I started painting pictures of the Mississippi River when I was living in Canada. Always a northerner, I felt at home in Canada as long as I stayed within breathing distance of the mists off the Great Lakes, and I became familiar with the names and histories of the great rivers of Canada. I learned that the volume of water in the Ottawa River is equivalent to the volume of water in all of western Europe. And I missed the Mississippi.
The Mississippi River, the great flowing life blood of North America carrying water south from the boundary waters of Canada and the United States all the way to the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans – this was my meditation as I started my river series, looking south, from north of the border.
Authorities locate the head waters of the Mississippi at a beautiful lake in the north country. Although not really so simple, by definition the Mississippi begins in Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, and a marker was placed on the shore of that lake: Here 1475 ft. above the ocean the mighty Mississippi begins to flow on its winding way 2552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.
This river is not my life’s work. My life is not on the river. I have lived on the east coast of the North American continent and on the west, and in the southwest desert of the United States.
I have crossed over the Mississippi many times, always impressed with the big bridges and the expanse of water. I have lived near, gone over, and I have gone over again and gone far. And I have returned.
I have rowed in the River. And slapped mosquitoes in the land of its waters. We are friends from long association. My wedding celebration took place high on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River at the confluence with the Wisconsin River, and we felt the rivers bless the day.
I always thought of the Muddy Mississippi as a flowing line through the heartland, creating an east-west divide, but of course, just like its origin in the sparkling waterlets of the northland, the Mississippi River is rather more complicated than just a single streaming.
More than one river, it is the Mighty Mississippi, the major system watering North America, the life blood of the central continent.
The Mississippi River, the Ohio River, the Missouri and the Arkansas are the main branches of this system, traveling together for the last southern section of the journey to the sea, emptying water from about 40% of the lower 48 U.S. states into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans.
I begin with the study of maps, and with satellite photos, and with personal memories of place, and then I turn away from references and study the painting itself, relying on texture and color to reveal the story.