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Spring Snow

Spring Snow is the largest single canvas I did, something like 110" x 84". It filled the end of the painting studio. The photo was taken before the painting was finished. To it, I added birds and falling snowflakes. The time of year is spring when life regenerates in the northland. But a late snow blankets the scene like winter.

The setting is the Mississippi River west bank, near the Washington Bridge. The river flows from the north (left) horizontally to the south (right). The sun and the moon are both above the horizon, where we look, seeing the whole horizon.

However, a red waterfall on the opposite bank pours bloodily. Perhaps the source is the rich iron ore of Minnesota earth or eroding mud. It is sacrifice and wound. At the same time it is evidence of a pulse and vivid life. It comes from the University of Minnesota, deep roots for me. The bridge crosses the river as one of the few hints of space between me, the far horizon, and the heavens.

The upstart, upfront vertical trees are the actors. A deciduous tree is behind an evergreen. They are from Lake of the Isles, in Kenwood, near where I grew up, with even deeper roots. In front, the evergreen pine has blood-letting rifts of resin in its bark. The visible sap is a symbol of struggling life, strong, yet perishable and painful. Suffering little deaths. The two trees embrace. Tapering to the top is the evergreen. Tapering to the bottom is the elm or whatever the upward billowing brancher is. That tree is the promise of the future. The kind that blooms gloriously in spring.

In 1962, the painting was in the Walker Art Center biennial by invitation. The Ford Foundation purchased Spring Snow for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. In 2001, I visited the archive. The photos I took are not very good, but they show more of the color and detail in the painting. I also photographed the scene from the West River Road below.

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