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  • Martha Bordwell

ODE TO GEORGE MORRISON: Lake Superior Landscape, 1981

Lake Superior Landscape, 1981, by George Morrison (Grand Portage Anishinaabe) 1919-2000. Acrylic on canvas. On view in Gallery 323. Estate of George Morrison/Briand Morrison Gift: The Jane and James Emison Endowment for Native American Art. Credit: Minneapolis Institute of Art..

He advised fledgling artists:

Start off young and paint 'til you die

and followed his own advice.

A poor boy. Anishinaabe.

He knew his craft

and he knew Lake Superior:

water, sky, land.

Called himself a modernist,

which he was,

but his paintings are archetypes,

stamped with an ancient spirit.

He started with the horizon line:

the edge of the world.

Layered strips of magenta and blue above

blocks of green and purple below.

Orange and pink ascend from the bottom edge.

Colors on fire.

Surface shivering

with feathery forms

floating across the canvas.

Nature exaggerated-the artist’s prerogative.

He wandered the world.

Then came home to Red Rock,

paintings poems without words

til he died.

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