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Selective Focus: Harry Welty

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Every winter, at least when the conditions are right, Harry Welty turns his front yard into a sculpture garden of sorts, making huge snow sculptures on the side of his very steep hill at 21st Avenue East and Fourth Street. Here’s how it all started.

H.W.: I am a snow sculptor. Like every kid in Minnesota I started by making snow men and snow forts. My ideal work environment is a field of snow on a sunny day in the thirties – the kind that makes for perfect snowballs. If I had a muse it was my Mother who, as a baby boomer Mom, wanted me to be the artist she aspired to be. I was more interested in politics although I always thought being a political cartoonist sounded like a great occupation.

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After losing my teaching position and becoming a House Dad my first grade daughter asked me to make a snow dinosaur in 1987. We had just moved to one of the busiest intersections in the city of Duluth on the hill leading up to UMD. I imagined making a Tyrannosaurus Rex towering over the cars driving up 21st Ave E. What I created looked more like an Iguana with a bad overbite. I was too vain to stop working on sculptures with such a disappointment. Early on I compensated by making my public art big. It was strictly quantity over quality.

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Because I work in the open next to streets with 30,000 or more cars passing by each day my chief reward are horn honks of approval and catching people slowing down to take pictures. There is nothing more gratifying than having a school bus pass by with little faces pressed against its windows. Some years the snow is thin or the snow never melts with sub zero temps and people wonder what happened to my sculptures. I don’t feel much pressure when I work in my yard because that’s strictly for fun. I have been asked to sculpt for dozens of winter activities and that used to be a little intimidating.

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My work shows up each winter on my front lawn at 21st Ave. E. and Fourth St., Duluth, Minnesota. There is a much weathered Santa shimmying down a chimney there right now. I’ve been putting pictures of my sculptures on snowbizz.com since 1999.

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weltyportraitStarting in 1999 I could only upload thumbnails to my website due to limited bandwidth. I may start replacing them with bigger pictures. My work is always at the mercy of the weather. No snow, no sculpture. In addition, as I’ve gotten more geriatric I’ve discovered that snow is getting heavier. Not surprisingly, my projects have gotten smaller. As a local political eccentric I have indulged my antique ambition to cartoon with work that sometimes strays into political commentary.

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Links:
Flickr site
Snowbizz website

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2xHdBQoP9o Shot this morning in the Duluth area by Richard Hoeg for 365daysofbirds.com.

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