In Memoriam: Duluth Artist Max Moen

Anyone within the sound of my voice, the artworks of Max Moen must be found and saved. I interrupted his dying days begging him to grant me a custodial role regarding his body of work. I think mostly of his collages which I greatly admire, surrealist masterpieces. I told him I’d arrange a show and self-publish a collection at my own expense, because the world must know. At the time he told me they were boxed in a car in another state, and I feared I was taxing him as he fought the cancer. I think he got that car back but I let it go; he was too busy dying and I didn’t want to be that guy. At least I impressed upon him that I considered him an artist with a capital “A.”

Sadly I have none of his work to share with you today. He had some examples on his old Facebook page but he took it all down. I remember searching his photos to copy them but he’d already deleted the lot. He did that sometimes.

I’m an archivist by nature, loath to remove anything from the public eye. Maybe Max was his own worst critic. I told him once I loved his koan-like Facebook posts, brief prose poems defying rational analysis. He was a great writer and my instinct would have been to collect and publish them. But he told me he’d just taken them all down. He thought they were unworthy or pretentious I recall. I considered them literary gems cast before swine. I took Max’s art very seriously, enough for its loss to pain me. It should be in the goddamn Louvre.

I had the pleasure of introducing Max to Troy Rogers one night at the Red Herring. I said, “Max, this is Troy Rogers, an active Dadaist. Troy, this is the Surrealist Max Moen. I of course consider myself a Situationist, so we represent a Duluth trifecta of the avant-garde.” I still get pleasure out of that idea. It wouldn’t work so well if it weren’t true: I create situations, Troy is completely off the wall, and Max created visual and verbal structures like idea machines. All of us were born a century too late. And now Max has died early.

I met Max 25 years ago. My Duluthian wife-at-the-time had just imported me here, and Max was one of her old high-school friends, along with DJ Baby Judy who has been lost to us for some time now. And Max and I ran into each other over the years and it was always a delight. We took part in a group art show, “Duluth: A Love Story” at the Cult Status Gallery in Minneapolis, October 2nd 2010, alongside Eris Vafias, Sarah Heimer, Chris Monroe, and DJ Kevin Craig. I was showing my comix and Max displayed his collages. It was the first I’d seen of them, and I knew: this guy’s got it.

Another great time together was goofing around on the frozen lake over a week in 2014. I was on skates as he took pictures of the ice of the outer harbor. Later we sat around drinking beers on the infinite horizon until successive blizzards wiped our site from the map. I consider it all to have pioneered the 2019 People’s Free Skate which became so successful and which he also helped with.

I made this video …

… and this video …

… in which he appears throughout. In the second one, I’d told him I wanted to shovel a skate rink set up like a living room. He brought all the props: the Christmas tree, the rug, the chairs, and a fire extinguisher. He wrote “Earth” in giant letters in the snow as if acknowledging an alien presence. He flew a kite on the plain.

Photo by Lane Ellis

Lane Ellis saw us exploring from the Lakewalk and snapped this photo, above. Something about the picture says human relationships are ephemeral, framed by an incalculable vastness. It was in this vastness that Max Moen lived and worked.

-Update #1: From the comments we thankfully can link to the music video below featuring Max’s collages from 0:22-5:32

Update #2: A brief Twitter account of Max’s has turned up with six more collages.

Update #3: I am told Max’s art is in the hands of family who treasure it.

Update #4: These six Moens turned up off-topic on another post so I have cross-posted them here:




about 1 year ago

Thank you so much for this Jim. I was hoping someone would do something like this but wasn't sure if I was up to the task at this time. Max was unlike anyone I've ever known, dedicated to the truth, the whimsy, the absurd and the love running beneath. Never afraid to honestly call out anyone for their bullshit. I called him the "coolest" person I've ever known, but he probably wouldn't have liked that. 

Maybe Max was his own worst critic. ... But he told me he’d just taken them all down. He thought they were unworthy or pretentious I recall.
Exactly. He was more than a visual artist, his life was his art. He taught me an incredible amount. I hope his art survives. Rest in peace buddy.


about 1 year ago

This might help. I made it years ago.

Jim Richardson (aka Lake Superior Aquaman)

about 1 year ago

@EL_DOPA: I'm relieved this exists! Thank you. He made it look effortless.
@CHESTER KNOB: Thanks for this! Six tweets is a treasure trove God bless him.


about 1 year ago

@El_dopa: Love the first image in that video. I met Max through disc golf. That's him throwing a big forehand to a basket past the waterfalls on the Sucker River. There is more video footage of those days lurking around somewhere.

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