Nick Sousanis on Facebook.

"Terribly saddened to hear the news about Gilda Snowden today. My thoughts are with her family and the Detroit arts community for such a tremendous loss.Wanted to share two past things from my experience of Gilda - first, her interview from the Why exhibition we put on at Work:Detroit:  http://whyproject.blogspot.com/2007/11/gilda-snowden.html

"My name is Gilda Snowden. I’m a painter. I paint many things. I paint pictures of tornadoes, flowers, chairs, lots  of things. I mainly work with encaustic, a wax paint from antiquity.
I do this because they make me happy. I do this because I’m obsessed. I paint, I take photographs, and I draw,  and I need to have these things around me. The paintings smell good. Photographs are documents of my whole  world. It’s almost like I’m obsessed with capturing these things: sunsets, flowers, trees, chairs, cracks in the  sidewalk, but you can’t paint everything. So I do paintings of certain subjects and that slows me down. That  makes me see the world around me in a much more organized way.
It is important for me to document and save and preserve. I started doing it with pictures of my family. And now I  am so afraid that if I don’t document everything around me that my vision will be lost and I want to pass that on."
And a review from her 2006 show at Sherry Washington Gallery. Since thedetroiter.com archives are currently out of commission, i dug up my word doc from then. I think, as i wrote then, the word "celebratory" fits her and her work so well. Best to all - Nick
Gilda Snowden @ Sherry Washington

Celebratory.
This one word succinctly and accurately describes Gilda Snowden’s body of work. In color, form, and movement, she captures the delight on her canvas of being able to breathe, to love, to laugh, to know joy, to know pain and sorrow – that is the celebration of what it is to be human. By this nature, the paintings have an autobiographical quality, in that they capture her expression, not in that they’re scenes from her life, but that she captures that energy, that spirit that is her person (or so we imagine as the viewer) through a variety of marks – drips, splashes, cuts – applied purposefully yet almost chaotically. The work immediately brings to mind a display of fireworks – explosions of color on the night sky – and artistically speaking this references, among other things, Whistler’s “The Falling Rocket.” (Which as it turns out Snowden created work in response to some years back for the DIA’s “Interventions” exhibition.) Fireworks have direction, form, yet their explosive nature adds a fair amount of unpredictability to the mix.

Snowden grounds the work with stand-ins (or rather sit-ins) for human figures in the form of a chair. The chair is a uniquely human creation – everything that stands must sit, but no others develop something specifically to do so and have developed a whole way of life around sitting. Rulers sit on thrones, we have “chairpersons”, and our “favorite chair” seems to acquire an anthropomorphic personality. The chair then is an extension of ourselves and we might imagine these paintings then as emotional portraits of sorts.

From the initial distance, the paintings are quite whole – lots of activity, yes, but all the elements work together to maintain a cohesive structure. Snowden works in multiple layers. It’s not clear at this distance, but she makes great use of masking technique to create a strong dynamic between the layers. At times she uses the unmasked areas both as marks – an array of active, directional lines, and as unifying structure in that, to take one example, a broad swath of color, concealed in the outermost layers, is made visible and its more subtle presence holds the painting tightly together. The masking along with the chairs and other more straightforward geometric forms – circles, triangles, lines – offer the work structure.

At middle distances, for the larger works, some of this structure begins to break down. We’re close enough now to see some of the details but still able take in the whole thing all at once, and it’s just too much. If these are portraits, it has become like seeing all the overlays of a medical diagram of a person at the same time and trying to know who that person is. We need places to take pause, before dancing off again. Even with the chairs firmly established as the paintings’ focal point, at this distance, there seems a need for greater rests.

The smaller works, no doubt in part due to their scale, maintain this balance of activity and rest at all distances. In the “red note” series, three small, square paintings, Snowden has constructed strong linear movement, taking the viewer upward, but always with the inclusion of something to draw the viewer’s eye back in – her trademark chair, a parallelogram enclosing the space. In a similarly sized chair triptych, Snowden offers her most spare work, doing away with some of the intense all over activity and allowing for solid areas of paint to stay at the surface. In one of the strongest paintings, she’s cropped the chair close, so its form stretches beyond the canvas, thus what remains really serves purely to divide up the composition. In between the form of the chair, she layers buttery creamy white paint, which in one place is slashed through but a single time with a blood red arc. That stillness violated by such a strong action works to great effect. This series seems like a promising departure to offer Snowden great possibilities on future work.

Snowden’s “See No Evil” series offer the same sort of directed focus – there’s an “eye” at the center of each, defined simply, hardly more than a narrow diamond form with circle inside, which makes the expressiveness not about the recognizable form but about the energy of the painting. Of which these have a great deal. That center is an almost literal eye of the storm, as a calm space within a flurry of activity.

Moving closer still, we start to see just all the complexity Snowden has worked into her compositions. It’s a bit like being close enough to someone to not just read that person’s iris as a particular color, but as the mosaic of colors and very dimensional textures that they are. There’s a delight in this discovery, this payoff. We’ve come from this more external celebration inward to discover all that makes it tick. For all the entanglement that makes reading the work at middle distances more difficult, up close we see all the variety of marks and diversity of Snowden’s techniques. A ring of a cup or a mug makes her ubiquitous circles, but she employs it with great creativity as in one example rolling this ring along the composition to make a stretched out slinky silhouette, or a map of planetary precession, that is the wobble of not quite circular orbits.

Repeated readings of the paintings no doubt continue to bring new discoveries, and that returns us to the idea of portraiture. The painting, like a person, offers something new in each interaction, as greater depths are revealed to us. Snowden offers a rich, joyful experience, and one to revisit as we look forward to reconvening with our friends. – Nick Sousanis
Photo: Terribly saddened to hear the news about Gilda Snowden today. My thoughts are with her family and the Detroit arts community for such a tremendous loss.Wanted to share two past things from my experience of Gilda - first, her interview from the Why exhibition we put on at Work:Detroit: http://whyproject.blogspot.com/2007/11/gilda-snowden.html And a review from her 2006 show at Sherry Washington Gallery. Since thedetroiter.com archives are currently out of commission, i dug up my word doc from then. I think, as i wrote then, the word "celebratory" fits her and her work so well. Best to all - Nick Gilda Snowden @ Sherry Washington Celebratory. This one word succinctly and accurately describes Gilda Snowden’s body of work. In color, form, and movement, she captures the delight on her canvas of being able to breathe, to love, to laugh, to know joy, to know pain and sorrow – that is the celebration of what it is to be human. By this nature, the paintings have an autobiographical quality, in that they capture her expression, not in that they’re scenes from her life, but that she captures that energy, that spirit that is her person (or so we imagine as the viewer) through a variety of marks – drips, splashes, cuts – applied purposefully yet almost chaotically. The work immediately brings to mind a display of fireworks – explosions of color on the night sky – and artistically speaking this references, among other things, Whistler’s “The Falling Rocket.” (Which as it turns out Snowden created work in response to some years back for the DIA’s “Interventions” exhibition.) Fireworks have direction, form, yet their explosive nature adds a fair amount of unpredictability to the mix. Snowden grounds the work with stand-ins (or rather sit-ins) for human figures in the form of a chair. The chair is a uniquely human creation – everything that stands must sit, but no others develop something specifically to do so and have developed a whole way of life around sitting. Rulers sit on thrones, we have “chairpersons”, and our “favorite chair” seems to acquire an anthropomorphic personality. The chair then is an extension of ourselves and we might imagine these paintings then as emotional portraits of sorts. From the initial distance, the paintings are quite whole – lots of activity, yes, but all the elements work together to maintain a cohesive structure. Snowden works in multiple layers. It’s not clear at this distance, but she makes great use of masking technique to create a strong dynamic between the layers. At times she uses the unmasked areas both as marks – an array of active, directional lines, and as unifying structure in that, to take one example, a broad swath of color, concealed in the outermost layers, is made visible and its more subtle presence holds the painting tightly together. The masking along with the chairs and other more straightforward geometric forms – circles, triangles, lines – offer the work structure. At middle distances, for the larger works, some of this structure begins to break down. We’re close enough now to see some of the details but still able take in the whole thing all at once, and it’s just too much. If these are portraits, it has become like seeing all the overlays of a medical diagram of a person at the same time and trying to know who that person is. We need places to take pause, before dancing off again. Even with the chairs firmly established as the paintings’ focal point, at this distance, there seems a need for greater rests. The smaller works, no doubt in part due to their scale, maintain this balance of activity and rest at all distances. In the “red note” series, three small, square paintings, Snowden has constructed strong linear movement, taking the viewer upward, but always with the inclusion of something to draw the viewer’s eye back in – her trademark chair, a parallelogram enclosing the space. In a similarly sized chair triptych, Snowden offers her most spare work, doing away with some of the intense all over activity and allowing for solid areas of paint to stay at the surface. In one of the strongest paintings, she’s cropped the chair close, so its form stretches beyond the canvas, thus what remains really serves purely to divide up the composition. In between the form of the chair, she layers buttery creamy white paint, which in one place is slashed through but a single time with a blood red arc. That stillness violated by such a strong action works to great effect. This series seems like a promising departure to offer Snowden great possibilities on future work. Snowden’s “See No Evil” series offer the same sort of directed focus – there’s an “eye” at the center of each, defined simply, hardly more than a narrow diamond form with circle inside, which makes the expressiveness not about the recognizable form but about the energy of the painting. Of which these have a great deal. That center is an almost literal eye of the storm, as a calm space within a flurry of activity. Moving closer still, we start to see just all the complexity Snowden has worked into her compositions. It’s a bit like being close enough to someone to not just read that person’s iris as a particular color, but as the mosaic of colors and very dimensional textures that they are. There’s a delight in this discovery, this payoff. We’ve come from this more external celebration inward to discover all that makes it tick. For all the entanglement that makes reading the work at middle distances more difficult, up close we see all the variety of marks and diversity of Snowden’s techniques. A ring of a cup or a mug makes her ubiquitous circles, but she employs it with great creativity as in one example rolling this ring along the composition to make a stretched out slinky silhouette, or a map of planetary precession, that is the wobble of not quite circular orbits. Repeated readings of the paintings no doubt continue to bring new discoveries, and that returns us to the idea of portraiture. The painting, like a person, offers something new in each interaction, as greater depths are revealed to us. Snowden offers a rich, joyful experience, and one to revisit as we look forward to reconvening with our friends. – Nick Sousanis

Foam Paintings