SnapshotsOfAMoveableFeast_Art_FineArt_Collage_AgatheSnow_Bowery_NewYork_ModernArt

Friends think my job is somehow glamorous, as if I sit around at hole-in-the-wall cafes on reclining wicker chairs, laughing loudly, trading war stories and pretending some of the most renowned names in the art world were born without surnames. But it’s just not true. I panic, pour over the order of the questions, hoping they tell a story, hoping not to sound ignorant, hoping not to sound pretentious. Writing the actual thing is worse — nitpicking each word like some semantic game of Jenga until you’re done, at which point you feel gratified, but stare at it as you would your own reflection after not seeing yourself in weeks. Or you may hate it. Not to mention, I sincerely dig Agathe Snow’s work. So what brilliant question do I come up with? — Ahmed Mori

 

SHK: WHAT WAS THE LAST BOOK YOU READ THAT STUCK WITH YOU? WHAT CHILDHOOD BOOK STUCK WITH YOU?

AGATHE SNOW: Hemingway — the Paris one, A Moveable Feast. I bought it along with my sister. I really just liked the title, felt it would be a good thing to share, a good experience. I loved that she was here and I was in Europe. I really liked the book, and I never liked Hemingway before.

Now, I found an in, found a “frame.” Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast is a recollection of the writer’s years in Paris as part of a much-acclaimed circle of american wordsmith expats in the 1920s. A bunch of other Hemingways keep editing it and want to film it — I don’t want to write another op-ed on it. I just want to understand Snow within its context. And we’ll start with migration — Hemingway lived in Paris as an expat and Snow moved to New York at a young age, although not young enough to erase her charming French accent. And both these cities are prominent characters in their respective works.

HOW MUCH IS NEW YORK A PART OF YOUR WORK? SHOULD LOCATION ALWAYS PLAY A HUGE ROLE IN ONE’S WORK?

New York is an influence, a huge influence in my life — just the movement, everything, I just want to be part of it. It’s even hard to stop and just work. I’m soaked in like a sponge. NYC has such as concentration of life and of people and of movement and of everything, it’s all there. I really feel it. I feel it in my work — everything is so concentrated. It’s like you cut any slice of NYC and it could be its own sculpture.

It really does matter where you make your art. At first, I find things on the street to start with, and I’ll even include things from the past. I always bring my life into it, and NYC is always a part of it, too. I just don’t think you can make art without place having an influence on you.

Agathe told me she returns to New York for parties and what not at least once a week from her Norfolk, Long Island home, which she shares with her boyfriend, renowned sculptor Anthony Holbrooke (son of the late Richard Holbrooke) and their toddler, who almost right away became a part of our conversation. She’s also playing with food a whole lot — a romantic notion, given the temporality of the art you create. To a certain extent, it feels like she’s playing with some of the same impressionistic ideas of the ultra-pragmatic Hemingway style, a minimally-styled prose rarely digested in the same way twice.

YOU’RE COMFORTABLE WITH FUSING THE ART AND CULINARY WORLDS — NOTABLE FEED THE TROOPS AND THE WANDERING PLATE. TELL ME ABOUT IT.

The Wandering Palate is still going on. It’s a family venture, a food truck. My brother built it about four years ago. We decided to contribute, my mom, my boyfriend and my sis, and along with my brother, we’ve been making food with local produce. We also have a fisherman that brings us food every morning — parked in front of the house right now.

Really loving the food aspect of this, growing vegetables, really making your own food. It has been really nice, and with food it comes to an end, not like any sculptures where you can take 16 different parts and keep going and going. With food, you cook it once, you eat it, and that’s basically it. It’s really beautiful, I love it, I think it’s really nice and I get to be with my family.

I feel so much more in touch with reality than I used to be, so all this performance art is making me really scared. I might have to do some more of it.

The baby also totally changed things. Time, making things that last, I always have this kind of hopeful vision of redemption. And now that you’re face to face with this little creature that will live after you and keep going — well, I feel more and more responsible to actually realize the future and respect the fact that it will keep going.

It’s also terrifying because I feel I have to do better than ever and I really push myself a lot more to make really good stuff. It’s not perfect, but it’s more universal, so loud with one little image. You begin to tell one truth, more and more. The real truth with your art.

Hemingway’s Paris featured a much-acclaimed circle of American wordsmith expats in the 1920s, a crowd boasting the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein — not unlike the Bowery School, comprised of Snow, her late husband Dash Snow, Ryan McGinley and, of course, Dan Colen.

A patron of all arts, Gertrude Stein was to many of these literary types what Colen was to a number of his contemporaries including Snow, whose figurines he thought could climb up the art world’s institutional rungs. She’s very grateful for his influence, too.

WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN ART?

I’ve always been interested. Always making things, and you know… I made things always where there was clothes or little roaches. Always making these little creations for no reason. But Dan [Colen] was like “this is art,” that’s what you can do and you can just make this and it’s art.

It was not an interest — before this, making art was not for me. It was for these people who were very important and had something to say and I was very naïve and felt very distant [from the art world].

It was nice to be told you can do it. He was in art school and there were 30 in his class and only one was going to make it and that person had to be him. He told me when he was only 18. His confidence inspired me.

BUT MUCH OF YOUR WORK HAS A SENSE OF HUMOR AND WIT THAT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE REST OF THE BOWERY SCHOOL? WHY IS THAT?

It’s funny you say that because I think about all those things. They’re just friends to me. I don’t look at their art like a movement.

I forget art comes from the outside in. If you don’t take your art too seriously… I mean, I take it seriously, I feel I have responsibility and as an artist I have the most amazing job, but I just look at the world from the outside in and I find everything to be so funny. Maybe it’s not from being inside art but coming from outside. I mean, I didn’t go to art school. I am more of an outsider and I just find things funny. I find words funny. You need to find things funny to be witty.

It’s this picaresque sort of humor — combined with her fascination with entropy — that separates her from the rest of the Bowery School. Snow’s apocalyptic undertones are often peppered with a bit of wit. She’s also rather abrasive, representing a lack of subtleness that would alienate her from a Hemingwayian, but revered by a contemporary hyperrealist.

It’s also observant of the way humans interact, which is something I considered as I myself interacted with Agathe. She’s very open, revealing almost. She held nothing back during our chat and gave me so much information that I feel like a doctoral student approaching his trials.

ARE YOU OBSESSED WITH ENTROPY?

Yeah I hope so. I hope I’m obsessed with it. Sometimes, I get really down. There are a lot of things going on that I don’t know about. So you create your own universe, but if you look a little more at the world, it’s hard to believe you won’t blow each other up at some point.

No matter what, I think we’ll survive it all. Someone will change it, things will change, but it’s terrifying. I’m obsessed with it because I have to be, and I want to but can’t guarantee there wont be any mistakes made.

DOES YOUR WORK CRITIQUE OR MERELY REFLECT CONTEMPORARY CONSUMER CULTURE AND WHAT DO YOU THINK THE DIFFERENCE WOULD BE IN THIS INSTANCE?

I depend on it, too. I depend on contemporary consumer culture. We’ve gotten to a place where it’s a luxury, where we as a society are at a point where we can actually respect each others’ words and people are taking our words and things and what’s going on and making something of it for future generations. Of course, you depend on people consuming the stuff.

I don’t critique it. Yeah, accumulation is out of control, the amount of stuff we consume is insane to think about, but suddenly you realize we do need it, because we wouldn’t keep moving without it. I play with it. I am part of it.

WHAT ELSE  IS ON YOUR PLATE NOW?

The show I’m working on is opening November at OHWOW in L.A. This is the last week before shipping and I’m completely losing my mind. I think it’s the best show I’ve ever done. I’m having so much fun. In terms of structure, it looks the same, but the hardware inside makes it stronger and better and more adaptable and everything is covered in fiberglass. It also all goes up on the wall, which is the first time I’ve done that.

They’re all sculptures that go up on the wall, and yet it’s all about two dimensionality — even the show is called 2D. The subject matter is not very happy; it’s all about situations where you’re stuck. It’s about that itch, the need to fill that hole, filling that emptiness — that ahhhh moment.

Agathe and I discussed one of her personality quirks — she can’t stop moving. Ever. She told me she’s incapable of sitting down for dinner and it was noticeable, seeing as she was out of breath throughout three-fourths of our conversation.

It’s almost as if her body is questioning the world around her, on the level her work does. Hemingway’s metaphoric extension of the Christian term “moveable feast” meant the memory of a splendid time or place after the wanderer has left it, even long ago, like a time capsule. Agathe Snow is a wonderful phenomenological photographer, in this case. Her works are like snapshots of her own moveable feasts, of experiences in the context of the world around her. She was far more eloquent about it than I am here. See below.

DEFINE “EXPERIENCE.”

Anything that makes you ask a question.

[Photographs courtesy of the artist and OHWOW]

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