By Will Broaddus
---- — There are leopards on the first floor of Shetland Park in Salem. Snow leopards, amur leopards and even a few jaguars can be seen roaming around the building.
The big cats are followed on the next three floors by elephants, zebras, wolves and bears.
These animals haven’t escaped from a game preserve but appear in the photography exhibit “Eye to Eye, Encounters with Wildlife,” by Beverly psychologist Mary Baures. The show is installed in Shetland Arts, the four-story atrium gallery at the office park.
“In February of 2011, I went to Africa to see the elephant migration and to see my baby elephant. That’s when it started,” Baures said.
She had adopted an elephant through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which runs an elephant orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya.
That visit was followed by a series of photography safaris in Africa, Brazil and Montana, the results of which appear in the show.
“I go on safaris with a guide,” Baures said. “At the beginning, I needed a teacher.”
She now uses “a very fancy” Nikon D4 camera that allows her to take shots in rapid succession and to capture images in low light, including here at home.
“I recently set it up here and got an egret fishing at 4 a.m., when I couldn’t even see,” she said.
But the technical aspects of photography are less intriguing to Baures than the contact it allows her to make with other species.
“I have writings on the walls at the show about encountering animals,” she said. “These stories are trying to point out how we are like them. As we are destroying their habitat, we need to empathize with them.”
Years before she photographed animals, Baures started to paint them, something she learned to do by taking classes at Montserrat College of Art.
“I turned to animals because I love them and they’re a good topic,” Baures said. “Nudes are interesting to paint, but there’s very little you can do with them. And I’d rather paint a leopard’s face than a vase.”
She enrolled in art classes when her training in clinical psychology was “turning the world into theory.”
“I felt like I needed to pursue a part of myself that was not connected to the academic work,” she said. “I wanted to connect more closely to myself. I wanted to capture something that was more alive.”
While creative work served as an escape from academia, it also became an important part of her work as a psychologist.
“My specialty is recovery from trauma, and most of the people that have recovered from trauma used some kind of creativity,” she said.
She has worked with children who suffered abuse and were told by abusers that “if they tell anybody, they’ll kill them.” Painting distances these victims from the source of their terror, while allowing them to tap into feelings too deep for speech.
“You’re one step removed from the thing that really hurt you, while you’re doing something that makes you feel good and whole,” Baures said. “Any kind of artwork is a great way to metabolize the wounds.”
In another context, the empathy she wants to evoke in her exhibit at Shetland Park aims at healing a different kind of rift, between animals, people and the world they share.
“Animals love life,” Baures wrote, in a story that accompanies her images. “Birds sing with all they’ve got. Elephants in water splash, squirt and frolic with joy. When we get close enough to see their spirits, we glimpse the miraculous force from which we came.”
|IF YOU GO|
|What: "Eye to Eye, Encounters with Wildlife," photographs by Mary Baures|
|When: Now through Feb. 28; open weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to noon|
|Where: Shetland Arts atrium, Shetland Park, Buildlng One, 27 Congress St., Salem|