M. L. Snowden (American, b. 1952)
M.L. Snowden has spent her life surrounded by sculpture. Her earliest memories and every waking moment of her life include sculpture. From the age of four, she played in her father's sculpture studio watching him with the unwavering attention of a child enthralled and enchanted. At the age of seven she began working with clay along side her father.
"Clay is a magic material. It's a mystery. Rodin saw it for himself when he came upon clay, that this was like an epiphany. It was this transformation, this fire that occurred. Everything that you are and you intend comes through and it's still a mystery to me how what I feel evidences itself in what I have made."
As she grew, she learned Rodin's transcendental sculpting techniques from her father, George Holburn Snowden, who had in turn been a favored student of Robert George Eberhard, a protégé of the great French sculptors Auguste Rodin, Anton Mercie and Victor Peters. Each of the generations -- the French masters, Swiss-born Eberhard, and American-born George Snowden -- has contributed to the evolution of a unique heritage of sculpting that finds its contemporary expression through the spectacular works of M.L. Snowden.
Part of that heritage comes through the original sculpting tools of Auguste Rodin that have been passed from mentor to protégé for three generations. The tools, some of which she uses in sculpting her own works, are a symbol for Snowden -- a symbol of the awe-inspiring foundation upon which her work is based. They provide a physical connection with the artistic inheritance that has been passed down to her and represent the utter devotion to sculpture of the artists who are part of Rodin's legacy.
"I'm not a product of an art school. I'm not a product of having really studied with someone. I'm a product of a life immersed that has come through someone else who has lived their whole life with this, to someone else who has lived their whole life with this. And that was Rodin, that was Eberhard, and that was my father. I feel that I've been passed a torch, and that's very, very exciting."
Snowden's own devotion to sculpture has been acknowledged through the awards that have been bestowed upon her and her work. At the age of 36, she received the inaugural Alex Ettl Grant from the National Sculpture Society for "Lifetime Achievement in American Sculpture". In 1992, she was awarded the world's most prestigious sculpture prize -- the International Rodin Competition Special Grand Prize -- for her sculpture "Cataclasis". Early in her career, she was awarded post-graduate study grants to the Vatican Collections in Rome , the Uffizi in Florence , Italy and the Louvre in Paris .
Her current body of work, which began with "Tectonics" in 1989, follows a geological theme. Each piece humanizes the forces in nature which lead to the formation and evolution of our Earth. Snowden's sculptural genius evidences itself in her ability to personify these forces and allow the viewer to feel and intuitively understand phenomena that is otherwise only accessible as abstract geological science.
In the same forms, she communicates the nobler side of man's endeavors and issues a call to humanity, challenging us to recognize certain truths that are universal to all creation - whether it be organic or geologic in nature.
"The geological program is the beginning stepping stone. The heroic possibilities of man; the risks and courage of striving; the fire and passion of creative enterprises; the spiritual force of men as they struggle for the actuation of their plans and work; these horizons are bundled into the sinew of the clay."
Preserving the Legacy of Auguste Rodin
In 1992, M.L. Snowden became the fourth artist to receive the coveted Rodin Prize for sculpture. The work, entitled Cataclasis, won kudos from artists and critics throughout the world, and was selected from a field of over 500 juried entries. The unique fortuity behind Snowden's receipt of the prize, however, rests in her compelling history and extraordinary legacy, for Cataclasis was sculpted with both Rodin's technique and his original sculpting tools, passed directly down to her through generations.
Cataclasis, clay study
Mary Louis Snowden is the daughter and protégé of master sculptor, George H. Snowden, whose numerous accomplishments throughout his 65 year career include over 100 public placements (the pediment of the U.S. Postal Service Building and the altar of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. being among them), sculptural design for many major Hollywood films including “Ben Hur” and “The Robe”, and the design of many of the original sculptural elements for Walt Disney's Disneyland and Epcot Center theme parks.
George H. Snowden came upon sculpture as a career quite by accident. In the early 1920s, a Catholic priest arrived at the doorstep of Yale University sculpture professor, Robert Eberhard, with an exquisite clay sculpture of the head of Christ in his hands. Upon seeing the sculpture, Eberhard immediately demanded that the artist be brought to Yale and interviewed for enrollment. The young sculptor, an indigent laborer in a small rural town, was George H. Snowden.
After a grueling interview process in which the elder Snowden accomplished the impossible task of producing three years' worth of meritorious work in a single summer, the Yale faculty admitted him to the university and hired him as a sculpture assistant to Professor Eberhard.
The Swiss-born Eberhard had been the protégé, friend and sculpture assistant to the great Auguste Rodin at his Villa studio at Meudon, France. Rodin bequeathed the very tools he had used in sculpting his master works to Eberhard in recognition of his contributions and artistic potential.
When Rodin passed away in 1917, Eberhard immigrated to the United States and was quickly accepted as a sculpture professor at Yale University. When George H. Snowden entered the fold, Eberhard adopted him as the recipient of the Rodin legacy, eventually passing down the Rodin tools to Snowden in a celebration of his achievements and masterful skill.
M.L. Snowden received the Rodin tools upon her father's death in 1990, an event that sent her spiraling into a deep reclusion. As the imaginative daughter of a renowned sculptor, Mary Louise had spent much of her young life in her father's studio. She learned to sculpt using Rodin's transcendent technique by watching her father's masterful hand and sculpting her own work under his guidance.
It was during her self-imposed reclusion from 1990 to 1997 that M.L. Snowden created the Rodin Prize-winning sculpture, Cataclasis . Since 1998, she has been openly sharing the Rodin legacy with the world. Her work, which is now available as select bronze limited edition sculptures, tours the country along with the Rodin