Subjecting The Shed To A Little Light
February 21 – March 31, 1989
Cultural Activities Center
3011 North Third Street
Temple, Texas 76501
In fact, his mind was not on the present show at all, but on the odd taste of water from waterguns and
garden hoses, the must of rubber and its kin. It was, to him, a very comforting flavor, and somehow a
very old one. Never mind that the long-chain organic polymers are recent and our own creations. The
water from a garden hose leads back, all the way to the rusty sump of Genesis.
--- Jack Butler
She larft then she said, Riddley there aint nothing what aint a tel for you. The wind in the nite the dus on
the road even the leases stoan you kick a long in front of you. Even the shadder of that leases stoan
roaling on or standing stil its all telling.
--- Russell Hoban
What do you mean they cut the power man?
– they’re animals.
Hills Snyder has lived in Austin since 1977. Last year he served as a judge in the Official World
Championship Pinto Bean Cook-Off in Mason, Texas.
The following are excerpts from a recorded conversation between Hills Snyder and CAC Visual Arts
Co-Director, Hershall Seals, which took place at the artist's studio:
Seals: Suppose I called on the phone and asked you to describe what your work looks like…
Snyder: In this group its mostly an arrangement of objects, images and words attached to black,
elongated cubes…three dimensional columns of negative space --- the way film looks before its developed.
Seals: In the most simplistic terms, is it a horse, is it a stake, is it a ladder? What are the parts?
Snyder: Well, two out of three ain’t bad. I haven’t used the steak yet…or do you mean a tent stake?
Seals: I’m just talking off the top of my head…
Snyder: Well, there are horses and
ladders. Yes we have some horses and ladders, and some guitars.
Seals: You have some water every
now and then.
Snyder: Yes, Siegecraft Advance has water. It’s got a hose coming out of some water.
Seals: How do you go about the process of selecting what you use? Are they literal things or imagined
things? How do the two congeal?
Snyder: It happens in different ways. The main objects in Siegecraft Advance were given to me
by my oldest son, Max. A toy wagon, some rubber tipped arrows, a Star Wars droid and a rabbit mask
wrapped together with string. Max made it on his own and gave it to me to use. It brought to mind some
words I had. There is a reference to a siegecraft --- the words and Max’s object just coalesced.
Not unprecisely construct
ing a theology of lawns,
the he with siegecraft advances: shoot
them down. From trees
and a star.
I wish it for everyone. Christ
is the earth: no heaven
Seals: What’s a siegecraft?
Snyder: In this case, a battering ram.
Seals: Do you feel you have a kitchen sink approach to art --- using anything and everything?
Snyder: It’s more like kitchen synchronicity.
Seals: Kitchen sink what?
Snyder: Kitchen synchronicity.
Seals: I haven’t heard that term yet.
Snyder: It contains the ideal and the ordinary. “Constructing a theology of lawns.” There is humor
in that, but what it means is that there is a potential for feeling something significant while you’re
doing something mundane like watering the grass or washing dishes. The idea of building a view
of the world out of events that take place right in the neighborhood. You build your point
of view out of what is available.
Seals: Does that preclude any concept of tradition?
Snyder: I wouldn’t say so. You have tradition that you get from one place or another, so your thinking
is going to be related to something. You might be influenced by ideas you’re not aware of. But “theology
of lawns,” “kitchen synchronicity,” “garage optimism” --- these are just terms that have to do with
finding something magic without having to be in a magic place to find it. Just creating something.
Sometime during that process you are able to get fueled by the feelings that occur.
you guess your images are confusing?
Snyder: I don’t want to be confusing. I think there is something in things --- things just have meaning.
Like a ladder. You mentioned a ladder. If it’s standing up it has a certain feeling. If it’s lying down it
indicates something else. If it won’t stand up, one of the legs is shorter than the other, that says
something else. The meanings associated with the object are bound up in its function or purpose.
I work with basic things, but there are some ideas that come into play from obscure origins.
Seals: So it’s just up to the inherent self-confidence of each viewer to bring a satisfactory interpretation.
You’ve relieved yourself of the responsibility of being clear. Is that fair to say?
Snyder: Well, I’m definitely relieving myself of the responsibility of being right. I know I’m doing that.
I’m not interested in presenting an idea I know is right.
Seals: Most people want to be right, don’t you think? You don’t want to be wrong do you?
Snyder: I don’t know. The idea of knowing what is right --- that’s an idea I would view with suspicion.
If someone says they know what is right --- I would just have to keep my antennae up around that person.
Seals: You had a review in the Austin American-Statesman in which art critic Mel McCombie states
that your “allusive narrative becomes opaque.” I guess she means one can’t see through the symbolism
to figure out what it means.
Snyder: That comment made reference to a specific piece, Vigil/Vanishing Point/Meanwhile. There
is a long written narrative on the 12 foot base of the piece that leads you to walk around its length four
times. The words begin on a vertical column rising off the base and descend along the edge, below the
horizontal surface of the platform. This descent is a tipoff that the words are a subtext to the visual events
that place above the surface. As you read, the pronoun shifts from I to YOU to WE, taking on a
conspirational tone. It’s as if the voice is coming unwound. As you circle the object, the voice is unwinding
and this inappropriately conspirational tone is pushing you away from the piece because it feels like it’s
trying to include you in something you don’t want to be included in. There is a feeling of being cornered
by this verbal blast. The effect is like what painters talk about when they use the term push/pull. Or
it’s a play on that statement that sculpture is what you bump into when you’re backing up to look at a
painting. As you wind your way around the piece you begin to imitate someone who’s looking at it,
but you’re not really seeing it because you’re reading. It’s like audience participation theatre or stationary
sculpture imitating performance art. So there is some irony in this, but I don’t like to announce it.
What’s the good of putting your tongue in your cheek if you’re going to point at with your tonsils?
Seals: McCombie also says, “He demands a commitment from the viewer that is not sufficiently rewarded
with revelation or insight.” How do you respond to that?
Snyder: I think my work is demanding. Somewhere along the line this idea got started that visual art is a
fast read. I’m trying to slow that process down…
Mel McCombie is quoted from the Austin American-Statesman, September 24, 1987, p. D4.
Subjecting The Shed To A Little Light
Vigil/Vanishing Point/Meanwhile, 1986
51 X 135 X 29 inches
mixed media on paper and wood, miniatures, brick, string, bullet hole
with Susan Maye:
Gator’s Getaway or Ubu Comes Round For Another Look, 1986
59 X 23 X 29 inches
mixed media on wood, paper and clay, miniatures, Plexiglas
with Max Snyder:
Siegecraft Advance, 1987
49 X 16 X 12
arrows, droid, wagon, mask, mixed media on wood and clay
The Friction Line, 1987
65 X 74 X 50
travelogue photo, mixed media on wood, paper, and clay
Hangin’ On The Horns of A Bad Moon, 1987
43 X 22 X 24
painted wood, wire, plastic powder horn
Trojan Horse of Love, 1987
58 X 18 X 31
wood, mixed media
Achilles’ Next Request, 1987
48 X 14 X 18
wood, mixed media