Briefly describe the work you do.
I like to call my art practice adventure art. I use the term to describe a performance-based action of adventure, in which I (or someone else) use creativity and imagination to have an exciting and remarkable experience. These adventures are then transformed and perpetuated through popular, social, and artistic media, resulting in a larger network of newspaper articles, TV spots, drawings, oil paintings, assemblage sculpture, video installations, and good old-fashioned storytelling.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I watched a lot of good television and movies growing up. Specifically, cowboy Westerns and adventure films like Indiana Jones. I think my fascination with popular culture and specifically the male hero/celebrity comes from this. I never really considered myself an artist at the time, but movie watching definitely influenced my imagination and in turn inspired me go on trips into ‘the wilderness’. Now, I don’t see a big difference between hanging out in the woods as a kid and going on adventures under the pretext of art as an adult.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio practice probably both confirms as well as differs from the stereotype of the artist toiling away along in the studio. I’d say that the majority of the time, being alone in the studio is the case. Besides going on adventures, I paint a lot and edit videos. And I like to be alone when I do this, usually listening to podcasts. On the other hand, the source material for much of my painting and video work comes from the much more social and public nature of my adventure-art practice. I think that it is a good balance for me.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Four years ago, I never would have imagined some of the roles I have taken on in my adventure-performance work. I can be outgoing, sometimes, but usually only around friends. The adventures have forced me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to engage strangers with my artwork, ideas, and stories. I never would have thought that I could facilitate so many experiences for others through my art practice. I figured I would always have the curtain to hide behind, like a painting or something, in my interaction with the audience.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I work whenever I can, but I almost always do a little work on weekday mornings, before heading off to school. I find that I get my best ideas before breakfast while drinking coffee. I also usually ‘hole-up’ on the weekends and spend all day in the studio. I’m not very good at working at night. I usually get distracted and want to do something more passive, like watch a good movie. The adventures themselves are an all day for multiple-days type thing.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My work has changed in that my whole concept and identity with adventure art developed roughly four years ago. It came about after being challenged to insert my own personality into the popular culture that I have often critiqued or used as source material in my paintings and videos. It is the same in that I still paint on a regular basis, using popular culture and American mythology as inspiration. The main difference is that I would say that it now has a lot more of ‘me’ in it.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Lots of people have had an impact on the work I do. I owe a lot to friends as well as strangers who have helped me out and participated with various projects. Artists, like Joseph Beuys and Errol Morris as well as celebrities like Alec Baldwin, Sylvester Stallone, and the wildlife filmmaker, Marty Stouffer, have also had an impact on my art.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
Well, I’m an art teacher as well. I very much identify with my occupation of teaching. Before becoming a professor, I taught K-12 in Alaska. I loved that. I think it is good for me in that it forces me outside of my sometimes self-centered art practice.
Steve Snell (b. 1983) grew up in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio where he watched a ton of great television and often rode his bike to Taco Bell. He graduated from Miami University in 2006 with a B.F.A. in Painting and a B.S. in Art Education. In 2011, Steve received his M.F.A. in Studio Art from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he was a recipient of the Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship. He has been an Artist-in-Residence at the HUB-BUB in Spartanburg, South Carolina and most recently at the Wassaic Project in Wassaic, NY. Steve is currently on the faculty at Hastings College in Hastings, Nebraska, where he teaches painting, art history, and adventure-art. His work has been shown in galleries and film festivals throughout the United States.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.