Contemporary artist Valerie Snobeck ’03 came to St. Cloud State University in January to make art, connect with students and present her work to the public. Snobeck’s exhibition “Distance Body” at Kiehle Gallery opened with an artist talk held in the building’s basement auditorium, a room filled to capacity.
As a student, the highlight of her St. Cloud State experience was going to the Czech Republic in the study abroad program. “I came back wanting to be an artist,” she said. Since then, she has moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., and travels frequently to display her work. Snobeck has exhibited at Le Consortium, Dijon, France; Galerie Catherine Bastide, Brussels, Belgium; Thomas Duncan Gallery, Los Angeles; University of Delaware Art Museum; 8 rue Saint Bon, Paris; and Essex Street and Renwick Gallery, New York.
Snobeck, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at St. Cloud State and her master’s from the University of Chicago, presented a decade’s worth of evolving artwork during her artist talk.
Faced with space and budgetary restrictions before grad school, Snobeck painted miniatures the size of baseball cards calling them “tiny little gestures.” Since then, her work has grown in scale and sophistication. Among her signature techniques is creating inkjet images to which she applies a plastic film. The film is pulled away to abrade the art’s surface. These “plastic peels” have been displayed in galleries in Los Angeles, New York, Brussels and Paris.
During her one-week stay in St. Cloud, Snobeck worked in the campus woodshop to craft items for the show. She makes a practice of constructing larger pieces on-site to reduce shipping costs and to create artwork to the proportions of individual gallery spaces.
Snobeck is influenced by many things, including construction outside of her studio in New York. Seeing debris netting in situ inspired her to incorporate the material into her work. Some of her artwork references the marine garbage swirl, a gyre of floating litter and disintegrating plastic particulates in the Pacific Ocean. The faded and worn effects of her plastic peels, and her use of debris netting both allude to this break-down of matter as objects become trash — or are renewed as art.
As a student, the highlight of her St. Cloud State experience was going to the Czech Republic in the study abroad program. “I came back wanting to be an artist.”
“I’m thinking of it in an abstract way,” she said. Snobeck downplayed the impact she might have on the environment by making the issue part of her art’s narrative.
“Of course there is a desire to have some effect, but I can’t control it,” she said. “I don’t think my work has a great effect on our larger society at all. There’s still that goal.”
Until recently, Snobeck, who is gaining international recognition as an artist, has always worked outside jobs in addition to making art. As a student, she taught classes at the Paramount Visual Arts Center in St. Cloud. “It was totally exhausting working with kids,” she said. “And I just stopped waitressing a year ago.”
Asked about how she made art connections on both coasts and abroad, Snobeck urged students to find people with common interests. “I think one of the most important things is networking. Be really active in the community. Relationships will form,” she said.