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The latest exhibit at the Marco Island Historical Museum features several three-dimensional sculptures and canvases by internationally acclaimed artist George Snyder.

A visit to Snyder’s world is like a visit to a land of imagination, full of bold colors, oversized shapes and designs and the wild and wacky.

Jennifer Perry, the museum’s manager, describes Snyder’s work “as sophisticated with a strong sense of whimsy” and says “the exhibit is a must see for anyone who appreciates art.”

The unusual nature of Snyder’s art is obvious right at the entrance of the gallery. A brilliantly painted configurations of PVC tubing stands on end and reaches six to over nine feet in the air. Snyder calls this sculpture grouping “pods” but visitors to the Museum have had other descriptions.

A visitor from Ohio likened the piece to genetically engineered bamboo, grown for a special species of panda not of this world. Another visitor from New York, with an equally fanciful imagination, suggested a parade of colorful swizzle sticks ready for olives and a cocktail party for giants. Snyder would agree with both interpretations.

“Art happens in the mind. It is about ideas, not objects,” claims Snyder.

At the back wall of the gallery, hang a series of graphic configurations in explosive colors and oversized proportions. From a distance, they appear sculptural, an army of gigantic Slinkys or “Urchins,” as Snyder refers to them, lined up in contortionist poses; up close, they are flat and made of painted wood. Snyder’s skill at applying acrylics is what creates their sense of three-dimensionality.

Snyder is one of a handful of well-known contemporary artists, including Paul Jenkins, Robert Rauschenberg and Arthur Secunda, who are considered innovators in the use of acrylics. He carefully hand-paints each design, using tape to define hard-edged lines and geometric patterns and shapes, and then applies layer upon layer of rich, jewel-like colors until he achieves an airbrushed finish.

Take a close look at the oversized, pimento-stuffed olive hanging from a single swizzle stick at the entrance of the gallery. Its mirror-like finish, without a single mar or blemish, would make any car restorer envious and is a testament to Snyder’s abilities with paint.

Included in this show are some of Snyder’s landscapes. Unlike his sculptural work, they are traditional, serene, and highly stylized. Yet, there is a twist. The landscapes are nestled within a wide framework of double mats, which are, upon closer examination, an optical illusion—a wonderful example of trompe l’oeil — and an integral part of the painting.

Snyder attributes much of his inspiration to his upbringing in South Charleston, West Virginia, “a highly industrial area much like Pittsburgh.” Early on, he was drawn to the hard-edged lines and geometric forms of his industrial surroundings. He also credits a love for his grandmother’s quilts, with their intricate patterning, as inspiration for his own art and 25 years of living in Florida for his colorful palette and unusual subject matter. “With Disney permeating the air in contemporary Florida, the mingling of the absurd with the real come easily.”

Despite a long-standing interest in art (“I was always the best artist in the class.”), he started out in pre-law. An art elective changed the focus of his education and the course of his life. “I realized I could do better than the law,” said Snyder. After earning a Master of Fine Arts, he turned to his profession full time and never looked back.

Snyder has devoted his career to doing something different, something that “comes from the heart and sticks in the brain.”  Snyder’s work, according to Pat Rutledge, executive director of the Marco Island Historical Society, “adds a new and exciting dimension to Museum exhibits. It will assault your senses and bring a smile to your face.”

If you go

What: George Snyder exhibit

When: Now through May 2; museum hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday.

Where: The Marco Island Historical Museum, 180 S. Heathwood Drive, Marco Island, across from the library

Information: 239-389-6447 or theMIHS.com.

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