Hazel Belvo: Spirit Tree

Opening Friday: After half a century, Hazel Belvo knows Manidoo-giizhikens as intimately as she knows the hand with which she has painted it. Once called the “Witch Tree,” the 400-year-old gnarled cedar is now recognized as the Spirit Tree. It claims a place of honor on the Lake Superior shore and among the Ojibwe people who share its home. In her vast, expressionistic paintings, Belvo plumbs the tree’s emotional potential, finding in its twisted torso depths of sorrow, endurance and even eroticism. Rather than landscapes or forest vistas, her “Spirit Tree” paintings are portraits of an ancient soul wrapped in a carapace of living wood. Anguished and ennobled, Belvo’s trees echo timeless legends, especially the Greek tale of thwarted love in which the beautiful Daphne morphs into a laurel tree to escape the unwanted attentions of Apollo, the god of music and the sun. With titles such as “Prophet,” “Guardian” and “Survivor” (shown here), Belvo acknowledges the psychological heart of her ambitious, human-scale pictures. (Opening reception, 6-9 p.m. Fri. Bockley Gallery, 2123 W. 21st St., Mpls. Ends May 18. Free. 612-377-4669 or www.bockleygallery.com)