Briefly describe the work you do.
My work is sculpture, probably in the broadest sense of the word. I borrow forms that exist in our built world and shift their meaning through different strategies. Construction grade materials are combined with cheap furniture, storage boxes, and other temporary living solutions in a way that points at their strengths and flaws. I like to strike a balance between the poetic and a sense of dark humor with the work; something shifting yet simple.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I spent 35 years living in New England until a recent move to Baltimore. My family is creative in a broad sense: lots of makers, storytellers, designers. I developed an interest in “space” and objects at an early age. My dad spent some time as a real estate appraiser, and helping him out as a kid was my first real exposure to how space is constructed and valued. Getting to travel to visit my mom’s family in places like Mexico, Norway, and Brasil made me comfortable with “incomplete comprehension” and exposed me to varied material cultures.
The punk rock scene was my second home. I was exposed to Critical Theory and cultural critique through music first and foremost, and I still view things through that lens all these years later. It directly influenced my transition from studying to be an Art Historian to directly engaging in cultural production.
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.”
Studios, to me, are a place of production and sometimes contemplation. At times my practice has been pretty ephemeral (I have a history of performance-based pieces), so I have not always kept studio space in the traditional sense.
Currently I have a desk, chair, and a corner of a basement filled with tools. While I have been in this position before, I prefer having an independent studio/workshop where I can go and execute an idea on a whim. The fantasy of being more of a “studio artist” is really appealing, but it does not necessarily reflect my creative process or my lifestyle right now!
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?
When I started studying art as a young adult, it was originally to make myself a better historian or theoretician. I never envisioned that all these years later I would still be maintaining an art practice. The act of “making” or “doing” has become incredibly important to me.
I have become a bit of subtle advocate for maintaining a creative life. At this point I am pretty sure some of my friends are tired of the questions about how this or that life decision affects their own practices! I know I have also crushed a few dreams by saying to students, “ You know grad school isn’t just about being able to teach?” If Art gets to have a capital “A”, if cultural production is that important, if it is an academic pursuit and research, then I want people out there who make it their lives. I’ll go to bat for that person any day of the week.
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?
Whenever I can. To quote Jurassic Park, “Life, uh, finds a way.” Sometimes that means life interferes with making work, but those are the moments that also fuel some of the best ideas.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
On a real basic level, it has some color on occasion!
Five years ago, I would have viewed myself a performance practitioner who sometimes made objects to be viewed through that lens. Now the work is primarily objects, and once or twice a year I find time to activate some materials through performance. The Performance community has always given me great opportunities that I am very thankful for, but there is something very satisfying about the more “studio” oriented turn in my practice.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My partner in crime (and life), Andrea Sherrill Evans, is a constant inspiration. She has the type of practice that I strive to build and is a wonderful teacher. Andrea also bakes a mean cookie, which always lifts my spirits.
I am also in awe of Eric Amaral Rohter, an amazing designer based in Bergen, who also happens to be my cousin. He took a chance a few years ago to leave an agency in DC to see if he could live in Norway. The chance he took has lead to an amazing creative practice that I am totally jealous of at times.
On a less personal level, I have a deep respect for the artists that really helped define conceptual practices in the 60’s and 70’s (minimalists, post-minimalist, body artists, etc): specifically, Adrian Piper, Donald Judd, and Robert Smithson for writing and establishing a dialogue for their work when there was a vacuum of critical thought from the perspective of practitioners. The critical dialogue between artists is what makes what we do an academic field, more so than knowledge of philosophy or other disciplines. Our broader interests are what make the work rich; they are not what make the work.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
If I had been exposed to the idea at a younger age, I might have tried to become an Industrial Designer. I think so much about “use” when selecting materials to develop meaning that I’ve determined I actually want to make things that can be used. In the end, I am much more drawn to things that do not have such fixed intent, so that probably wouldn’t have worked out that well.
Amaral Snow holds BA’s in Art History (2002) and Studio Art (2003) from the University of Rhode Island and an MFA from Tufts University/School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2011). He has exhibited and performed both nationally and internationally at The Franklin (Chicago, IL), Gallery Kayafas (Boston, MA), Proof (Boston, MA), Little Berlin (Philadelphia, PA), Mobius (Boston, MA), MEME (Cambridge, MA), Perfolink (Concepción, Chile), Infr’action Sète (Sète, France), Fonderie Darling (Montreal, Canada), and Grace Exhibition Space (NYC).
In 2014, Amaral Snow completed residencies at Samson Projects (Boston, MA) and ACRE (Steuben, WI). His most recent solo exhibition, The Lonesome Crowded… was staged at Boston’s Distillery Gallery in the summer of 2015.
All images copyright of the artist and their used with permission.