Since the 1960s Louis Bakó has been traveling to, and marveling at the sheer vastness and beauty of, Lake Winnipeg.
The lake has been the site of his studio, his subject, his object and his passion. Whether using paint, pictures or sculpture, Lake Winnipeg has been part of Bakó’s artistic experiences.
It was his place of retreat and his scene for adventure, a place for passion of nature and a place of passion for particular people.
Bakó came to Canada in 1958 after his family fled the communist takeover of Hungary in 1956. His father was a military man and opposed the regime for political reasons.
Bakó first encountered the lake at 14 years old and was immediately struck by its size.
“I remember the sheer vastness of it, and the part I remember the most was the stars at night over what I see as an inland ocean,” he says.
Bakó’s favourite memories are of exploring the isolated eastern shores by zodiac. Bakó loves the seemingly pristine, untouched wilderness on eastern Lake Winnipeg.
“It seemed like no one had ever stepped there. When you get to those beaches they have huge walls of interlocking driftwood that were as tall as I was. The winds push everything to the east side of the lake, so you get them.”
As a result of the isolated nature of these areas, Bakó and his friends took the opportunity to be nude and many of his Polaroids capture this common experience.
Bakó reflected that nudity was his actual experience of the lake, his chance to be private and free.
All of the subjects are either close friends or partners.
“There was no one around, so it was just a beautiful way to be (nude). We used to spend our time on beautiful islands and I got to take beautiful pictures.”
Despite concern about the health of Lake Winnipeg due to algal blooms, Bakó is also able to see beauty in this phenomenon.
One of the Polaroids in the exhibition shows the algal blooms that leave beautiful turquoise bands on the granite rocks that surround the lake; in the photo, the bands resemble jewel bracelets on each large boulder.
He described how the bands have been getting larger since the 1980s as algal blooms have become more of a problem.
“The algal bloom is far more serious now. Especially at the bottom of the lake. I don’t know what they are doing to save it.”
Bakó’s exhibition is an homage to the SX-70 Polaroid camera and part of the exhibition is about recontextualizing the Polaroid.
The majority of the ink jet linen prints in the exhibition were produced in the Martha Street Studio, where the exhibition takes place.
Louis C. Bakó’s exhibition, The Lake: Love and Passion: Prints, Painting and Polaroids 1968-2005, is at the Martha Street Studio at 11 Martha St. until Friday, Oct. 19.
Published in Volume 67, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 12, 2012)