Throwing the Javelin at 101: Age and Beauty
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is now a hot new art gallery.  If you have spent any time there, you have probably noticed that its walls have never been bare, but last week was something more.  No fewer than 6 exhibitions were featured at a gala opening on Wednesday evening.  At a snacks-and-beverage reception on the fourth floor, Marianne Barthel, DHMC's Arts Program Coordinator, welcomed 50-some guests; each artist was introduced and spoke a  paragraph about his or her work. Then the "art walk" began.  Leaflets in hand, guests wandered the corridors of three floors, pausing in Endoscopy to see Wayne King's photos, climbing the stairs into the new Williamson addition to view the oil paintings (with leather) of Pamela Tarbell.   The Cardigan Mountain Art Association  had a hallway on the 4th floor and part of the main rotunda on the 3rd.  Gregory Bruce Hubbard, absent from the gala for a photo shoot, occupied the Hematology/Oncology corridor. The 5th floor housed Jean Gerber's oils, and a mural of national parks by Mascoma High School students.  Artists stationed themselves at their exhibitions to meet and greet. Around the corner from the pharmacy (Level 3, Faulkner), was
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Elliot Burg and his must-see black and white photographs.  25 in all, they are a photo essay of Burg's trip to the 2015 National Senior Games in Minneapolis (an Olympics-style competition for older people).  Burg himself competed in racquetball and was eliminated in the first round.  He was far from disappointed.  His real reason for being there was to photograph the athletes; he concentrated in track and field.  While "senior" means over the age of 50 , Burg's photos show competitors in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, and even a 101 year-old javelin thrower. Joe Barger, 90, having just finished the 1500 meter event, got help with the heat from his daughter, who poured a cup of water over his head

Joe Barger, 90, having just finished the 1500 meter event, got relief from the summer heat with the help of his daughter, who poured a cup of water over his head

There's Flo Meiler, 84, of Shelburne, VT, who ran the 100-meter dash, losing to her friend, Barbara Jordan, also of Vermont, by 1/100 of a second. Presumably undaunted, Meiler moved on to her next event--pole-vaulting (pictured above) . After the Senior Games, she traveled to Lyon, France, to compete in a heptathalon (that's 7 events), where she set a world record for her age category.  Other photos show senior athletes running at various distances, participating in the high jump and hammer throw, and then, there is that javelin. Burg believes that the photographs have both a substantive and aesthetic content.  Clearly the athletes redefine how age has traditionally been seen in affecting athletic ability ; they defy the stereotypes of physical decline in what can only be described as startling, then delightful.  Stating that an observer at an earlier exhibition of this work proclaimed them "beautiful," Burg believes that the subjects of his photos are also redefining what beauty means.  In a culture that reveres the aesthetics of youth, they, too, are beautiful. Neither Burg nor the athletes view the photos as prescriptive.  There is no requirement that any of us of a certain age put on track shoes.  Not all bodies age in the same way.  But all of us do age, and whatever the number of birthday candles on your last cake, the lesson is a simple one.  Age is only one part of who we are, and is more than a set of restrictions. Elliot Burg talks with a guest at an exhibition of his photographs at DHMC

Elliot Burg talks with a guest at an exhibition of his photographs at DHMC

During the exhibition, Burg was asked more than once about finishing times for each of the participants in their chosen events.  He advised that while not part of the photo essay, they are available on the National Senior Games website.  There was one statistic of which he was sure:  no one, not a single participant, was injured during the games; he said, "I checked with the medics." Among Burg's next photography adventures is an upcoming trip to Myanmar. This exhibition, as is true of those of the other artists (more will appear in this blog about them in future posts), will continue through March, 2016.

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