Artist Barry ‘Wildman’ Snyder reflects on a lifetime of turning trash into art.
When I set up an interview with Barry “Wildman” Snyder over the phone, we talked about our weekend plans. He planned to attend the last days at Bandimere Speedway. I was coming back from a camping trip when he welcomed me into his home and art studio. I apologized for the campfire smell, and he said it was one of his favorite smells.
During the interview he kept his Poco record playing loud enough that he could sing along to some parts or do an air guitar solo.
Snyder is a humble artist with no frills or pretenses. His art hangs around his small house. He gave me a tour of his art by showing me each piece in the order of when he made them. Snyder has been creating mosaic style art with produce stickers since high school.
I asked him if he’s some big environmentalist and that’s why he saves the stickers from landfills and puts them to good use.
“We could always tell everybody that,” Snyder jokes. “I like the recycling angle.”
Snyder not only recycles produce stickers but popsicles sticks, plastic parts that come with model car sets, and old paint rags. All go into art pieces. One piece titled, “It’s a Pollock, Jackson” incorporates old paint rags as the body of the fish.
“My folks grew up in the depression era,” Snyder said. “You didn’t throw anything away. You didn’t waste food. You saved the electric cords from when your appliances croaked, so you could fix something else that croaked. Now you just buy shit and throw it away.”
What Snyder decides to create with his stickers ranges greatly from tributes to musicians like The Grateful Dead to his rendition of “American Gothic.”
“You never know,” Snyder said. “I try to do stuff that appeals to a lot of different demographic ledges of the pie: automotive stuff, a little rock and roll. I try to mix it up, some from my roots growing up, like the Oshkosh, Carmen Miranda wearing fruit on her head — it just seemed like I had to do her.”
His one problem with his Carmen Miranda piece? Her neck is too dark.
“I have a very restrictive color palette, as they say,” Snyder said.
The types of stickers that Snyder is given at any particular time somewhat determine the color palette of the piece. Stickers are mailed to Snyder through his Save Our Stickers Foundation for his art. He keeps the postcards and letters he receives along with the stickers. He sometimes gets exotic international stickers and has even corresponded with the Guiness World Record holder of someone with the most produce stickers.
Now Snyder doesn’t have to worry about the amount of produce stickers rolling in. At one time he did. He remembers throwing a last sticker party.
“I didn’t have the fan base so to speak,” Snyder said. “When it got down to the end, we threw the last sticker party down at the bar. I bought a keg of beer, people brought me their stickers and then made a big deal about gluing the very last sticker on here. Free beer if you bring me food stickers. I sold a couple prints. I managed to cover the cost of the keg and have a bunch of fun.”
Snyder has a sense of humor that translates into his art.
“Most all of my stuff has a pun or tongue-in-cheek title,” Snyder said.
Snyder created a sticker mosaic on his door of a pickle jar titled, “The Door is a Jar.”
He also has a Chiquita banana piece made entirely of Chiquita banana stickers.
Snyder is not only known for his art but also for his cross-country bicycle trips and performance bicycle tricks. He proudly showed me the many newspaper clips he saved featuring him on a bike of some kind.
Snyder is now retired from roofing, remodeling, and carpentry and spends most of his time on his art or putting together miniature sets and dioramas.
“I like being able to hide out in my house and not have to mingle, just in general,” Snyder said. “All of my favorite bars in town are gone, and the area has changed so much that I really don’t feel like going out and socializing a whole lot. I feel like I’m lucky I can sit around here and do something that won’t change the world but is pretty cool.”
I asked him why he makes art.
“It’s something to do,” Snyder says humbly. “Everybody’s got something. It’s a great hobby. It’s different and people look at it and smile and double take.”
We ended our visit by enjoying a Jethro Tull record — an early one, not before the band went commercial with Aqualung, he insisted. We talked about why Bandimere Speedway had to close down due to the housing developments in the area. We talked about rising costs of housing and even hamburgers and how he’s happy now in his house living a simple life and making art that makes people smile.
To browse Snyder’s pieces online, inquire about purchasing artwork, and for information about the SOS Foundation, visit stickermanproduceart.wordpress.com.