“Running With Scissors” demonstrates several characteristic things about this artist’s sensibility and methods. A rondel — as are about 20% of her works on display — its imagery harks back half a century or more and includes the initially disturbing sight of an animated, stylishly-dressed woman with no head. And inclusively worked into its flat surface is a shadow box containing an actual pair of scissors. This object, like the art that holds it, easily navigates the passage of time, while those who utilized it — perhaps to make the nearby dress or, it may well be, self-referentially to cut out the elements collaged here, cannot so easily penetrate the years.
The location of her exhibit may mislead expectations. College art departments usually have a gallery, or an entire museum, where student and faculty shows alternate with exhibitions meant to support cultivation. At Salt Lake Community College, the George S. & Dolores Doré Eccles Gallery and the adjacent LED Exhibition Wall in the Edna Runswick Taylor Foyer, fulfill the latter function almost exclusively, so we seek elsewhere for student work. In the current example, while Samantha Snyder is an MFA candidate at BYU, she is also a wife and mother of four who taught elementary school during the course of a mobile life, one that took her from her origins in California’s Central Valley to Texas and Oregon before settling in Provo. Along the say she developed both a sophisticated approach to visual design and insight into the potential role of philosophy in the arts.
In Slip Away, Snyder explores the liminal nature of time. “Liminality” can challenge the mind even as the senses grasp it readily. That may be because we don’t talk about the liminal in America, even though it’s the source of so many of our conflicts. Whether that’s why we don’t discuss it, or if not talking about it has allowed it to become a problem, remains a matter of opinion. Consider that time, as the collages in Slip Away shows over and over, has no hard boundaries. It slips on cats’ paws from day to dusk to night and back again. Any given moment is so much liminal space: as close to before and after as drowsy is to sleep and dreaming. “When” is always (!) a hard question to answer. Those who try to build an impenetrable wall between here and there keep running up against those who enjoy traveling through a continuously shifting zone of transformation.
The five blouses modeled by the decapitated figures in “Ninth Floor” make the point that while the various fashionable items shown here can travel across time, bearing the passport that reads “vintage,” their owners cannot. While the blouses remain crisp in closets, the pert models who wore them have wrinkled. And while Snyder knows we’d like time to work like the door in “Knock Knock” does through space, so that we could revisit the past or become tourists of the future, she knows that barrier to be solid, even as we can pass through it in memory, imagination, and art.
Samantha Snyder: Slip Away, Salt Lake Community College: South Campus, Salt Lake City, through July 28