Astri Snodgrass Reshapes Familiar Materials Into Something Unexpected

Paige Simianer | September 6, 2023

Astri Snodgrass explores the captivating interplay between language, light, and perception, making the familiar unfamiliar. 

With a "mind that thinks in images and a body that works in materials," Astri Snodgrass' approach to art is both cerebral and tactile. She crafts visual and material poems that dwell in metaphor, infusing her creations with a sense of mystery. Snodgrass focuses on how she can make familiar materials unfamiliar—similar to repeating a familiar word over and over again until it loses its meaning.

Her work is rooted in deep exploration of the intersection between different artistic languages, be it painting and photography or drawing and sculpture. She treats the act of translating between mediums as an act of generative creation. 

"I use gestures that mediate, translate, transform: printing, rubbing, transferring, folding", she explains in her artist statement. "To fold is to double. It multiplies. The Spanish word for fold is doblar, which also means to dub. To fold is to translate. I make folded rubbings that mark and map themselves."

Her work is cyclical, with new work made from old. Each piece is linked—physically, materially, formally—to a larger family, as if sharing common DNA or an etymological root.

Artwork Archive had the chance to chat with Astri Snodgrass about how language plays a role in her creative process, advice she has for artists, and how Artwork Archive makes her art career more manageable! 

You can see more of her work on Discovery and learn more about her art practice below. 

Astri Snodgrass, 'Symbiosis', 6.25 x 6 in, 2023

Do you have a favorite or most satisfying part of your process? If so, can you share a bit about it?

It’s more a mental state than a specific part of the process.

I love the moment when I’m working through a new skill and troubleshooting—when I can see the potential of a new process or material, I get excited about the possibilities.

When I have everything figured out and the work feels particularly tight, I know I have to move on to something different and follow my curiosity.


You mention working across mediums and “looking through the lens of one medium into another.” Can you elaborate on how this process translates into your creative practice?

Language is really fascinating to me, particularly how one acquires language and navigates through gaps in one’s vocabulary.

Anni Albers talked about how each material has its own rules, almost like its own grammar.

I like to consider different mediums like different languages.

Sometimes learning a foreign word that shares a root with a related English word deepens my own understanding of my native language—fostering a new connection in my mind that I had previously overlooked.

Something like this happens in my studio practice, for example when I’m thinking like a painter but working with fiber.

Astri Snodgrass in her studio. Photo courtesy of the artist

Light and color seem to play a significant role in your work. Can tell us about your process of transforming light into color and vice versa? 

My first love was painting, which is rooted in light and color.

Painting is all about light, and color is the perception of different light wavelengths, a perception that is perpetually influenced by all surrounding colors.

A big change in my thinking came when I started to think about paint not just as a visual means to an end, but as matter itself, reflecting and absorbing light. Mixing paint is like molding the wavelengths of light to bounce back at the eye in a very particular hue and tone.

I like to consider color and structure to be one and the same, as in the embedded colors of warp and weft in a textile.


As an assistant professor of drawing and painting, how does your role in academia influence your personal artistic exploration and process?

Teaching is such a rewarding and creative venture.

It’s social, communal, and even collaborative as I work with students in the studio. I’m always amazed by moments when they interpret prompts in ways I didn’t expect. That expands my own understanding of what I’ve assigned.

I feel very fortunate to have a stable teaching job, where I can stay immersed in studio work and conversations around drawing and painting even during the busier months of the academic year.

My studio practice is pretty solitary, so it’s nice to feel as though I’m giving back in a way by supporting student artists in their development.

Astri Snodgrass, 'Cross-legged', 7.5 x 7.75 in, 2023

What does success as an artist mean to you? 

What a great question. I think there needs to be more conversation around success in general in the art world.

I think being an artist is asking yourself every day how you really want to live.

When you find that you’re continually using that question as a compass to guide you in your daily life, that’s a mark of success.


What impact do you hope your artwork will have on viewers?

I hope my work sparks a sense of curiosity, intrigue, or wonder. I like when I can surprise the viewer with the very materiality of the things I make.


Could you provide some insights into your creative workspace? How does your physical environment contribute to your artistic process? 

I have a studio on campus where I teach. I am very lucky to have a large space that allows for a range of processes to coexist: sewing, painting, knitting, collage, and drawing.

I just returned from a three-week artist residency at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. It was my first residency since the pandemic, and I appreciated the creative energy of working alongside so many other talented individuals.

Often it’s the mood of the space more than the “facts” of a studio that influence how the work takes shape.

Astri Snodgrass' studio. Photo courtesy of the artist

Why did you decide to use Artwork Archive to inventory/manage your artwork?

I had a massive spreadsheet before I started using Artwork Archive.

It had too many limitations for being able to see both the image of the work and the information.

Artwork Archive helps in moments of short notice opportunities because everything is already prepared.


How do you use Artwork Archive on a daily basis?

I use the embed code on my own website to import bodies of work and all of the pieces on my Public Profile.

I also often use the search features in order to look for specific pieces to submit to a juried exhibition or send a gallerist.

I like that I can easily search for artwork by size or price if I’m talking with a collector who’s on a budget, so I can show them what I have available.


What advice would you give an emerging artist during this time?

Make the work you want to see in the world. The more you the work is, the less it will look like anyone else’s. 

Astri Snodgrass, 'Language Lets Us Hold What's Changing', 2022

Astri Snodgrass uses Artwork Archive to search for important details about her artwork, embed her portfolio on her website, and more.

You can make an online portfolio, catalog your artwork, and generate reports like inventory reports, tear sheets, and invoices in seconds with Artwork Archive. Take a look at Artwork Archive's free trial and start growing your art business. 

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