Wayne Mondok’s Mountain Lake

This post is about a silkscreen print by Toronto-based artist Wayne Mondok of Patricia Lake near Jasper in the Canadian Rockies. I bought the print at Whetung Ojibwa Centre, which I mentioned in my previous post. I’ll begin with the store and then move to the print.

Indigenous Enterprise

For many years, the Whetung family operated a fishing lodge, gift shop, and general store on the Curve Lake Reserve near Peterborough. In the Sixties they decided to close the fishing lodge and general store but expand the gift shop to an arts and craft store, relying initially on crafts produced on Curve Lake and other reserves. They were well-positioned in the Seventies to establish a gallery displaying the work of Norval Morrisseau and other artists in the Woodland School. On my visits there from our cottage near Peterborough I shopped for paintings as well as the glass work of Michael Robinson. We also became friendly with Eleanor and Pat Whetung, who run the gallery. The website mentions the Centre’s long list of indigenous and other local artists, as well as its brisk business in indigenous clothing, especially moccasins, and souvenirs. Whetung Centre has become the focal point of the Curve Lake Reserve, for example its pow-wow marking the end of summer, and a success story of indigenous enterprise. No longer having a cottage in that area, I haven’t visited for many years, but the website suggests the Whetung’s continue to thrive. I admire their vision and energy.

Wayne Mondok’s Patricia Lake

On my last visit to Whetung’s, I bought Mondok’s silkscreen print (number 75 of a large run of 295) of Patricia Lake. Mondok decided to make his print 24 by 6-inches, which is much more elongated than a typical landscape, reflecting the orientation of the lake, as can be seen in online photos and maps.

Many things about the print appeal to me. The lake and mountains extend along the horizon, emphasizing the expanse of the view, rather than its depth. The mountains are reflected in the still lake, with only ripples on the surface near the shore. The landforms – evergreen forests, alpine meadows, bare rock – are precisely depicted. While the lake and valley are in the shade, we can see sunlight on the distant mountain peak, which suggests Mondok is depicting the moments just after dawn or just before sunset when this occurs. The print brought to mind hikes I’ve taken in the Canadian Rockies starting at lakes like Lake Louise or Moraine Lake and heading up into the mountains. And the sun on the mountains reminded me of treks in the Himalayas, with spectacular views from darkened valleys of sunlit peaks in the distance. Mondok has painted a unique mountain landscape that I appreciate both for his artistic talent and the memories of day-hikes and longer treks it evokes.

Addendum: The Artist’s Story

After I posted it, I sent the blog to Wayne Mondok and he responded with this recollection of how he created the painting on which the print was based:

“I went to take some pictures of Patricia Lake, but had no idea of the landscape. I was there early in the morning, and it was cloudy, (and dark), and drizzling a bit. When it got lighter, and clearer, I could see an outline of the main mountain, and started to plan a painting. Later, the mountains in the distance, (on the left of the painting) began to appear. What had been fog earlier, became the mountains in the sunlight that you can see in the painting. I thought, maybe I should paint that instead. Which, then led to a plan to paint the whole scene. Also, the water had been very still all morning, and, when it started to break up (this is what I had painted), within 10-15 minutes, the whole lake had waves.”

His recollection reminds us that in the mountains the weather is almost always changing. Contemporary artists have the benefit of a camera to record the evolving scene, and then select a scene to paint.

Mondok also mentioned that he included two loons and bald eagles in the original 10 x 40 inch painting that were too small for me to see in the print. He has circled them and the circles, at least, are visible.

I appreciate the window Mondok has given us into his creative process.

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