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Art Weighted With Emotion


This series showcases artists at work. Each essay is succinct, introductory, and captures art in motion before labels are applied. JOAN SNYDER says that there is a political painting ``brewing'' inside of her. It is not surprising. She has painted them before. But you can tell by the way she says it that she has something to say about something going on right now. Something that needs to be witnessed. Looking at her work, I can tell that her passions would not allow her to stay quiet for long. Sooner or later everything inside her finds itself in paint.

There is a kind of order in these paintings. A mysterious natural order. If you could put the pieces together some secret of nature would be unlocked. Looking at her paintings we turn a key, and then enter another world. It is a place thick with feelings, tuned to color and mark, with sounds in the air.

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Joan Snyder paints landscapes, of a sort. Landscapes of abstract composition. She considers them to be more and more directly inspired from nature, although her other biggest influence is music. Both contribute to the form of her work.

Nature gives grounding to her art, sometimes almost literally with earthy colors and textures, while the music is more about a structuring of the ``sounds'' which rise from that landscape. There is also something lofty about the musical aspect, a geometric and ordered counterpart which floats above the work like a kite above the trees. As complementary as this ``kite'' is, Snyder recognizes the need to keep a tight grip on it. She actually nails it down.

In addition to the oil paint which gets scraped and slabbed onto the wooden surfaces, there are bits and pieces of things Snyder picks up on walks near her home in Brooklyn, New York. They come into the work as a form of collaboration, a physical proof of a critical bond with nature. They get nailed to the surface of wood, iron, what she calls her ``rusties,'' along with cloth, especially velvet. The velvet takes paint in a wonderful way, stiff and dry on a luxuriously deep, moist surface. Velvet has light in it. Light dapples through these paintings like the sun through leaves. It shimmers and sparkles.

Joan Snyder admits that she doesn't like the way the media trivializes her painting by catagorizing it as ``emotional,'' as Expressionism. She would prefer that her work was viewed more in terms of its formal and abstract vision. I understand. At the same time I can't help but think that it is precisely her willingness to share her emotional depths, honestly, and without indulgence, that gives a rare substance to her compositions. Her work is hardly just emotional. It is solidly, affirmatively, resoundingly emotional. And it is those emotions which provide the best possible foundation for her ``music.'' They make it ring true.

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