The Proust Questionnaire: Michael Snow

The Proust Questionnaire started as a Late Victorian parlour game, aimed at revealing key aspects of a person’s character. While still in his teens, author Marcel Proust answered a similar series of questions with such enthusiasm that, when the manuscript containing his original answers was discovered in 1924, his name became permanently associated with this type of informal interview.


Michael Torosian, Michael Snow (1988, printed 1989), gelatin silver print, toned, 35.3 x 27.6 cm; image: 32.3 x 24.8 cm. NGC

Michael Snow attended the Ontario College of Art, specializing in industrial design while playing piano in a jazz group, and developing his painting skills. He completed his studies in 1952, and had his first solo exhibition in Toronto in 1956. He produced his first film while working for Graphics Film, where he also met artist and filmmaker Joyce Wieland (1930–1998) who later became his wife.

From 1961 to 1967, while living in New York, Snow developed one of his most iconic works: the Walking Woman series. Re-creating the profile of a walking woman in various media, he ultimately produced an eleven-part sculpture on the Walking Woman for the Ontario pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal.

Snow’s work also often explores time and space in innovative ways. His experimental film Wavelength is noted for a very slow 45-minute camera zoom. Similarly, the hypnotic La Région Centrale was filmed with a mechanical arm that allowed the camera to rotate in all directions, and at various speeds. 

Michael Snow’s work has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions and retrospectives at venues that include the Venice Biennale in 1970, Documenta 6 (1977) and the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2002–2003). He has earned numerous international awards and titles, and his works can be found in public and private collections around the world. 

Snow’s photographic work can currently be seen in the exhibition Michael Snow: Photo-Centric, on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until April 27, 2014.


Your earliest memory of art:

Comic strips.

When you knew this would become your vocation:

After graduating from the Ontario College of Art (later OCAD, now OCAD U).

Your greatest influence:

Paul Klee.

Occupation you would have chosen (other than art):


Favourite pastime (other than art):


Favourite artist:


Favourite writer and musician/composer:

James Joyce; J.S. Bach.

Favourite colour, flower and bird:

Orange; rose; owl.

Favourite food and drink:

Can I have another look at the menu?

Favourite smell and sound:

Bacon frying.

Favourite object:

My truck.

Favourite environment or landscape:

Newfoundland coast.

Favourite weather or season:


Favourite expression, catchphrase, proverb or word:

“If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”

Pet peeve:


Best quality:


Worst flaw:


Your definition of happiness:

It's a mood.

Ideal place to live:


A recurring dream:

In a speeding train.

One wish:


Aspirations before you die:


To me art is:

Shared experience.


Click here to view works by Michael Snow housed in the National Gallery of Canada's permanent collection. Click here to read or download the new ebook on Michael Snow’s life and work by Art Canada Institute.

About the Author