Melanie Parke (Artist-in-Residence, 1995)

A painting shows a lake scene
"Rock Harbor", 9 ¾” x 6 ¼” oil painting, 1995

NPS/Melanie Parke

Isle Royale Reflection

"CeCe Chatfield, friend and painter, arrived for a short stay during my residency. Her baggage was overstuffed with bountiful new rations of granola, fresh vegetables and herbs from her garden, and, for balance, beer and chocolate. Staying in the adjacent cabin, she woke each morning to make us cowboy coffee and toast in a black iron skillet. To this day, the smell romantically transports me back to Tobin Harbor. Together, we paddled and hiked for greater distances than I would have gone by myself. With her company, those were splendid days. I felt the words that Darwin entered in his journal upon first seeing Brazil: “I can only add rapture to rapture.”

Alone, however, I often felt spooked. My most adventurous outing was when I took a canoe solo across Tobin Harbor to camp a few nights near Lookout Louise. Along with tent, sleeping bag and cooking gear, I loaded my paint box on top of my pack. Custom made for the Isle Royale residency, my paintbox was designed to slide five wet 8” X 12” painting panels into grooves, with one wide slot for a loaded palette. Then through side loops, the box was strapped securely on top of my pack. I set up my easel at Lookout Louise and for the next few days only had to simply shift my weight for a slightly different and expanded perspective. Because weather is so unpredictable, I always feel great urgency while painting outside, but it isn’t for the often misconceived idea of “capturing the moment.” To the contrary, painting for me is about the passing of time, being there long enough for a conversation, intimacy, and a lasting recollection.

When I paddled solo far from the cabin in Tobin Harbor, I was a little shaken and a lot humbled. The inner stew of thrill and fear jarred me into becoming raptly present yet willing to remain constantly vulnerable. Alone, I felt that the hand of unknown experience that beckons one on seemed bigger, and the life that spread out before me seemed utterly expanded into new realms.

That got into the brushwork.

That only paint could express for me.

To be given a canoe and a cabin on Isle Royale and to be allowed the passage of time was to be given the most sterling opportunity for joy."

- Melanie Parke*

*[Source for Melanie's reflection: Root, Robert and Jill Burkland, editors. (2000). The Island Within Us. Houghton, MI: Isle Royale Natural History Association. p 78. Print.]

Melanie Parke Self Portrait

About the Artist

Melanie Parke was an Isle Royale Artist-in-Residence from June 6th to June 21st, 1995. She is a visual artist and curator. Melanie was born and raised on a small horse farm in Indiana and received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1989.

Melanie shows with Simon | Garvey Art Projects in NY, NY, Kenise Barnes Fine Art in Larchmont, NY, Anne Loucks Gallery in Glencoe, IL, and Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee. Melanie was awarded Visiting Artist positions at the American Academy in Rome in 2015 and 2018.

Inspired by both the Yosemite and Isle Royale residency programs, Melanie proposed and cooperatively established the Sleeping Bear Dunes Artist in Residence Program in 1992. In 1995, she formally proposed over thirty new residency programs in national parks. The proposals helped to establish six new programs the next year and set fire to a wave of enthusiasm for more programs to come.

From 1997- 2020 Melanie and her artist husband, Richard Kooyman, organized The Provincial, an Artist-Run curatorial program and artist residency in a historic property in the village of Chief, MI, population 13.

For more on this artist:

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Last updated: January 5, 2020

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800 East Lakeshore Drive
Houghton , MI 49931


906 482-0984

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