photos by Angelina Aragon; Cindy Schnackel with “Hen Party”

Cindy Schnackel

Written by Niki D'Andrea Category: Arts Issue: December 2015
Group Free

ARTIST OF THE MONTH: Cindy Schnackel is for the birds – and fowl. “I had pet chickens when I was younger, and they’re just really cool. They’re very intelligent and personable and affectionate,” the Tempe-based artist says. “And I don’t know why I kept eating chicken until four or five years ago. I recently became mostly vegan.”

Schnackel’s passion for poultry translates on canvas in the guise of colorful cockerels clutching cocktails, eating hors d’oeuvres, dancing and generally engaging in anthropomorphic merriment. “More and more, my work has been trying to get them to be like people, or to get people to think of them as characters and not food,” she says.

“Monster with Extension Cord”Born in Wisconsin, raised in Minnesota and schooled in art at Arizona State University, Schnackel paints primarily with acrylics and sometimes describes her aesthetic as “humorous surrealism and a little bit of cartoon.” She’s been painting chickens for decades (even going through what she calls a “Madonna-chicken phase”), but also creates “thrift store makeovers” (like painting Bigfoot on the bridge of Monet’s “Water Lily Pond”) and cute monster-like creatures with exaggerated features like large, single eyes and blobby tentacles. She frequently incorporates a random item into her paintings, like an extension cord, a suitcase, a tutu or – her personal favorite random insertion – a cup of coffee (as seen in her painting “Giant Coffee-Drinking Chicken”). “It doesn’t matter what the object means, because everybody sees their own meaning,” Schnackel, 59, says. “But it just adds so much to it to have something senseless in there.”

Several of Schnackel’s small-scale works in various media will be on view and for sale in December during a local art-gift group show at {9} The Gallery, 1229 Grand Ave., Phoenix, 602-465-3264. To see more of Schnackel’s work, visit