Mark Marsters (Canadian, 1962-2002), The Lick and Look Camel of Thunder Bay, 1993.
Acrylic on paper. Gift of Scott Warwick, 2006.
This painting is featured in our current exhibition, An Embarrassment of Riches: The Collection in Focus.
It belongs to a series of narrative paintings by Mark Marsters entitled Following Richard Roe, which features the fictional character Roe, who is pictured at the centre of this composition. Marsters traveled across western Canada in 1993, gathering information about ordinary people – what they did, where they lived. He then created the character of Roe, who, he said, “according to the stories I have been told, is a very strange man.”
In the story that accompanies this work, Marsters wrote how Roe assembled a camel from dumpster junk to tell the fortunes of people on the streets of Thunder Bay for a $5.00 fee. Roe’s “camel” features a head made from an old wood basket, a tongue made from a baseball glove, and a body made from scraps of canvas and fabric.
Roe would perch beneath the camel, have its “tongue” lick his client’s hand, and make up some nonsense about their future. Exposed as a scam artist, Roe is finally chased to the bus station to escape Thunder Bay. Marsters depicts Roe in full flight, the camel contraption askew as he careers down the street. Dogs bark, garbage is scattered, bystanders cry out, a child is in tears.