“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|