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Tracey Snelling


"Life's just complicated, and it's not a black and white place."
-- Tracey Snelling
View Spark segment on Tracey Snelling. Original air date: April 2006. (Running Time: 7:29)

Tracey Snelling's miniatures are little tributes to ordinary American settings. Her small-scale renderings of run-down, neglected and overlooked buildings cast a nostalgic look back at a landscape of handmade signs, ad hoc architecture and highway development that is rapidly disappearing. In "New American Landscape," Snelling takes Spark on a tour of her artistic process.

Snelling's multimedia constructions boast a painstaking attention to detail, often combining electric light, still photography, moving images and sound. Drawing on imagery of small towns and desolate road stops, her landscapes eerily evoke the subtle moods of the places they represent. They resemble movie sets abandoned long after the film has been shot, inviting observers to project their own narratives onto them.

Spark follows Snelling as she installs her solo exhibition at the de Saisset Museum at the University of Santa Clara. The highlight of the show, which is entitled "Dark Detour," is a meticulously crafted miniature tenement complex, complete with peeling paint, clotheslines, and a looping soundtrack of television sounds, plumbing and barking dogs, along with moving images in some of the windows. The piece re-creates for gallery visitors the voyeuristic experience of dense city living as they share in the sounds and sights that are central to apartment life.

Before experimenting with sculpture, Snelling worked primarily in photography, a medium that retains a central role in her process. Snelling's miniatures often begin with a photograph that she has taken or found. Once she has re-created the photograph's subject, Snelling photographs her miniatures in real-world settings, often creating surreal images depicting complex relationships between varying levels of representation.

Tracey Snelling earned a B.F.A. from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. In addition to her show at the de Saisset Museum, her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Mission 17 gallery in San Francisco, the Stephen Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles, and the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz as well as in group exhibitions at the Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco and the Center on Contemporary Art in Seattle.

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