. Those interested in purchasing are asked to contact the artist. Profits from sales support Arboretum projects.

Located between Lake Wingra and the West Beltline Highway at 1207 Seminole Highway, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum features the restored prairies, forests and wetlands of pre-settlement Wisconsin. This 1,260-acre arboretum also houses flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection. Educational tours for groups and the general public, science and nature-based classes for all ages and abilities, and a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for groups, families and individuals are available.