At Kimball Farms, the world is right down the hall
'Fabulous' exhibit enriches corridor of Lenox life care community
Residents often pass through on their way to the exercise room and other spaces on either side.
Now, thanks to an exhibit featuring the works of a sculptor and two internationally renowned photographers, that corridor has become a destination in itself.
"It takes me 15 minutes longer to get to the gym," said Susan Dana, an independent living resident, of viewing the "fabulous" exhibit.
Kimball Farms last month opened the 80-piece show, which includes 72 framed travel photos from Sally Eagle and her husband, Dan Mead. The hallway's walls and adjacent areas are now inhabited by images and three-dimensional works from different worlds. The sculptures are the work of Egremont resident Peter Barrett.
With one exception, the pictures have all been taken since 2003 and span six continents (no Australia in this show, though the couple has been there, too), depicting an array of landscapes, cultures and wildlife in a series titled, "Focus on Our World."
The exhibit will remain on view to the public and the 224 people enrolled in independent, assisted living or memory care programs at the Walker Street site until April 10.
"I think everyone is amazed by the diversity and the different places Sally and Dan have been able to travel to," according to Sandra "Sandy" Shepard, executive director of Kimball Farms.
The community has hosted smaller exhibitions of residents' and others' work in the past, but nothing on this scale, she said.
Shepard credited community outreach director Sharon Lazerson for taking the lead role in organizing the exhibit.
Lazerson has focused in particular on bringing original pieces to the community.
"I love the opportunity it offers for Kimball Farms to build relationships with wonderful artists, to support them while enriching our residents and inviting the wider community into our beautiful space," Lazerson wrote in an email. "I believe that art is essential nourishment."
Eagle and Mead have been impressed by the residents' knowledge of different locales. Hank Fenn, an independent living resident, had visited several places photographed, such as Norway. He spoke with the photographers about their travels and their craft on multiple occasions while they hung the pieces.
"It brought back wonderful memories," he said.
Many residents approached the couple at the show's opening.
"It was remarkable how articulate and well-traveled this particular audience was," Eagle said.
"It was really fun to actually have an adult audience," Mead said.
The photographers, who live in Great Barrington, usually have considerably younger viewers for their work, exhibiting in dozens of schools around the Berkshires and beyond. (The couple has also displayed photos at the Berkshire Museum. Most recently, they participated in 2016's "ArtZoo" show.)
"Our primary mission is to bring the world to kids, to try to give them a little visual encouragement to travel and see the world," Eagle said, adding that some children believe "everybody has a white picket fence or something."
The photographers have certainly observed much of what earth has to offer over the years. In the 1980s, they were hiking around the world, trekking through Nepal, for instance, for two months. They relished the experience but longed for less grueling experiences abroad.
"It was kind of like, 'We want to keep seeing these places, but we don't want to do all the camping and cooking our own meals and stuff,' " Eagle said.
Thus, they transitioned into working more seriously in photography, which had been a longtime passion for both of them.
One of their most frequent stops has been in Bhutan, a small country in South Asia bordering India and China. The nation is the setting for "Smiling Monk," the first photo that greets passersby walking from the main entrance. In the picture, a boy smiles and peers to his right, drawing the viewer's eyes to the artwork next to him on a wall.
"A young monk willingly poses beside temple wall paintings, happy to be distracted from his daily routine of memorizing prayers and doing chores at his monastery," an information card under the frame describes.
Eagle and Mead wrote a caption for every shot. For their school exhibits, they compose them to help the audience understand the images. They decided to do the same for this show.
"The first day when we were hanging it, several of the residents were reading every single caption, which was really inspiring for us," Eagle said.
Around a corner, the barrage of visual stimulation truly begins. "King Penguin Colony" depicts an endless twisting line of flightless birds on South Georgia Island near Antarctica. The area can host more than 100,000 mating pairs, according to Eagle.
Penguins appear in multiple photos, including two shots near the end of the exhibit. One positions a penguin in the fore and an elephant seal in the background. Baby penguins fill another. The chicks must find their parents on shore through a system of calls. With thousands of penguins in the vicinity, it is a chaotic scene to witness, Eagle said.
"This penguin will only be fed by its parent," she said while looking at the picture. "And its parent could be any parent; it's just insane."
More than 2,000 miles north of South Georgia Island — but just a few paces down the hall from the penguin photo — are Argentina's Iguazu Falls, the setting for a wide shot of cascading streams and a boat heading straight toward them. While rain gear is handed out to those on the boat, "you might as well be taking a shower," said Mead, who has visited Iguazu with Eagle twice.
A waterfall also figures prominently in a local photo. "Race Brook Birch" conveys the thrust of water moving over rocks and around a couple of branches during a fall hike at Race Brook Falls in Sheffield.
"I'm trying to capture the flow, so I'm setting the speed, the aperture, in a way that I can focus on the branch and let the water speak its natural flow," Mead said.
Similarly, on a boat trip in Brazil, Eagle trained a lens on a caiman that was resting on a beach. She spotted a jaguar approaching the reptile from behind.
"I decided, 'You know what I'm going to do: If he's really going after this caiman, I'm going to focus on the caiman,' " she said. "Whoa, was I lucky."
The jaguar pounced on the caiman, sinking its teeth into the reptile's head and dragging it back to shore. Eagle had taken a video of the scene while Mead took photos.
"I got the entire kill, and no wildlife biologist had ever seen this kill," Eagle said while examining a still shot of the attack, titled, "Jaguar and Caiman."
"Ambush in the Pantanal" won Nature's Best Photography magazine's 2014 Windland Smith Rice International Award for best video. It was played at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., from October 2015 through August 2016, according to the couple's website.
Mead has also had work land at the Smithsonian. "Sand Sprinters," a depiction of eight ostriches climbing a dune in Namibia's desolate Skeleton Coast, was displayed at the museum in an exhibit for competing 2009 Windland Smith Rice International Awards images. The photo appears as "Ostrich Family" above a bench near the end of the Kimball Farms display.
Despite the acclaim for the couple's work, a selfless spirit prevails in their relationship. For example, they don't put names on their photos.
"There are a lot of pictures I can't even remember necessarily who took them," Eagle said.
Their camaraderie extends to Barrett, the other exhibitor and a good friend of the photographers. Barrett's sculptures have appeared at numerous spots throughout the Berkshires, including The Mount, where he will participate again in the SculptureNow show this year, he said.
He's accustomed to displaying his creations outside, so the Kimball Farms setting was an adjustment.
"Three-dimensional art is kind of tough indoors on any scale," Barrett said during a phone interview last Sunday before a trip to Mexico.
Still, Barrett's pieces enliven corners usually dominated by vents and outlets. "Plant Stand: Goddess" features a leafy top to a steely figure.
"I look forward to changing her 'hairstyle' as the seasons change," Barrett wrote in an information card accompanying the piece.
Eagle and Mead can't alter their works at this point, but they can transport their Kimball Farms audience to places both new and familiar.
"It just kind of brings the world to them," Eagle said.
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.
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