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Spirit Land: In Search of the Group of Seven (5 photos)

Earlier this week, a group of hearty travellers boarded the ACR to head to Mongoose Lake for five days of adventure and filmmaking.
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Earlier this week, a group of hearty travellers boarded the ACR to head to Mongoose Lake for five days of adventure and filmmaking.

The purpose of the trip was to continue the task of locating and documenting the exact painting locations of the Group of Seven during their time in the Algoma region.

For the last seven years, adventurers Joanie and Gary McGuffin along with Micael Burtch, former curator for the Art Gallery of Algoma, have been researching, investigating and locating the precise locations made famous in the paintings of the Group of Seven.

So far, the trio have discovered more than 300 painting spots.

"The idea has been to explore regions where we know they painted from 1912 to 1930. Those were the formative years of the Group of Seven," Gary McGuffin told SooToday.com prior to boarding the ACR Monday morning.

"What's unique about these discoveries is that the geography they painted is pristine. In fact, it's probably more pristine now that it was when they were here," said Burtch.

It's relatively easy to locate the spots where European artists such as Monet painted, said Burtch, but the areas have been developed and changed to the point that they're almost unrecognizable.

The the areas of Algoma painted by the Group of Seven remain virtually untouched.

In September of 2013, director and writer Phyllis Ellis joined the action to document the massive undertaking in a documentary film for White Pine Pictures titled Spirit Land: In Search of the Group of Seven.

She and her film crew, including local filmmaker Dan Nystedt, were part of the group that ventured to Mongoose and Wartz Lakes this week.

Also with them were actors portraying Dr. James MacCallum (George Houston), A.Y. Jackson (Tim Bass), Lawren Harris (Max Gavin), and Arthur Lismer (Jarrett Sherman).

"One of the unique things that Gary, Joanie and Michael are doing is not just finding the paintings, but actually walking in their footsteps," Ellis told us.

"There have been a thousand films made about the Group of Seven over the years… this is a film about what they painted, why they painted it and who they were as people," she explained. "I believe this film with articulate the painters in a very new way and people will really know them as men."

While traveling to such remote locations via rail and portage, dealing with weather, bears, and blackflies with a cast and crew of 15 might not sound ideal for filmmaking, Ellis said she was quick to realize it would all be worth the trials and tribulations after she spent last October at Mongoose Lake and in the North Shore area.

Ellis expects Spirit Land: In Search of the Group of Seven to be ready for release in the spring of 2015.

To learn more about the film project and other White Pine Pictures initiatives, please click here



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Donna Hopper

About the Author: Donna Hopper

Donna Hopper has been a photojournalist with SooToday since 2007, and her passion for music motivates her to focus on area arts, entertainment and community events.
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