Studio Visit: Astri Snodgrass

Astri Snodgrass is an artist living and working in Idaho. Her work can be seen in PLEAT's June 2018 exhibition as well as astrisnodgrass.com.

Please describe your work.
Most of my work is rooted in the practice of collage. I make paper tapestries on masking tape through a somewhat unpredictable transfer process. Other more sculptural drawings are made by folding paper and a creating a rubbing on that same surface to reveal the folds beneath. In a sense, it’s a drawing that images itself, or marks itself. My work generally takes a very simple process or material and transforms it into something unrecognizable or unfamiliar.

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?
Many of my conceptual choices are actually rooted in the material and process itself. All of my work is cyclical in some way, in that each piece is informed by and sometimes literally made from earlier work. Through a very physical process, I paint, transfer, cut, rearrange, and attach parts back together. Sometimes two pieces share a very clear formal structure because they were split apart from a singular piece. Like Pangaea drifting apart or words that share a common etymological root, there’s a common origin and the potential to keep recycling into something new. I like how collage can suggest infinity.

I also read a lot, and even if it’s not a book about art, it often ends up influencing how I think about my work or what it means to live a creative life. I love reading the work of visual artists who also write, because it can give such privileged insight into their visual work. Agnes Martin’s Writings, Marlene Dumas’ Sweet Nothings, and Anni Albers’ Writings on Design have all been important reads for me in finding a voice for my own work. Books that follow a creative life or a lifelong friendship between artists are also really dear to me, like Stanley Kunitz’s The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden, Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty, and Patti Smith’s Just Kids.

I think it’s hard to separate one from the other, though, the internal from the external. After a while all those external factors – materials I collect, places I’ve lived, books I’ve read, paintings I’ve loved, conversations in the studio – turn into internal factors. They have become so much a part of who I am when I enter the studio that it’s hard to pick apart whether motivations are coming from inside versus outside of myself.

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?
Michelle Stuart and Dorothea Rockburne have been really influential for my recent work, especially in thinking about how to strip drawing down to its most basic elements. Their work has informed how I’m thinking about material as tied to the earth and drawings that make themselves. I also really love Jennifer Bornstein’s rubbings of her father’s personal possessions. Anni Albers, Henri Matisse, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Robert Ryman have also been really important for me.

How has social media affected your studio practice?
On the one hand, it can be so stimulating to encounter new work through social media. It’s especially exciting when I am also just one or two degrees of separation away from someone who is making work I really respond to. That kind of connection makes building an extended artistic community much more accessible and less daunting to reach out to folks I might not have met in person. Personally, I really enjoy being a viewer on social media as opposed to the one posting content. What I find exciting about Instagram is that I can post as much or as little as I want, knowing that I’m using it more as a tool for discovering new work than promoting my own.

On the other hand, I don’t always want that intense kind of stimulation because then I find myself questioning my own choices in the studio a bit too much. It’s all so new, social media in general, so I think a lot of artists are still trying to come to terms with how they engage with it. It’s still just one big experiment.