THE ELUSIVE HILLS SNYDER
By Anjali Gupta
He whose work speaks in a forked tongue exhibits his ‘Son of Samson’ exhibit at the Cactus Bra Arts writers are often faced with the responsibility of introducing a complex character and contextualizing his or her work in 500 words or less. (I just wasted 24.) Accordingly, many engage in a modern form of procrastination – aimless Internet searches – hoping that a random link will somehow jar them into the mind frame to complete the task at hand. A “who is” search for the name Hills Snyder results in the following chowchow information:
Hills Snyder is a Brooklynite set up by his crime partner Manny Breen.
Hills Snyder is an artist and lecturer from Lubbock, Texas.
Hills Snyder is known for subtle architectural interventions and hybrid objects.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
The elusive Hills Snyder is, in fact, a Lubbock-born artist and writer. He is also the curator of Sala Diaz and a senior lecturer at the University of Texas at San Antonio – a fixture in the South Texas contemporary art community. There is a consistent, crookedly funny sensibility to Snyder’s work, in which he repeatedly exhibits a vast knowledge of (and yet, a rather well-developed disdain for) established convention. His new installation, “Son of Samson,” is currently on view at the Cactus Bra in the Blue Star Arts Complex.
Snyder’s work speaks in a forked tongue – a code in which arcane references collide and hilariously embrangle themselves with elements of popular culture. The installation incorporates a wide cast of such telltale objects: a fake fur crucifix, elaborate but diminutive dioramas, an ornate stool surrounded by snippets of human hair (Snyder’s own, from an opening night haircut/performance), slogans in vinyl lettering, multiple copies of Jerzy Kozinski’s Being There conspicuously topped with a Nabokov cherry, and an altered American flag.
The room itself initially reads like a haphazard philosophical crime scene, but Snyder playfully fuses the cautionary biblical tale of Samson and Delilah with that of the infamous Son of Sam – the pet name given to serial killer David Berkowitz, reportedly by the myriad voices in his head. This unholy merger further embitters the tale of Samson and strategically elevates that of the Son of Sam by placing them on a level metaphysical playing field, suspiciously hinting at a hazy separation between paranoid delusion and so-called religious ecstasy. Is Snyder serious about this quirky supposition? Certainly not. But honestly, if you are going to actually pay attention to the little voices in your head, does it really matter if they hail from the Lord above or the neighbor’s Labrador retriever? •