I found Daniel Schreiner ’14 in Tunnel City Coffee, the remnants of a foamy cappuccino hinting that he’d been there for some time.
A man of many artistic talents, Schreiner has always been torn between two passions: music and the visual arts. Schreiner’s artistic prowess emerged early; when his parents bought him Lincoln logs as a child he arranged them not into houses, but into symmetrical patterns on the floor. Then, after his parents’ tireless attempts to sign him up for sports teams proved fruitless, he fell in love with the piano. Now a classical pianist and multimedia visual artist, Schreiner has created an impressive body of work, and he has been featured in The Sketchbook, on the College’s webpage and in a smattering of recitals and concerts on campus.
As someone who clearly identifies as an artist, Schreiner’s choice to attend a liberal arts college as opposed to an art school or music conservatory was initially surprising to me but soon elucidated. “I have too many interests,” he explained. “I wanted to broaden my horizons before I started honing them. That’s why I chose Williams.” Schreiner’s artistic journey has been notably shifted by a newfound infatuation with art history: Taking a Michelangelo tutorial this past fall threw the subject into the ring as another potential major for the studio artist and musician.
That said, Schreiner also emphasized his need to maintain a central focus on his art, stressing that he has no intention of “relegating it to the status of a hobby.” It seems he has found no shortage of inspiration in the studio art and music classes he has taken at the College. A course on jazz theory and improvisation led him in new directions musically, and he said he looks forward to exploring oil painting in “Painting” this spring. And, despite his obsession with the arts, some of the classes he has taken at the College that have impacted him most are completely unrelated to any form of art. “Everything complements your art,” according to Schreiner, from philosophy lectures to English seminars.
The variety of ideas that inspire Schreiner’s art mirrors the mesh of materials he uses to create his multimedia designs. His work “Disgusted,” which recently appeared on the College’s website, was made with such an amalgam of media. A face reflected in a fly’s eye, “Disgusted” uses watercolor crayons, watercolor paints, Sharpie and pen and ink to create an array of textures and details. “That’s always what ends up happening,” Schreiner said, as he discussed his layered process of putting together a piece.
Meanwhile, Schreiner continues to advance in piano, exploring Romantic era and 20th-century music as well as jazz and is looking forward to the concerto competition in February. If successful, he will perform again this April in the Berkshire Competition. Though up against stiff opposition, his year-long preparation for the audition should serve him well.
Recently, Schreiner has devoted himself to being part of a team at Mass MoCA that helps contemporary artists execute their visions. Specificially, he has been working on a new exhibit by Sanford Biggers called “The Cartographer’s Conundrum.” The work involves “hanging church pews from the ceiling and dropping pianos and having them smash on the floor,” according to Schreiner, who has spent the last few days cutting out glass stars which will also be smashed. “It’s almost an architectural enterprise with the scale of these works,” he said. The exhibit, which opens on Feb. 4, will be an expansion on the emerging Afro-futurism genre, defined by cultural critic Mark Drery as “speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of 20th-century techno-culture.”
Schreiner hopes that his more recent fascination with contemporary art, which he said “is starting to blend the boundaries between the studio and the museum,” will also allow him to blur the line between his two artistic pursuits. “I’ve been trying to choose between music and art for years,” he said, “and just recently, I’ve realized I can’t choose between them. I’m going to have to do both, somehow, to be happy.”