“Ballerinas in the Everglades” – an exhibition by Westover School alumna Heather Donlan– will be on display in Westover’s Schumacher Gallery from February 12th through February 28th and from March 15th through March 23rd.
Based in Naples, Florida, Ms. Donlan has been photographing professionally for more than 15 years. She started her business in Seattle while working under master photographers Art Wolfe and Phil Borges. The studio then moved to Colorado and finally to Florida, where it has been for the past eight years. A member of Westover’s Class of 1991, Ms. Donlan holds a B.A. from the University of Puget Sound. She resides in Naples with her husband and their three children.
In her photographic work, Ms. Donlan says the art of photography is only half of her work. “The other half is forming intimate relationships with my clients,” she explained, “enabling me to capture clients with an artistic eye. It is important for me to find the common thread with those I am photographing. People all have something in common that we can relate to. It might be the number of kids you have, where you grew up, or your favorite place to eat. During a photo session, it is my job to find that commonality that will help put my clients at ease and, in return, produce the most honest and believable portrait I can.”
In her artist’s statement for “Ballerinas in the Everglades,” Ms. Donlan said, “The initial idea for this project started while I was watching my own young daughters at their ballet class years ago. The young students were so graceful and I became intrigued with thinking about how to photograph them. I initially thought I would love to photograph these ballerinas with animals such as elephants, zebras and giraffes … Months later, on a trip to Thailand, I was marveling in the beauty of the vast rice fields and recognized the resemblance to that of the vast open space of the Everglades, located right in my back yard. I began to wonder what it would look like to put a graceful ballerina in the middle of this wildly open terrain and so the project began.”
Ms. Donlan acknowledged the challenges offered by the project, which she noted is still a series in progress. “There are no roads where I photograph and the land is only accessible by airboat,” she explained. “The time it takes to travel out to where I shoot is almost two hours each way. There is nothing ‘comfortable’ about where we photograph. In fact, it can be very nerve-racking when we pass by a 10-foot alligator on the right side of the airboat only for me to see something interesting on the left side and have the guide stop the boat so we all can get out and work. It takes a good does of courage on everyone’s part.”
The Schumacher Gallery is open Mondays through Fridays from noon until 5 pm and Saturdays from 1 to 5 pm; it is closed on Sundays. Because the School will not be in session from March 1st through March 14th, the gallery will not be open to the public during that period. The Schumacher Gallery is located on South Street in Middlebury. Visitors must access the gallery at the main entrance of the School.
Westover is a selective boarding and day school with 205 students from 16 states and 17 countries. The School offers its students more than 20 Advanced Placement courses as well as signature programs in science, engineering, art history, and music.