Rabbit Lake, ON - Elizabeth Lennie

My Watermark is Rabbit Lake, Ontario.

The Summer paintings are reminiscent of carefree days spent in the pristine waters of Rabbit Lake, Temagami, in northern Ontario. Liquid landscapes full of sparkling light, whimsy, and joyful play emerge from my imagination and allow me to revisit my own real and invented endless days of summer.

The series was born from an idyllic August Long Weekend at our cottage on Rabbit Lake in Temagami. Our rustic but spacious cedar cottage was one of only a few on the lake surrounded by Old Growth Forest, Crown Lands, Native Reserves, and black flies – a classic boat-access Canadian cottage experience. My 3 children and the kids in the bay found an old floating log in the water adjacent to our dock and those 9 children spent the entire cloudless weekend jumping off the dock and trying to pull themselves up to stand on the log in the water. Serendipity led my husband to shoot a roll of film. This was before digital cameras. Shortly after that perfect weekend one of the children was diagnosed with cancer, and over the course of the year endured 16 rounds of chemo. The community rallied in support of the family and now that sweet little 10 year old is a thriving 26 year old with a clean bill of health and a medical career ahead of her. The lake is there, alive with pickerel, unaware of the narrative of that time, but we are all transformed. Kids playing on a log in the water represent to me a metaphor for the struggle to exist in a universe of constant change. The expectant struggle to climb up, the exhilaration of success, then the falling down and starting of the cycle again – impossible to control the liminal quality of water or the waves of a tide - and a symbolic cleansing of the spirit. When I rediscovered the photographs years later I was immediately drawn to the fragile nature of youth and the memory myth of summer.

Water has a transformative power and is considered a purifier and the origin of all life. The luminescence of water continues to fascinate me in its three elemental forms and so I paint images of liquid landscapes, both summer and winter, in the effort to capture a joyful moment of surrender.

Water connects us on this Big Blue Ball we call our home. We come from water, we depend on it for survival, yet it is powerful and magical. Its abundance or lack of will determine the trajectory of our survival. Water can shape-shift over the landscape in its 3 elemental forms, give us life and take it away. Water seemingly has no conscience yet embodies the Divine. At 13 I made a deliberate decision not to be Baptized because instinctively I knew the sacredness of the water ritual didn’t match my religious ideas and I didn’t want to be hypocritical of the sacrament. I felt the water didn’t care either way. As a child I learned to swim in an outdoor pool, a refreshing respite from an hour-long walk to and fro in the suburban summer heat. My husband and children are swimmers, lifeguards in fact on the Atlantic Ocean and on Lake Ontario. And so physical comfort in the water has become essential in my life. The sensation of diving and gliding through water is the closest sensation I can think of to being born.

Rabbit Lake, ON
Amy Wilford
Elizabeth Lennie

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