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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Doug Snow's signature on one of his paintings that is currently on display at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts on Wednesday, August 31, 2011.

Renowned Utah artist V. Douglas Snow loved living life to the fullest and expressing his inner vision through his artwork. Now the public has the chance to see through the eyes of Snow in the new exhibition, "Final Light: V. Douglas Snow in Retrospect."

From now until Jan. 8, 2012, Snow's work will be celebrated in a new exhibit at The Utah Museum of Fine Arts. The Salt Lake Art Center will house the other half of Snow's paintings until Oct. 22, 2011.

"I think my husband always painted what he felt, not what he saw," said Susan Snow, widow of Snow. "And when he had people in his studio look at his paintings, he wanted them to be moved by the paintings on an emotional level, not an intellectual level."

The exhibit features 35 public and private paintings that illustrate his early abstract expressionist-inspired period as well as his later works from the last three decades of his life.

"Doug Snow's legacy as a teacher and artist will live long into the future, and these joint exhibitions are a wonderful way to remember an artist loved by so many, said Gretchen Dietrich, executive director of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. "We are also thrilled to introduce the work of such an important figure to a new generation of art lovers in our community."

Snow's paintings are found in various parts of Utah and the nation, including Springville Museum of Art, New York's Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Art at Brigham Young University and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

Snow also had three paintings that were purchased by a New York lawyer and were hung in one of the twin towers. His wife recalls three paintings that were lost on Sept. 11, two landscapes and an oversize flower painting.

"It wasn't until about a month or so after the bombing of the towers that we realized, 'Your paintings are gone,' " Susan Snow said.

However, some old acquaintances were able to surface for this exhibit.

"It makes me so happy because the exhibit is an opportunity for me and his other art friends to see old friends," Susan Snow said. "And not just people, but the paintings are old friends. I mean so many of these paintings are scattered all over the place and when they go into private collections you often never see them again. So, it's nice to have them all gathered together."

Family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and art enthusiasts all gathered at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Salt Lake Art Center on opening night to see Snow's collection from public and private galleries. The idea to showcase his masterpieces came about three days before his unexpected death from a car accident in October 2009.

"It was an obligation passed in my direction and I couldn't think of a better way to honor a friend and try to fulfill a last wish," said Frank McEntire, a colleague and close friend of Snow. McEntire, along with countless others, made the exhibition happen, through Snow's wish of a biography that showcased his work. "And organizing the book also organized the retrospective of the exhibition."

McEntire first met Snow through his work when he was an art critic for the Salt Lake Tribune, and from there, a friendship grew.

"I was the brother left behind and had to pick up the loose ends," McEntire said. The book, titled "Final Light: The Life and Art of V. Douglas Snow," produced by the University of Utah Press, is slated to be released next summer.

Doug Snow's life had always been devoted to art. After a childhood of drawing and formal lessons from LeConte Stewart, Snow began his formal art training in New York City at Columbia University in 1946. He later got a degree at the Cranbrook Academy of Arts in Bloomsfield Hills, Mich. By age 30, Snow was featured in Life magazine, making him a nationally recognized artist. He later served as a professor and department chair at the University of Utah Department of Art. There, he and previous department chairman Alvin Gittins were able to expand the U's art program and develop a long-lasting friendship.

"What we think of today of the art department was really built on the backs of Alvin Gittins and Doug Snow," Susan Snow said. Douglas Snow and Gittins brought in modern and contemporary influences to the art department.

Although both had drastically different artistic strengths and geographic differences — Snow was a Westerner with an abstract expressionist style and Gittins was an Easterner with British roots and a forte for portraits — they were still able to connect artistically and poke fun at each other.

"One of the ways (Snow) used to tease Alvin Gittens was when he would pass by Alvin's studio and Alvin would be painting some important person's portrait and Doug would stick his head in and say, 'Hey Al, if you need help with the hands, just let me know,' " his wife recalled.

Both Susan Snow and McEntire want guests to see what Snow had envisioned his whole life. The exhibit is a precursor to his upcoming biography, and friends and family want the public to celebrate the artist's work and not just remember it.

"He enjoyed living," McEntire said. "The legacy of those who knew him was just to encourage others to live their life's dream as he was able to do. He tried to help people do that in many different ways."

For times and location of "Final Light: V. Douglas Snow in Retrospect," visit umfa.utah.edu or slartcenter.org.

Email: mmckinlay@desnews.com