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A River Runs Through It

For Blooming painter James Butler, bridges and tunnels and levees and locks are no match for the awe-inspiring greatness of the Mississippi River.

Butler spent eight years chronicling the waterway from the Minnesota headwaters at Lake Itasca to the mouth of the Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico. Through his panoramic canvasses, Butler shows the impact humans have had on the river, walling it up, damming it and polluting it.

But his paintings also show how humans are sometimes humbled by the overwhelming power of the river, when floods destroy communities, sweeping away houses and livelihoods. And in painting the river's grandness there is also a hint of hope that the grease and dirt spewed from our cities can also be washed clean in the river's infinite flow.

After the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, Butler traveled south to the Gulf of Mexico to volunteer his help and once again chronicle in paint the irrepressible and sometimes tragic force of nature.

Related Links

See the work that poet B.J. Elsner and photographer Jewel Gwaltney created in response to the disastrous Mississippi River flood of 1993.

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Explore the Mississippi River with James Butler and his panoramic paintings.

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Listen as painter James Butler contemplates one of his favorite subjects, the Mississippi River, and its future.

 

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James Butler stands in front of his 5 by 15 foot painting, "At Shining Brow," now part of Northwestern University Hospital's collection.

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The Falls of Saint Anthony, 1997

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Power Plant/Saint Paul, 1999

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Mississippi River Lock and Dam #11, 1998

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The Crescent City, 1998

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Threshold, 1991

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Latsch Island Boathomes, 1997

 

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