As October turns into November, Sorbus will present works by Megan Snowe, a former member of Sorbus working group now living and working in Philadelphia, US. Megan Snowe graduated with an MFA in fine arts in 2014 and is now returning back to Helsinki for her second solo show at Sorbus. We interviewed her through email (in english) about her coming show, abstract sensuality and the view of the art world seen from the other side of the Atlantic.
Sorbus: At Sorbus you will be exhibiting pencil drawings. Based on the photos we’ve seen of the drawings they seem to depict unfamiliar round 3-dimensional objects floating in space, with no hint about the scale. Would you like to tell us something about these drawings?
Megan Snowe: I started drawing shapes like this several years ago. I found them comforting, but didn’t think more about them beyond a resting place to return to in between other thoughts. During a residency earlier this year at a Quaker retreat center called Pendle Hill, I decided that it was time to look at them more closely and see where they fit in my constellation of interests. There they became bodies, forms that I related to on a visceral and emotional level. They felt intimate and tangible. I wanted to get to know them, like companions.
S: Earlier you have also worked with 3D graphics. Your previous exhibition at Sorbus (2014) was accompanied by an online 3D game, a kind of virtual parallel exhibition that took place in a space resembling Sorbus. How does your work with 3D graphics relate your drawing?
MS: I am inspired by the challenge of creating hand-rendered images that resemble digital visual vocabulary. The results are tense yet inviting shapes – clean and cold, warm and fragile. The Body series quietly stands firm in their physicality.
They also inhabit their own space, which you referred to in the previous question. They are floating, with no hint about scale, but hopefully you still feel like you can enter that space and have a physical relationship with them. That’s often how I feel about digital space. It is scaleless, bizarre, and floaty, and part of me enters it.
Also, practically, it was a refreshing shift to rely on my hands, paper and graphite and not a computer.
S: Heads and hands seem to be recurrent motifs in your works. Can you say something about this thing with bodies and body parts and/or through this elaborate on what abstract sensuality means to you?
MS: Yes, I’m still really trying to figure that out. Why am I fascinated by prosthetics and separated bodies/body parts? Part of it has to do with a produced realer-than-real replacement for something you are physically or emotionally lacking. I am also interested in the disconnect one can have with one’s physical body. I think I can experience that. I get super stuck in my head a lot. Making works that represent an abstract sensuality feels like a way for me to understand my own sensual existence that incorporates that disconnect. What does “feeling” in the tactile sense mean when touch can happen via multiple senses and in multiple spaces?
S: When you come to Helsinki, you will also realise a public artwork as part of the launch of a web platform called Art Advisor (as an artist suggested by Sorbus). Art Advisor is a platform that helps you find current local exhibitions and events and let’s you curate it with your favorite venues and artists. You told us earlier that this public artwork is in some way connected to your exhibition at Sorbus. Can you tell us a something about this work and its relation to the exhibition?
MS: The two projects come from the same visual vocabulary and questions about the representation of a sensual body or sensual experience. It is as if they are portraits of the same bodies but shot at different angles, with different tools, in different contexts.
S: After finishing your master’s degree in The Finnish Academy of Fine Arts you moved back to The United States and now you have been living in Philadelphia. What have you been working on?
MS: I’ve been working on feeling out a life in Philadelphia. I forgot how long it takes to connect with a place without the established community of a school or a present friend base. A while. And I’m a bit impatient. So, I’ve been working (day jobs), applying for residencies, making artwork in my home studio and spending time with family. I’ll be going to London next year for the SPACE Residency at The White Building.
Though, if I’m to be honest here, I’ve spent the past year trying to figure out how to be an adult. That is one tricky thing.
S: You lived in Helsinki for more than two years. How do you see the Helsinki art scene now that you’ve been away for a while? How is exhibiting in Helsinki different from exhibiting in Philadelphia for instance?
MS: Well, I haven’t exhibited in Philadelphia. I’ve been putting my energies to having exhibitions in the New York area and in Europe, because those are the most familiar art scenes to me actually. I haven’t figured out how to make money at exhibiting in the US, but I’ve hardly started, so that is no surprise. We don’t have the same artist grant system that you do. It is hard to imagine getting a working grant here. I wonder if that exists…?
What I’ve heard mostly from you all and friends from KUVA is that there are some positive things happening in terms of a change in thought regarding artists paying for exhibitions and a greater respect for artist-run spaces. That’s good. I hope that there would be a lot more spaces like Sorbus in Helsinki. But I also hear that the country as a whole is getting frighteningly conservative, that funding for essential services are being cut and things generally feel very precarious. I’ll be curious to see how the city has changed in the last year. It sounds like it really has a lot.
In Philadelphia there seem to be a lot of artist-run galleries that run on member fees (organizers pay monthly fee to run spaces) or rent out part of their space as studios to pay the rent of the entire space. A lot of smaller spaces have short lifespans due in part to the messed up zoning laws that make it very difficult for abandoned factories to become art spaces. It is so backwards. And the local government I guess is oddly strict about enforcing these laws. What happens is that a lot is going on, but on a very small scale and for a very small audience (because it is hard to establish a regular fan base when you can’t get too public about your activity and you have to change location all the time). There are people who are working to change this I think. A lot happens for and with Philadelphia-based artists here, too. The whole situation gives the art crowd an intimate feeling, but is hard to access if you do not live here, if you are from another city or another country – not because of a hostility though. Does that sound familiar?
Honestly, I have a lot to learn about the art community in Philadelphia and the East Coast in general. A lot of young creative people are moving to this city right now, especially as New York becomes impossibly expensive. I’d say, watch Philadelphia as things begin to crystalize.
S: We are very glad to have you back with us in Helsinki, and especially at Sorbus (that you were also part of before your departure). Is there something in the discourse of art in the United States that you would like to bring to us here or anything on the contrary you would wish to bring back from us there?
MS: I am so glad to come back! It feels like an art-home in a way. As a souvenir I will bring you… I enjoyed the recent exhibition at Petzel Gallery of paintings by Dana Schutz as well as Jesse Harrod’s hyper-psychedelic-sexual exhibition at NurtureArt Gallery. Both had this frenetic physicality in 2D space (of paintings and drawings). Harrod had these tense sci-fi vaginal sculptures and Schutz’s painting of people fighting in an elevator had a similar effect. Bright, tense, physically agitating (in a good sort of way?). Both shows also had a quite jolly and festive palette, but the content felt oddly graphic and exposed.
Also, Leah Beeferman’s Strong Force at Rawson Projects. I can stare at her work for hours.
I don’t quite know what I might bring back to the US, but I’m ready for anything!
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Megan Snowe (b. 1986) works in a variety of mediums including installation, animation, video, sound and workshop, often collaboratively. Snowe has recently been driven by the question of how we understand, strategize and quantify our immaterial and emotional lived experiences, critiquing various social strategies and subconscious behaviors that perpetuate inhibiting social norms. These interests have also evolved into a fascination with abstract sensuality and where our erotic body lies within our networked, freelanced, algorithmic identities. Snowe’s work aims to create an ambiguous yet sensual experience for the viewer, transcending content to engage with the emotional and physical levels of awareness that often are not articulated. With a BA in Russian Studies & Studio Art from Oberlin College (2008) and an MFA in Time & Space Arts from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts (2014) Snowe has exhibited throughout Europe, the US and online.
Sorbus Coffee with Megan Snow and Jenna Sutela, Sat 7th of November 2pm
Sorbus Coffee (formerly known as Art Coffee) is an artist meeting and open discussion about the thoughts raised by the exhibition. This Saturday we discuss Megan Snowe’s exhibition Body Body. The discussion will be joined by artist and writer Jenna Sutela. The discussion will be in English.
Loka-marraskuun vaihteessa Sorbuksessa nähdään yhdysvaltalaisen taiteilijan Megan Snowen näyttely. Hän valmistui kuvataiteen maisteriksi Taideyliopiston Kuvataideakatemiasta vuonna 2014 ja toimi osana Sorbus-gallerian työryhmää vuoden 2014 loppuun, jolloin muutti takaisin Yhdysvaltoihin. Body Body on hänen toinen yksityisnäyttelynsä Sorbuksessa. Haastattelimme Megan Snowea sähköpostitse lokakuussa 2015 hänen tulevasta näyttelystään, abstraktista aistillisuudesta sekä taidemaailman maisemasta nähtynä Atlantin toiselta puolelta. Haastattelu on luettavissa tiedotteesta englanniksi.