Traverse Classics: Rufus Snoddy's Journey North

When the tranquility was a welcome change. He and his wife, Robynn James, had lived in Santa Fe for a time, and then moved to Northern Michigan to be close to her parents, who were in poor health. Snoddy figured he would continue his artwork, get into a few galleries and contribute steadily to the family pot by doing interior and exterior murals like he did in L.A.

For this eloquent big-city artist, however, the North was immediate culture shock. He'd spent more than 30 years creating edgy, large-scale constructions that enlivened dozens of group exhibits in avant-garde galleries around the country. He starred in solo shows in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Fe and Paris. Yet when he met with some of the local gallery owners, they didn't know what to make of his abstract art.

As Marcia Bellinger of Belstone Gallery in downtown Traverse City recalls, "When I first saw his work I was certainly impressed, but I didn't know where to send him. His pieces were really big and kind of out of my realm. It's so different from anything we see around here, yet it's certainly spectacular work."

Bellinger took some of his smaller pieces, but told him to check out the fine-art co-op on Eighth Street, Gallery 544, where he was enthusiastically embraced. He settled there until it closed in 2003. "When I met him and we viewed his work, I was just in awe," painter Nancy Stuck, one of the gallery members, recalls. "He brought a new eye to the art scene that we hadn't seen in Northern Michigan. His skill in using medium and his ability to incorporate found objects into his work is to be admired, and he has the true sensibility of an artist – he is driven to create."

Bellinger calls Snoddy, who earned a B.A. in design and an M.F.A. from California State University at Los Angeles, an artist's artist. "He won't compromise his artistic integrity at all. He does what he does – it's urban and uptown." She gave him a show at Belstone after 544 closed that also featured another abstract artist, Cadillac sculptor David Petrakovitz. She remembers the positive feedback the show brought. "People said, thank you for giving us the opportunity to see such outstanding work that we don't get to see here. You've taken your gallery to a new level."

After moving his work into the Evans Forney Fine Art Gallery on Front Street, which folded after a little more than a year, a frustrated but determined Snoddy and his wife opened a small gallery in Williamsburg called Diaspora in 2005.

Article Comments

  • tcartistsdaughter

    I liked the liked the parts about me. But Ill give you a different perspective. I was in my third grade class. I was dosing off, and my throat was sore. I went to the point I couldn’t stand it! So I called him. He was at an interview so I watched my little t.v from the 50′s or somthing. When he was done with the interview I recovered quickly. I enjoyed my afternoon with him.

    In other news;

    I am having a HUGE birthday party on may 16- 2008!