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FEATURED ARTISTS:

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CREATIVE SPIRITS OF PLACITAS

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ED GOODMAN

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KATRINA LASKO

JADE LAYVA

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GENE McCLAIN

GENE McCLAIN

BARRY McCORMICK

TONY PARANÁ-RODRIGUES

GARY W. PRIESTER

MICHAEL PROKOS

LAURA ROBBINS

GARY ROLLER

ANGEL ROSE

RIHA ROTHBERG AND WAYNE MIKOSZ

GARY SANCHEZ

SHARON SCHWARTZMANN

DIANNA SHOMAKER

KATHERINE SLUSHER

LORNA SMITH

CIRRELDA SNIDER-BRYAN

KEVIN TOLMAN

DAWN WILSON-ENOCH

For more great local art, visit
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Sandoval Signpost Featured Artist Gallery

Artist Cirrelda Snider-Bryan
Artist Cirrelda Snider-Bryan

Watercolor: Highway 44 Looking West at San Ysidro Clay: Neighbor Guineas
Watercolor: Highway 44 Looking West at San Ysidro Clay: Neighbor Guineas

Signpost featured artist of the month: Cirrelda Snider-Bryan

The art of knowing how to live

—KEIKO OHNUMA
Cirrelda Snider-Bryan is an artist of life, the kind who creates not so much for the sake of her oeuvre—certainly not at the expense of everything else going on around her—but more as a way to connect with the lovely, fleeting moments of life itself.

Hers is art with a lower-case “a,” a mode of living every day, one moment at a time. Rather than works or ideas, her creative impulses serve a natural inclination to care for others or step up in times of trouble, whose objective is truly realized when the joy of creating is shared.

The artwork itself is most easily recognized in the colorful clay tiles she has been relief-printing with whimsical sketches from everyday life, or the evocative, abstracted pen-and-watercolor landscapes that illustrate her poetry. But it’s also found in her kids’ clay classes at the art compound she built behind her North Valley home and dubbed Pot Hollow South. It’s in a lifetime of private journals filled with nature sketches and poems, and the mural project she came up with in 1990 while teaching at Alvarado Elementary School: eight hundred student-made tiles illustrating a maxim on the importance of trees.

That first collaborative project proved to be an artistic watershed for Snider-Bryan, who saw her interests in art, nature, and community service suddenly come together. These days, she is hard at work on her closest approximation yet to an oeuvre: the Placitas wildlife mural she is spearheading with mosaic artist Laura Robbins.

“When Laura asked me to do this project back in February, I jumped at it,” she said of the two-year, multi-artist collaboration that will be sandwiched into the roster of projects, passions, and freelance businesses she shares with her painter-poet husband, JB Bryan. She and Robbins both harbor a love for animals and nature that borders on the spiritual, and which for her extends equally to family and community.

“My muse, when I feel visited, is definitely to honor some kind of connection,” she says, measuring her words with characteristic restraint. “That’s how I feel called. I’m definitely like, taking care of my family comes first. Then community—at school, being in the milieu. And if there’s an opportunity to bring people into the nice feeling of how it is to create…”

She trails off, brows knit before the nine-by-six-foot Styrofoam slab she is carving as the backing for one panel of the wildlife mural. Propped on sawhorses under a portable shade, it dominates the vista at Pot Hollow South, a shaded garden ringed by art studios, a tree house, archways supporting swings and stray grapevines, and a stucco book-printing studio, all overgrown with bushes and flowers, and completed by a large contented dog sprawled on the sand.

Though her countless hours of work on the wildlife mural will go mostly unpaid, Snider-Bryan hopes a grant will cover the next phase—having children from several area schools contribute foliage, small animals, and finishing details. “Environmental ed[ucation] is an area that I think is really worthy of my time,” the former schoolteacher explains, “and this really dovetails with that.” Plus, she admits, she and her husband “take on a lot of things.”

For him, that means full-time work as a graphic designer, running a letterpress printing business (of poetry books), and painting several nights a week in his Placitas studio, among other things. For her, it includes teaching her private clay classes, doing bookkeeping and publicity for the press, running the household, and volunteering for causes personal and political, from her daughter’s high school to the Obama campaign. The wildlife mural has added a steady stream of artists who drop by for help sculpting tiles, getting pieces fired, or learning about glazes.

Married for twenty-four years, Snider-Bryan testifies to the potential of partnership, in both art and life. She recalls the fun she and JB had buying their fixer-upper adobe in 1985—it didn’t even have a kitchen sink—and building their separate art studios in back (his solid, hers ramshackle). The property evolved with their vocations: She quit teaching in 1994 when their daughter was born, and started taking home-school kids for private art classes. When he got back into ceramics (which was how they met), she added a clay studio for him under their daughter’s tree house. The arrival of the hot-type press usurped his painting studio, so they bought a house in Placitas as his creative getaway, where he recently built a Japanese teahouse.

In contrast to her husband’s aesthetic, which embraces the wabi-sabi naturalism of Zen Buddhism, Snider-Bryan finds herself drawn to Japan’s animistic nature religion, Shinto. “Honoring nature is what I’m drawn to. If people ask me, I say I’m pagan-Presbyterian, because I like to honor my upbringing,” she notes of her roots in Oklahoma. She cites a central tenet of Celtic paganism: “Nature is, at its core, good. Worship is done outside, because that’s where the Creator is.”

Their marriage of opposites extends to the artistic couple’s working styles: Her husband is focused and driven, she notes, whereas she tends to be more diffuse and multi-tasking, as is typical of women—less concerned with product than process. Even in high school back in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she recalls spending long hours throwing pots at the ceramics studio and slicing them open to check her progress, mostly because she just loved hanging out there.

“We had two or three records with clay fingerprints on them, Bob Dylan and Jethro Tull,” she smiles, turning suddenly wistful at the connection. “I just loved the atmosphere there… like I love the atmosphere here,” taking in the quiet afternoon, dog, butterflies, and artists content at Pot Hollow South. “Some people really do like coming here to work,” she muses, adding quickly, “not many.”

With a shrug, she turns back to the Styrofoam slab, an artist in her world—possibly the subject for a colorful glazed tile sketched with trees, house, family, and dog that might be labeled, “All is well.”

 



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