Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Bill Snyder


David Tanner

Whatzup Features Writer

Published November 25, 2004

Heads Up! This article is 18 years old.

In many ways the 56-year-old local artist Bill

Snyder provides the dictionary definition of

He hasn’t had a public showing of his works for

at least two years, the last being an appearance

at David Krouse’s 1911 Gallery during a Trolley

Tour and a Dash-In exhibit shared with Diane

Gronert. Yet the mention of his name amongst the

local art illuminati brings immediate and

enthusiastic recognition.

It’s not clear that one could locate his address

via Mapquest (Orff Avenue?) or even with a GPS

device. He has shown agoraphobic tendencies and

has been sequestered for some 30 years in a

100-year-old wooden-framed house/studio that he

shares with his wife/muse, Judie Panock, on the

city’s near west side. It’s there they’ve raised

their four children; three have left the nest and

the fourth, Scott, is attending IFPW.

Born the oldest of 11 children in Decatur,

Snyder spent the first two years after high

school with the U.S. Army where, attached to the

Signal Corps, he provided synapse between

landline and radio communication in Germany.

Following his military service he spent time at

the Fort Wayne Art Institute then found work as a

painter with BZW Master Painters, where he has

been for the last quarter-century-plus.

(Ironically, the ceilings in this century-old

domicile have never been painted since the couple

moved in, but now the walls and trim are

currently being revisited by Judie, who teaches

Special Education classes and is currently

working on her Master’s at the University of Saint

Francis.)

To get to Snyder means to go through Judie.

During this interview Snyder would halt or stall

the questioning until his wife could re-enter the

room; you can’t have one without the other.

Snyder needs no coaching when called upon to

cite his visual inspirations and influences.

Among his favorites are Picasso, Gorky, Klee,

Matisse, Rivers, Johns, Warhol and Diebenkorn.

His music – a medium that serves as his comfort

food (his studio walls are lined with hundreds of

cassette tapes and CDs) – includes an eclectic

array of artists, among them Miles Davis,

Thelonious Monk, Los Lobos, Tom Waits, Glenn

Miller, Bill Evans and Mel Torme (many of the

classics he remembers from his mother’s record

collection).

As to literary influences Snyder is partial to

many writers like the German poet Ranier Maria

Rilke, the French playwright Jean Genet and Irish

writer James Joyce, among dozens of others.

In other words, as Snyder would say, “I’m drawn

to all the great creations, those one-of-a-kind,

ages-enduring pieces that can never be

reproduced. Some would say ‘classics’ but those

lists are often different from mine.

“Only in recent times have I been able to

revisit some of my favorite writers that I

glossed over in my youth.”

To examine Snyder’s work is to assume a

challenge that is taxing, thought provoking and

risky, but ultimately rewarding.

There are the paintings, prints and collages

that form the earliest part of the arc of the

artist’s 35-year spectrum of work. These early

efforts have accumulated local and regional

awards and earned him exhibits in Chicago

galleries. They comprise testament to an

unrefined, yet teeming mind and talent. But to

evoke the current Snyder at, I think, his best,

one needs to focus upon his extraordinary

drawings. Those inch-and-a-half thick, 11-by-14,

coil-bound, gel pen-inscribed folios of optical

illusionary, labyrinthine, rhythmic

representations that both give clues and

disguises as to what Snyder is about.

Each individual piece (suitable for framing) can

be best appreciated in their magnitude by

flipping the pages and admiring the differences,

each rendering signifying a distinct theme and

message.

Abstract for sure, the artist’s works are

difficult to decipher. Intricate, precise and

mostly geometric, they suggest a controlled hand

guided and inspired by powers unnamed. In some

cases they appear maze-like, tracing paths that

are concentric but lead only to another beginning

point. Impossible, chimerical in form, they also

suggest linear scriptural overtones (M.C. Escher

meets the crop circle gang).

Patterns emerge (think Batik) but only within

each individual piece, not overall.

Snyder’s admitted affection for music can be

detected in these works. An admirer of John Cage,

among other 60s icons, it is easy to see the

influence of chance and musical notation

vis-ý-vis the visual beauty of George Crumb’s

scores.

Friend and fellow artist David Krouse remembers

a not-too-long-ago episode visiting Snyder while

he was working in his studio:

“It was a moment filled with meaning for me when

I walked in and Bill was tossing some dice upon

which he had affixed different colors on the

faces … and he was using them to divine the

next color he would incorporate in the piece he

was working on. It was an eye-opener for me and a

kind of epiphany I continue to use.”

Snyder admits that color choices are

troublesome. Psychedelic versus the austere,

ascetic realm. He lives most comfortably in an

achromatic universe. It’s an environment that he

finds rigorous and elegant at the same time. It

allows for his innocence while underlining his

maturity.

Perhaps, after all, he’s a composer, scoring the

resonant vibrations he’s attuned to, leaving it

for us to sing along.

To join the chorus one can reach Judie and Bill

judiepanoch@hotmail.com.

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