The term "weird artist" may seems like an oxymoron. Contemporary art in itself is weird: it breaks apart the structural rules put in place before the Modernist movement and asks the viewer to suspend disbelief in order to transcend into an unrealistic world. Yet, some art is just weirder than the rest, and Snodgrass Jones creates such art.
Jones, who's part of Mind Pool, a juried group show at Next Gallery ending this weekend, showed his work at Cirque Voltaire last weekend and co-owns his own company, Stark Raven Productions, with his wife. He took some time to talk to us about what it means to be weird, how weirdness fits into the Denver art scene and why he frequently changes his mode.
Where did your moniker come from?
That's just my character. I try to keep a sense of ambiguity about my art. You see a certain ego about town with certain artists and their names, and that's understandable. They've earned that, but I wanted to maintain ambiguity to put the focus on the work. "Snodgrass" was just odd enough, so it fit. It just came to my head one day, and it stuck. Sometimes I go out as myself and sometimes I'm out with my mask. I like to kind of play like that.
It seems that your body of work is hard to peg down -- you seem to change your style a lot. Do you think that's a fair assessment?
I do definitely try to steer toward an open spectrum, as far as my style. I tend to get bored with one style so I work in series. I may do two things in a series and then do something completely different and then come back to the first series. As chaotic as it is, I try and keep it in a common thread of surrealism and emotion, as well as life emotions. I try and keep people guessing.
I overheard someone, who was looking at your art, say that it was striking, but they wouldn't have it in their house because it was "too weird." Is that a problem you have a lot when selling art?
I get mixed reactions. I think right now Denver is a great place to be because the market is open. As far as creating a sellable piece, that's not my focus. One person might connect with one part of my life, like the maze, and another might connect to the large series, like the desert scenes. I try to work in a broad sweep and work to multiple audiences.
It seems like that's a conscious decision -- not to worry about creating sellable art. How does it effect you, as an artist?
There's two sides to it, but there was a conscious decision. When I got serious about painting and art in general I found myself kind of tired of hearing the classifications that can be tagged on to art and the limits that those bring with them. I find that honestly, if someone can find something to connect to more than just the visual, that connection is stronger. I try to stay honest. I do create form myself, but I also create for the viewer. You have to.
I could confine myself to one special style and benefit more monetarily, but that can't be the motivation for any free artist. Those who don't connect with my art, I understand, but when people do connect I think that's a stronger connection than just pleasing people. I suppose my art would have more of a cult following.
Sometimes weird becomes played-out, but you don't seem to be weird just for the sake of being weird. Would you agree?
Yah, that's fair to say. I celebrate the individual, the open-minded individual that thinks outside the box. I myself come across as a strange people, both in my art and in my personal life, and I have wrestled with the sense of not belonging with any certain group. But, I changed that from a struggle and now I embrace it.
I try to represent that in my art, but it's something that comes naturally. It's not an antic or a slant. I embrace my weirdness and encourage it others. To free yourself of any classic presuppositions of who we're supposed to be as artists is freeing, and it's starting to take hold and people are starting to take the risks with presenting art. That's my vision. I want people to celebrate their weirdness and their uniqueness, and then we can all fit together in our own unique way.
So you feel like comfortable in Denver?
Oh definitely. This is home. It's a wonderful place to be; it's a very free place to be. It's exciting to see the art scene develop. It's expanded and become more open. The limitations are breaking down and Denver is becoming something no one has seen before, especially here. I feel right at home in that. I want to Denver to keep making awesome art, and encourage the spirit of unity in the art scene, and the freedom to be who you are and still fit in.
For more information, or to contact Jones, visit the Stark Raven Productions Facebook Page. Mind Pools show at Next Gallery (3659 Navajo Street), through Sunday. For more information, visit the web page.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.