“Approaching the Intangible” exhibit opens at DSU Art Gallery Jan. 6

Thu Jan 2, 2014 at 12:00 AM

“Approaching the Intangible,” a collection of paintings by regional artist and instructor Marie Snavely, will be on exhibit in the Dickinson State University Art Gallery Jan. 6-31. The gallery will host an opening reception with the artist on Thursday, Jan 16 from 2-4 p.m. The reception is free of charge and open to the public.

Snavely describes her painting style as a mixture of romanticism and automatism. Romanticism is a movement in literature and the fine arts that began in the early 19th century and stresses personal emotion, imagination and freedom from the rules of form.

“Romantics believe that the human being is very small and the universe is vast,” she said.

Automatism is a method of producing visual art by following the impulses of one’s unconscious mind to guide the hand. This method is strongly associated with surrealism.

“Surrealists said that everybody makes a subconscious mark that is unique to each person,” she explained. “If you look at my paintings, you will see that they are filled with my mark – a mark that is unique to me.” 

Snavely said she approaches her painting by setting up a problem for herself and trying to solve that problem. This is also the way she teaches art in the classroom-by posing a problem to her students and giving them the tools and the rules to solve the problem.

“All art is problem solving,” she said. “Every single thing I teach is structured this way. I give my students the raw materials and the rules for composition, and ask them, ‘How do you solve the problem visually?’ This seems to resonate with the students. It gives them power.”

In this collection, part of the problem is that all of the canvases in the entire collection are square.

“It’s the most difficult shape because it’s a neutral space,” she said. “When you paint on a rectangular canvas, the brain says ‘landscape’ if it’s horizontal and ‘tree’ or ‘person’ if it’s vertical. The problem I am trying to solve is breaking up the square to get a pleasing composition.”

In addition to working only on square canvases for this collection, Snavely has also limited her palette to include only green, red and gold. Her subject matter is landscapes, and reflects her love of nature, she said.

“Picasso said you don’t create art to decorate apartment walls,” Snavely said. “Art is so much more than pretty pictures. Art is about self-expression, empowerment, a language that is visual.”

Snavely began painting at the age of 12. She is an instructor of art at DSU as well as an alumna and a well-known regional artist. She lives in Bowman, N.D.

The DSU Art Gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday-Friday. Support for the gallery comes from Dickinson State University, private donations and the North Dakota Council on the Arts, which is funded by the state of North Dakota and the National Endowment for the Arts.