But even at his most soul-searching, Snoddy's edges are honed and powerful. There's no convention in his work. Like his "landscape" called "Night Sky," painted brilliant shades of green, a swatch of rolling turf with a moody sky, circles cut out of thick paint, all of it housed in an ornate rococo frame.
"I'm doing landscape but not landscape painting – more of a caricature than a real place, or more like a collage," the artist explains. His art is heavily influenced by Native Americans and indigenous peoples of the South Sea, whose aesthetics come from the rituals of day-to-day life. "That's my sensibility, collecting things in my environment – experiences, materials – and trying to put all of those into a piece, an object."
One current work, for example, features a small Italian painting that he got off a spaghetti box, a picture of a wolf, which relates to the Northern hunting and wildlife scene, and there's also a drawing his daughter Maya did at age 2.
Other pieces are layered with circuit boards, transparencies, paper bags, circles of paint that have been cut out of other paintings, photographs of his studio in L.A., pieces of paintings that other artists threw away, and, of course, those eyeballs, which symbolize this artist's ever-critical voice.
"I make my stuff. I make objects. I see painting as object. I see these rectangular canvases as objects. It's hard for me to just do an image on a surface, because I'm about making stuff, bringing an object into existence. In an objective way rather than a pictorial, window way, looking out at something. I don't see it as necessarily the kind of rectangle, square thing where you put a frame around it and stick it on the wall."
Snoddy reflects on that convention – the rectangle on the wall: "My work started from a place of being not interested in that. I find myself gradually moving back to that just because of the pressure of the area, just to get people interested in what I'm doing. The work I brought from California, people look at it and they say, ah, it's really cool, but it's not …" he pauses, and sighs. "I need to sell work, and I hate doing that. I don't like making art for commerce. But you have to live, so I find even to my distaste that I'm working in a more conventional way."
Former Gallery 544 member Jerry Gates understands Snoddy's dilemma well. The prolific local painter calls it "the sound of one hand clapping," working alone without feedback in a highly competitive market, walking the line between pushing the creative envelope while needing to put food on the table. But Gates sees all that changing as more sophisticated galleries open Up North. So does noted Traverse City painter Joe De Luca: "Abstract art has been very difficult for the community to grasp. We hope that maybe Rufus can bridge the gap with his beautiful abstract work."