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Amanda Snyder, “The Monuments” (1965)/Portland Art Museum

By Graham W. Bell

This may be the first time that the location of the basement gallery in the Portland Art Museum has had a strong connection to the practice of the artist being exhibited. The demure Amanda Tester Snyder retrospective going on now (through October 7th) feels right at home in the subterranean, many (if not all) of the works having been made in the late artist’s own basement studio.

Quiet but deceptively complex, the show traverses Snyder’s career from the the 1930s until her death in 1980. Working during a time of great upheaval and innovation in the art world, the paintings nonetheless draw upon earlier eras, first Impressionism and then into Post-Impressionism and Expressionism, the work of an artist who both studied her predecessors and was aware of her contemporaries.

Accompanied by a small publication, Amanda Snyder: Portland Modernist focuses on what curator Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson terms the artist’s “unforced naïveté” [page 39] and a preoccupation with Snyder’s “narrow, domestic world” [wall text]. This personality emerges from  the variety of styles, subjects and media. There are no grand gestures of earth-shattering avant-gardism, but playful studies in movement, collage and abstraction.

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