Northwoods Journals by Kurt Simonson


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I must have been ten or eleven years old when I first ran across the peculiar envelope that bore my grandmother’s shaky handwriting: “not to be opened until my death.” Tucked in her top dresser drawer amidst other valuables, its striking phrase burned into my memory at a young age.

I don’t know exactly when, and I don’t know how often, but I know I visited the envelope numerous times, pondering what could be inside. What could be so important (or tragic) that it must be kept secret in this way?

I have never been able to shake the hold that piece of paper had over me. More than just a letter—I was haunted by what it represented. Loaded with latent meaning, yet withholding its story, the letter is my experience of growing up in Minnesota. My family roots go deep into the folklore of the rural Northwoods and retain their hold, despite time and distance. It’s a place where my grandfather was a lumberjack, and a place where cars go to die; it’s where kids have playtime adventures, and where secrets go to be buried. It is a merger of myth and memory that grows more complex as time passes.

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About Kurt Simonson

Kurt Simonson (b. 1977 in St Paul, Minnesota) is an artist/educator based in Long Beach, CA, whose work explores the tensions surrounding our ideas of home and community, pilgrimage and displacement, belonging and connecting. Whether exploring the myth and memory of his own upbringing in Minnesota, or taking intimate portraits close to home, questions about family and community remain at
the heart of his curiosity. Kurt’s work is regularly exhibited throughout the country and internationally, including recent exhibits at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, CO; RayKo Photo Center in San Francisco, CA; Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, OR; the Foto8 Gallery in London, England; and the San Diego Museum of Art. His work has been published in the London Sunday Times Magazine, Fraction Magazine and Lenscratch. In 2012 he received a Curator’s Choice award from CENTER Santa Fe, and he was chosen as a finalist in Photolucida’s Critical Mass. Kurt teaches at Biola University in La Mirada, CA, where he is the Associate Professor of Photography in the Art Department. He received a B.S. in Studio Art from Biola University in 2000, a Secondary Education Credential from Whittier College in 2003, and an M.F.A. in Photography from California State University, Long Beach, in 2006. [Official Website]

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