Tim Larson and I first discussed displaying his lush watercolors of Duluth sunrises and Northland wildflowers in early February. At the time, the days still felt short. The sun was rising around 7:30 am, setting a little after 5pm. The cold and snow of a hard winter lingered (as it’s known to do in Duluth!). The political landscape of our country was feeling somewhat hopeless – fraught, fractured, with so much continuing disconnection, division and injustice. On the liturgical calendar we would soon be moving into Lent, a time of reflection/memory/solemnity.
Everything felt heavy.
Everything that is, except for Tim’s beautiful and colorful paintings, which radiate sunshine and the vibrant energy of growing things. Art that serves as a reminder: that the light is coming back even in winter, that Spring and warmth will return, that at Peace, at our core, we are a resurrection-people. People, who are born again and again to hope and new possibilities in spite of the difficult things of life. We hung the show two days before Ash Wednesday. We hung the show in such a way, as to create a horizon line of paintings throughout the sanctuary (connecting to the horizon of Lake Superior seen through the windows), and in such a way as to create a garden of wildflowers in the gallery alcove.
If a reminder of our collective hope and agency was needed two months ago, it is certainly still needed now – even as the sun and warmer weather and green shoots return – we find that the metaphor of a long night can still continue. That those hard realities of the human condition that make us all so vulnerable – illness, death, loneliness, food insecurity, homelessness, abuse, joblessness, injustice – may without warning, knock again at our door. And yet. There are so many stories everyday of our Duluth community finding ways to help each other through this pandemic. Love, creativity, kindness, and generosity endure – just as the sun rises, just as the wildflowers take hold where they will and bloom.
While this virtual exhibit is a poor substitute for the beauty of Tim’s paintings when seen in person, we hope it might bring you a quiet moment of meditation, and encouragement. We are thinking of you. We are praying for you. We wish you health and fulfillment.
~ Amanda McElray Hunter
About the Artist
Tim Larson has painted in watercolor for most of his life. He has taught English and writing at Lake Superior College, the University of Minnesota Duluth, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, Itasca Community College, and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, as well as several other Minnesota colleges and universities.
In the late 1990s, he studied watercolor painting with noted Duluth artist Cheng-Khee Chee, and admired that artist’s bold, vibrant paintings of irises. More recently, it occurred to him that he might try to paint wildflowers, and, he reasoned, if he could make such paintings even half as good as Chee’s paintings of irises, they would be worth doing.
In summer 2018, he came across a patch of showy lady’s slippers, not far from Duluth, where hundreds of the wild orchids were in bloom, and he decided to paint them. He spent much of summer and fall of 2018 studying the plants and flowers and painting several of the large watercolor paintings in this exhibit. In 2019, he started the Zenith City Sunrise series, several of which are on display in the church sanctuary.