‘Portraits of Elders’ on display at Founders Hall

The expressive faces of nursing home residents inspired a group of Founders Hall artists to confront their own feelings about aging and create “Portraits of Elders by Founders,” which will be on display at Founders Hall on Monday, Feb. 27, from 2:30 to 4. The portrait project evolved from a conversation between art instructor Martha Talburt and one of her students, Kathleen Burleson, a published photographer who volunteers at Somers Manor Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in nearby Somers, N.Y. As they were analyzing why some paintings are more compelling than others, Burleson related it to the joy she gets from photographing nursing home residents.

“I try to capture a special moment with my camera and then share that moment with others,” she explained.

Talburt, the mother of Sarah Bouissou of Bernard’s Restaurant/Sarah’s Wine Bar, took one look at the photos and knew they would make a fabulous project for her advanced drawing class. A self-proclaimed subversive, Talburt had more than drawing in mind.

“I started to think about our fears of aging,” she recalled, “and the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is often a nursing home.”

She decided it was time to “knock down those fears like bowling pins” and asked her advanced students to face their fears by drawing portraits of nursing home residents.

“Every one of those residents is there because they need to be,” Talburt told her students. “They are safe and happy, and we don’t need to fear it.”

The artists began by studying their subjects’ faces, endeavoring to understand what their expressions conveyed. Then, line by line, they rendered those expressions in colored pencils, a time-consuming medium that requires careful layering to achieve the desired color.

“We first tried to understand what their lives have been like,” said artist and Ridgefield resident Mary Lou Costa.

“Martha encouraged us to dig deep into those great faces, the eyes, the mouths, the expressions, even the clothes. My fellow had a great grin, a sporty hat and colorful beads. He made me smile all the way through the project.”

According to Talburt, all the artists “fell in love with their elders,” and the resulting portraits vividly convey the spirit of each of individual who was pictured.

After the show at Founders Hall, the exhibit will move to Somers Manor, where the artists will meet their muses face to face, encounters that are likely to create more inspirational moments. Founders Hall, located at 193 Danbury Road, is a donor-supported education and recreation center for people age 60 and older.

For more information, go to www.founders-hall.org.