Jul 01 - Sep 10, 2022 Douglas family art centre

Modern Explorer: Randolph Parker

Randolph Parker, Shoal Lake Elm Tree, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 101.6 x 76.2 cm / 40 x 30 in, N 49º 30' 22.24" W 95º 02' 32.59"

Randolph Parker, Shoal Lake Elm Tree, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 101.6 x 76.2 cm / 40 x 30 in
N 49º 30′ 22.24″ W 95º 02′ 32.59″

For decades, Randolph Parker (1954 — ) has been exploring the islands of Lake of the Woods alongside his friend and art dealer Bill Mayberry, but the last five years of have been dedicated to an exceptional project: creating site-specific “portraits of islands” that capture the rugged beauty of the region. The landscape of Lake of the Woods is both vast and varied, boasting 14,522 islands and 104,606 kilometres of shoreline. It is a place that, in the words of Peter Mansbridge, “scream[s] history from every rock, tree, lake, and island.”

Lake of the Woods has inspired many artists over the years, the most notable of which is Walter J. Phillips (1884–1963). It was during a visit to the island depicted in Phillips’ Sunset, Lake of the Woods (1928), standing where one could imagine Phillips did as he painted the scene, that ideas for a a unique series of paintings began to percolate for the modern explorers, Randolph and Bill.

Reflecting on the difficulty of finding the very island that they were looking at, Parker and Mayberry knew that they wanted to make the journey easier for future adventurers. Thus, it was decided that each painting in the series would be identified with its own Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinate, allowing and encouraging other modern explorers to venture out to find these locations.

“After a work of art is created and time passes it is challenging to discover where it was inspired or created, but we realized a solution to the problem, to use GPS coordinates to identify each painting. It is wonderful to think of creating an entire exhibition where all paintings would be identified by coordinates.”

– Randolph Parker

It seemed like a relatively simple idea, but both Randolph and Bill were also keenly aware that it had never been done before and that this series may set a standard for other landscape artists. The use of GPS coordinates would allow artists, admirers, collectors, and historians to learn where a specific painting was inspired, to visit it themselves, and to dive deeper into the geography and history of the area. In author, Greg Humeniuk’s words, “The ability to visit a painting’s site would mean the chance for an uncanny encounter with something familiar, strange, and renewed.”

Properly showcasing the region would mean exploring every corner of Lake of the Woods and keeping exacting details of each location. This would be no small undertaking, but its uniqueness, benefits, and challenges were inspirational in themselves.

From this methodical exploration and documentation The Island Series was born — a collection of over 230 paintings depicting islands from every region of Lake of the Woods, each identified with GPS coordinates.

The Muse is pleased to present Modern Explorer at the Douglas Family Art Centre; an exhibition showcasing a selection of over 40 paintings from The Island Series.

Did you know?

The Lake of the Woods gold rush in the 1890s brought miners and investors from across North America.  By 1893 there were 20 working gold mines on the Lake of the Woods.

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