Snow falls back in United States

Michael Snow shows his art in the U.S. for the first time in more than 30 years.

Immediate Delivery, a backlit photographic transparency featuring theatrical gels and metal. | Taylor Spicer TTN
Immediate Delivery, a backlit photographic transparency featuring theatrical gels and metal. | Taylor Spicer TTN

Eighty-four-year-old artist Michael Snow wants his audience to live a part of his life.

A multi-disciplined artist experienced in painting, sculpting, film, photography and writing, Snow draws inspiration from his daily life to create works of art. And for the first time in 30 years, he’s bringing it to the United States.

His exhibit, “Photo-Centric,” is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until April 27.

Some might know Snow for his 45-minute zoom film, “Wavelength,” an artistic film connecting the concepts of time and space.

He’s also well known in his homeland of Canada, as well as Europe. But Adelina Vlas, a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said she wanted Snow to be a bigger name in the United States.

She and Snow collaborated to put together something to show the U.S. his full potential.

That potential was put into “Photo-Centric,” a 30-piece display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that started on Feb. 1.

Snow’s interest in experimental film shows through his two-dimensional artworks as well. One of the most viewed pieces at the exhibit, called the “Power of Two,” is made up of four large photographic transparencies hanging from the ceiling that create a life-sized image of a man and woman lying naked in bed.

Another piece is “The Paris de Jugement Le,” a photograph printed on cloth, portraying three nude women whose backs are turned the viewer, looking at a copy of Cézanne’s “The Large Bathers.” The irony is that the real artwork is displayed at the other end of the museum.

Snow makes his pieces interactive. “The Power of Two” is transparent and comprised of four panels, forcing viewers to look at it in different ways.

“He’s interested in how photography frames and directs,” Vlas said. “He talks about what happens to him when he looks through the viewfinder and how everything suddenly becomes much more intense through the frames.”

“Crouch, Leap, Land” is another interactive piece where the images hang from plates off of the ceiling. The viewer must crouch underneath the images to see them, forcing themselves to be in the same position Snow was in when he took them.

“The thing that is very important for him, and is very clear from the beginning of his works, is this idea that a visitor is a moving body, somebody is not in a specific position, and in order to appreciate the work, he wants you to move around the work, to be fully in motion,” Vlas said.

More of Snow’s recent pieces include factors of lighting, transparency and motion. Snow also often makes his images life-sized so the viewer feels as though they are in the photo.

“In the beginning of his career, he, as [viewers] can see, uses photography as a traditional, documentarily sense,” Vlas said. “Then, slowly he starts to think about photography outside the frame, outside the matting, and becomes interested in what makes photography. What truly is photography? What about lighting, transparency, manipulation of scale? Through time, he keeps exploring this. He’s interested in revealing what it took to make these images.”

Chelsea Finn can be reached at

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