Detroit artist speaks at Oakland University Art Gallery

Detroit artist Gilda Snowden, 59, spoke at the Oakland University Art Gallery Thursday, Nov. 7 afternoon about her life of artistic work and development.

Snowden’s solo exhibition, Album: A Retrospective, opened in the Gallery Thursday Oct. 26. It showcases her work from 1977 to 2010.

Snowden and her art was brought to OU by Dick Goody, the director of the OU Art Gallery and curator of the OU Art Collection.

“It is a reflection on Gilda Snowden’s extensive career and community presences as an artist, activist teacher, peacemaker, and doyenne of the visual arts in Detroit,” wrote Goody in the event’s catalog.

Goody began the event by introducing Snowden and her 40 years’ worth of achievements, including numerous awards and the curating of more than 100 exhibitions.

Snowden then took the floor with a smile and 33 pieces of her work surrounding her.

The short, gray-haired Detroit native began her presentation by defining the word retrospective and how it related to her.

The theme of this exhibition, she said, was to look at herself and the changes she has experienced since her very first painting.

“What I’ve learned from this show is to pay attention to myself,” Snowden said. “We study other artists’ work all the time, but how often do we look at ourselves like that?”

While speaking, Snowden shared several pictures on a projector of her life in a chronological order. Pictures included herself, her friends, places she has been, and the artwork that she has made as a result of these experiences.

One thing that has always played a crucial part in Snowden’s life is her identity, which she uses as the basis of her work.

At one point Snowden grew dreadlocks and did a series based on her hair, which she did not cut until she wanted to finish the series. She has been through “two batches” of dreadlocks and plans to begin a third soon.

“For some reason I didn’t want to duplicate reality,” Snowden said,“ I wanted to make reality.”

Snowden currently teaches three days a week and is in her studio the other four days, where she experiments with many different kinds of materials and mediums.

Her newest projects include graffiti and spray paint. She said it is a fun experience and that she does “everything that the graff artists tell you not to do.”

As she becomes accustomed to a new medium, Snowden says she shows it as soon as possible.

“In order for me to work, I have to have a show in front of me,” said Snowden.

Snowden said believes that nothing is perfect, and that she welcomes any kind of criticism and feedback at each new show.

“If you don’t have fun, what’s the point?” she tells her students.

 “It’s not the work you’re learning about, it’s you as an artist that you’re learning about.

Snowden said she once heard a man say that “the work you’re doing now is not what you’re going to be doing 30 years from now.” 

The statement has stayed with her ever since, she said.

“I’m having a great time of it, and that’s all I ask,” Snowden said.

Snowden’s exhibit will run through Sunday Nov. 24 and is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Learn more about Snowden at