Apr 16 - Jul 09, 2022 Douglas family art centre

Power of Place: Melissa Jean & Walter J. Phillips

Ivan Eyre, Untitled, 1981, Crayon on paper, 75.7 x 53.1 cm, Collection of the Pavilion, Assiniboine Park Conservancy

Melissa Jean, Power of Place, 2022, Acrylic on canvas, 61 x 121.9 cm, Collection of the artist.


“A landscape painting is essentially emotional in origin. It exists as a record of an effect in nature whose splendour has moved a human heart and accordingly as it is well or ill done it moves the hearts of others.”

– Walter J. Phillips

Through our senses we experience the world around us. The sound of wind, the smell of forest, the taste of rain, and the warmth of the sun. We are connected to the land and it has the power to influence our feelings, to move our hearts. Power of Place captures the alluring force that is Lake of the Woods through the lens of two artists of different generations: Walter J. Phillips and Melissa Jean.

Internationally acclaimed artist Walter J. Phillips (1884–1963) first visited Lake of the Woods in 1914. The magnetism of the place drew him back for numerous trips with his family and fellow artists for more than 25 years, and inspired his work for decades. In his journals, Phillips wrote of Lake of the Woods with awe: “I am always glad to be back [in Lake of the Woods] and, wherever I may have been, feel tempted to record some of the beauty that is everywhere apparent beside those peaceful waters.” With his acute sense of light, Phillips depicted the land and articulated the language of the Lake, imparting the essence of the place for all to experience. Phillips wrote that “it is emotion that gives an impulse to the landscape painter.”

The same sentiment is shared by local artist Melissa Jean (1975–), whose 2005 move to Lake of the Woods ignited her passion for painting. The indescribable power of this place propelled Jean to express her connection with the region. Using Phillips’ artwork as a guide, Jean journeyed across the local landscape, seeking out locations that share characteristics or qualities with the art of Phillips. Jean tuned herself to the frequency of the landscape, instilling in her work the spirit of the lake from her own perspective.

The paintings of Phillips and Jean capture the power and beauty of Lake of the Woods—may they move your hearts and minds.

Did you know?

During the Second World War German prisoners of war were brought to the Lake of the Woods area to cut wood for the local mills.  Many of the prisoners enjoyed their time in the Canadian wilderness, and a number of them immigrated to Canada when the war ended.