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Louis Safer (1913 - 2002) 


Playful creativity was Louis Safer's hallmark, whether he was painting, joking with friends or cooking.  His paintings often included something surprising that made viewers look again. His humor could be pointed, but the targets of his jokes laughed. A good cook, he sometimes did crazy things such as toss odd ingredients into muffin dough.  And some of his paintings ended up in such places as the National Portrait Gallery in the Smithsonian Institution, which has a Safer portrait of the poet John Berryman.


Safer, was professor emeritus of art at the University of Minnesota and a resident of St. Paul, when he died at the age of 88.  Colleagues describe him as a gentle, talented artist with a sometimes, irreverent view of academic life.  “Golly, I'm going to miss him," said Prof. Emeritus Malcolm Myers, “He had an innovative mind."


Safer was a disciple of synchromism, a painting style created by his mentor, Prof. Stanton Macdonald-Wright of the University of California at Los Angeles, who died in 1973. An early form of abstraction, synchromism uses intervals between colors to create what has been described as the visual equivalent of music.


Safer sometimes began a painting by closing his eyes for the first brush strokes. But he also painted representational works such as the Berryman portrait, one of a series he did of fellow professors.


He was born in Boston and grew up in California, coming to the University of Minnesota in the mid-1950s to teach in the General College.

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