April 21st, 2009

Written by Monica Valenzuela, Gallery MAR

As I watch the snow melt, I am reminded of an artist’s work that I saw about five summers ago while on a family vacation in upstate New York. Tucked away in a small gallery in the charming, though kitsch, town of Woodstock, I was lucky enough to see the work of the illusive artist Stevan Z. Soszynski. His work is not famous by any means (in fact I cannot find anything about him anywhere online); I was mesmerized more by his unique artistic process than by his name.

He practiced what he called “the art of Snow Painting,” a technique that I believe would go over well in Park City, a town so familiar with the element. Soszynski claims to have discovered the process of Snow Painting in the great blizzard of 1983 when New York City was buried under many feet of snow. (Though Park City is well equipped to handle such massive quantities of snow, New York City becomes paralyzed by anything more than a foot.) Living in Brooklyn at the time, Soszynski scaled to the roof of his apartment building and began experimenting with “Snow Painting”. Put simply, he would layer snow and pigment (sometimes up to nine layers and seven inches of snow) on a surface that would eventually contain his final work. After waiting for the snow to melt away, he was left with an elaborate watermark of mingling colors and shapes that boasted a translucency that he believed was unavailable in other painting techniques. He worked with a variety of paints including nail polish, auto paint, dyes, and powders, all the while experimenting with “the wonderfully absent-minded and random setting of color and shape”.

He claimed that the nitrogen component of snow caused certain alchemical reactions to occur between pigments, maintaining exceptionally clear, bright, and translucent colors. After almost twenty years of experimenting, Soszynski was able to more successfully control the evaporation of snow, allowing him more control over his final design.

His works, though abstract, sometimes asserted landscapes or figurative elements. Viewing each of his canvases, which ranged in size and scheme, was an emotional and beautiful experience, in the way an original Rothko might take your senses for a spin. Oddly enough, I cannot find anything on this process or artist anywhere on the internet, however, I have attached a copy of the three page artist’s biography and statement that I had to dig out of my pack rat archives. This unique process is something we have all unconsciously experimented with – a coffee stain on a napkin, dirty footprints on the tile floor, or a dried mascara stain on a pillow. The means of applying the image evaporates, leaving behind an impression, a ghostly watermark. Without sounding too Family Circle-esque, I share this process with you in hopes of inspiring some snow painting in our aspiring artist readers.

It is a terribly interesting process, on which I cannot find any information. Therefore, I am challenging the ambitious to experiment. Intersperse the lingering leftovers with some paint (whatever you can scramble together), let it melt upon a canvas of your choosing (wood, linen, etc.) and after it has evaporated you have a beautiful footprint of winter.

Posted in Gallery Insights