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Thu, 07.29.1954

Gilda Snowden, Artist born

Gilda Snowden

*Gilda Snowden was born on this date in 1954. She was a Black artist, educator, and mentor.

Snowden was born in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up in northwest Detroit. Her father was a dentist. Her parents and grandparents migrated from Alabama and Texas to Detroit early in the 20th century, part of the great migration of Blacks from the rural South to the urban North. She attended Cass Technical High School with a focus on fashion design. Snowden earned her BFA degree in Advertising Design and Painting in 1977 and her MFA degree in Painting in 1979 from Wayne State University. She decided her sophomore year of college to focus on fine art. At Wayne State, she was heavily influenced by the Cass Corridor art movement and studied with artist John Egner.

In 1985, Gilda Snowden became a professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit. She taught at CCS for 31 years, serving as chair for both the fine arts department and the painting department at various times during her years there. At the college, she also served as a curator and juror for art exhibitions. Gilda Snowden's works are predominately abstracts that utilize vivid color. The city of Detroit sparked several bodies of her work.

Her Flora Urbana series features abstracted floral forms, in encaustic, inspired by the gardens now tended by Detroit citizens on plots where buildings once stood.  City Album: Department of Railways 1929 is an example from a series of charcoal rubbings she made of the Detroit manhole covers she discovered riding through the city on her bicycle.

Snowden described all her works as autobiographical including an extensive series Self-Portrait of over one hundred self-portraits of the back of her head and shoulders. She has cited her experience of race, gender, and fears she felt as a child as the inspiration for this series. She began again with the series after growing her hair out in the 2000s and using computer projections to help create her pieces. Monument [1988], found at the Detroit Institute of Arts, as "a chronicle of my family on their travels from Alabama to Detroit. We are all looking for something, all traveling from here to there."   

She was a member of the Michigan chapter of the National Conference of Artists. This organization helped Snowden exhibit her work internationally throughout her career. Throughout her career, Snowden served as an advisor on the DIA Friends of Modern Art Board, a member of the advisory board of the Scarab Club, a member of the Educational Advisory Board for the Art Education Department of the College for Creative Studies, and a gallery director for the Detroit Repertory Theater. She was married to William "Bill" Boswell, an actor and director of the Detroit Repertory Theatre. Gilda Snowden died on September 9, 2014.

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