Famed African American Artist Gilda Snowden Creates a Whirlwind of Art

Gilda Snowden is one of the premier contemporary artists of our time.  She is a curator, an art critic, and a professor of Fine Arts at the Center for Creative Studies, College of Art and Design, in Detroit. Rolling out visited the prolific painter in her westside Detroit art studio, with ceiling to floor canvasses awash in brilliantly colored abstracts and figuratives — the ideal backdrop for a chat with the artist. –roz edward

How much time do you spend in your studio?

I am here painting everyday for five or six hours.

Was becoming an artist your calling?

It’s funny. When I started college, I was a sociology and psychology major, but that didn’t really fit. In the course of taking [prerequisite] classes, I wanted to avoid math, so I took one path as opposed to another. If I took humanities classes, it would fulfill the math requirement. So, I took  classes in listening to music and looking at art and painting. Then, I took more painting classes.

How do you define success as an artist?

I am successful beyond my wildest dreams because I have everything I want. I have a really good job at the College of Creative Studies. I have the respect of my peers. I have been able to show my work consistently. My work is in major collections like.the Detroit Institute of the Arts. But this is really why I am so successful — I also have a life. I have a family, a husband and an 18-year-old daughter. It’s a full, well-rounded life. That, to me, is success. T,hat is a good life.

What is good art?

People make collections for a lot of different reasons. I collect art and I collect from people I know. I buy works, and these works are very eclectic. Other collectors have a point of view. They want to buy just African American Art or just female artists.  Everyone has a point of view. So, what you have to do is have an understanding of what your price point is and, then, ask yourself what do you like. Trust your eye. There is a visual language to all this. So, if you don’t know, ask someone. There is a book out called Collecting African American Art Works on Paper and Canvas written by Haleema Taha, and, in this book, she gives information about trusting yourself and artists you might want to look at. You have to read and study the subject.

What is the inspiration for your work?

I gather information from a myriad of sources — media, print, recollections, dreams. The basis for my current work is tornadoes. Growing up in the Midwest, we were exposed to tornadoes, and I have taken to painting them.

What do you do in your leisure time?

When I am not painting, I am going to art galleries and shows. I guess I am sort of one-dimensional that way.

If I wasn’t an artist I would be …

A concert pianist

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