One of Canada’s most original men of arts, Michael Snow has died of pneumonia at age 94. Snow was a polymath, excelling in visual arts, experimental filmmaking and music.
As a student Snow supported himself as a jazz pianist. He studied art at the Ontario College of Art and spent ten years in new York honing his crafts which included a variety of media including film, paintings, sculptures, photography and music. In new York he produced “Wavelength” now considered a ground-breaking experimental film.
After he returned to Canada, Snow involved himself in public art. Two of his works are known to millions of Ontarians who may not have known who created them. They are the Toronto Eaton Centre’s geese installation “Flight Stop,” created in 1979, and the Rogers Centre’s “The Audience” a sculpture of excited fans.
In 1993, The Michael Snow Project, lasting several months, was a multivenue retrospective of Snow’s works in Toronto exhibited at several public venues and at the Art Gallery of Ontario and The Power Plant. Concurrently his works were the subjects of four books published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada. Snow has shown internationally in both galleries and cinemas, including a retrospective of his work at the British Film Institute, London where his celluloid works were shown in the cinemas and his digital works in the gallery (The BFI Gallery). The project, titled ‘Yes Snow Show’, took place in 2009 and was co-curated by Elisabetta Fabrizi and Chris Meigh-Andrew.
In 1981, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Companion in 2007 “for his contributions to international visual arts as one of Canada’s greatest multidisciplinary contemporary artists”. He received the first Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2000) for cinema.
In 2004, the Université de Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne awarded him an honorary doctorate. The last artist so awarded was Pablo Picasso. In 2006, Lima’s Museum of Art (MALI) held a selective retrospective exhibition as well as a screening of his films in Peru, as part of the Vide/Art/Electronic Festival.
Two years ago the Art Gallery of Hamilton staged an exhibition devoted to the first fifteen years of Michael Snow’s practice. The first work dated to 1947, when Snow was nineteen, and the last to 1962, just as he was leaving Toronto for New York City. By the age of 33, his work had already undergone many metamorphoses, and the exhibition explored his experimentations and the accomplishments achieved during these crucial years.
On the news of Snow’s passing, The Art Gallery of Ontario issued a statement reading, “Michael Snow was a great artist and person — a legendary Toronto artist whose highly acclaimed and influential career spans all media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, film, video projection, sound art, bookmaking and experimental jazz.”