Doug Snow, utah artist, havasu cliffs

Havasu Cliffs, c. 1960's

oil on canvas

32 x 42 inches

 

Doug Snow developed a style influenced by Abstract Expressionism while a student at Cranbrook Academy of Fine Arts.  When he began teaching at the University of Utah in the 1950s, he overlapped with realist / impressionist painter LeConte Stewart.  According to art historian Will South, Snow was suspicious of both pure realism and straight abstractionism.  In the Utah deserts he found the perfect subject matter for his need to express abstract emotions through increasingly realistic landscape features.  He wrote that,

 

Often I think that my paintings are really bits of nature, bits of fantasy, bits of imaginative groping, all thrown together in relationships that somehow get me moving, excite me, and then I verify those abstractions from nature by my awareness of natural phenomena.  So I will, in a sense, “paint falsely,” as Degas said, and add the accent of nature---literally, I authenticate my paintings by my awareness of what really happens in nature.

 

Although undated, Havasu Cliffs resembles in color and form Snow’s paintings from the 1960s and 1970s.

Horizon Line, Doug Snow, utah artist

Horizon Line, c. 1970's

oil on canvas

32 x 48 inches

 

In a play he wrote called Blind Sight, Doug Snow portrayed a character named Duncan, a revered artist, stopping his car and wandering out onto Utah’s Salt Flats.  Duncan relates that, “

        

I’ve never felt so alone.  Silence.  No noise.  Nothing to touch.  Ideas come, but they seemed trivial…I waited…Finally…I did turn around…I suppose it was emptiness I felt.  A kind of loneliness, but also a feeling of potential.  Was it an abstract experience? Religious? Did it remind me of painters I admired?

 

Although the exact subject matter of Horizon Line is unknown, it may be an encapsulation of the emotions Snow felt when he confronted the vastness of the Salt Flats.  In this extraordinary painting, an electric blue line seems to vibrate with potential, or unknowingness.  Perhaps it is a remedy to the terror of a blank canvas that an artist faces?  As a viewer, we sense emptiness and possibility as well.

Night Bird or Death of Braque, Doug Snow, utah artist

Night Bird or Death of Braque

oil on canvas

36 x 42 inches

 

By the 1970s, Doug Snow observed that he viewed his paintings as “essentially a matter of combustible things happening within a relative calm…So things get very dense, very packed, very full, almost explosive in certain sections of the painting…”

 

This undated painting hearkens back to Snow’s training in abstract expressionist philosophy and technique, in which the paint could “drip, spread, and explode across a canvas and refer to nothing anyone could recognize as some thing in the world, but rather reinforce the idea of the painting as a painting first.” (Will South)

 

Perhaps Snow is responding more to the limitless night sky of the desert than to the ground beneath his feet.  We’re pulled into an inexplicable yet alluring vortex of blue and black, just as we are on a moonless night on a remote plateau.

Doug snow, utah artist,

Untitled, 1990

oil on canvas

36 x 48 inches

SOLD

 

Art historian Will South observed, with regard to Doug Snow’s paintings, that:

 

It is not direct observation alone that drives Snow’s visual orchestration: his work is a visual and visceral self-examination as much as a record of geological processes.  The artist understands himself – his absorption of, reaction to, and feelings about the land – through painting it.  In viewing the paintings, we experience the feelings of nature, too, and the “out there” becomes very much our own emotion.

 

This majestic, bird’s eye view of swirling clouds, with its scumbled redrock outcropping and undulating ridgetops, pulls us into a world of wonder and self-reflection.  It is a place Westerners know instinctively, a place we have seen and been that could be anywhere and nowhere at the same time; it gives us sense of immenseness and intimate tangible reality simultaneously.