Soothe by Elise Snow

Irregular Beat.1 As I entered the Harrison Gallery I let my eyes wonder to and fro and then back again. When my eyes had traced each wall I gathered my bearings, immediately realizing that experiencing this show would not be that simple. Ashamed at my presumptuousness, I carefully began my stroll through the concentric worlds Elise Snow had so meticulously created. With each step I found myself surrounded by labyrinths of neatly ordered color interrupted by intriguing forms of contrasting pigment, and that’s when it hit me. The amount of detailed thought, tongue-biting angst, and unabashed love I was sure each piece held within its borders stopped me in my tracks. As I stood there, alone in the room, I felt warm.

Elise Snow had caught me with my guard down, and boy I’m glad she did. The realization hit me that this love I saw in her work wasn’t the kind of love that sounds hollow when the hammer of life crashes against it. This was a love that takes time and effort and care. This was a love that soothes, yet, in a way, breaks those fortunate enough to witness it. If there is one thing I know to be true of love, it’s that it is difficult. Love, in this case, requires the artist and the observer to give up control, and as Elise’s statement suggests, find ourselves intrigued by the elements disrupting the flow.


I communicated with Elise in the midst of her work and simply asked, “Why?” (A thoughtful question, I know). She responded by saying, “My previous works have elements of abstraction within them, but this series is my first truly abstract work. It has been a gradual progression into abstraction and it feels right to work within this realm of expression.” She went on, “These works are completely connected to my daily life in terms of process and content. They are moments of domestic chaos and my need to accept and process that chaos through painting.”

swallowing nerves

As I reluctantly left the Harrison Gallery, I was reminded of Mary Shelley’s words, “Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.” I felt honored to reflect on Elise’s work and her words. I became excited for others who will experience her first Indianapolis show in twelve years! Elise had reminded me in her marks of watercolor, marker, and paint that despite the noise, the clutter, and the interruption discussed in her show’s statement, there is life beneath the surface. We just have to learn to let go, breathe easy, and see it.

Elise Snow’s show Soothe is featured this month in the Harrison Gallery.