Brookline resident Caroline Barnes is in love: with Brookline’s turkey population. Although the bird population is often disparaged for holding up traffic and acting aggressively, Barnes sees the birds as beautiful, funny and essential pieces of the Brookline community. To celebrate her love for the animals, she launched an art series called “Brookline Turkeys” depicting the neighborhood birds in vibrant colors on poster-style prints.

“I’ve been in Brookline since 2000, and I saw my first turkeys a few years later in 2003. I never tire of seeing them,” says Barnes. “It’s not like they’re expanding their range, they’re coming back. And that’s encouraging. It’s sort of a sign that nature is rebalancing.” This is an important point that Barnes makes with her series. Though they may be irritating to our contemporary society, the wild turkeys were here long before we were. We’re really the ones infringing on their turf.

“I started thinking it would be nice to promote them in a lighthearted way,” says Barnes. And that way is Technicolor posters featuring Brookline landmarks and the turkeys that flock to them. Barnes came from a computer background and was trained as an illustrator, so her artistic weapon of choice is the Apple pencil. Her creations start with a sketch using this pencil on her tablet. Once the bare bones of the artwork are on paper (or rather a screen), she edits and fine-tunes the image in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

“I love poster art; I love whimsical art,” says Barnes. “I’m a big fan of the early 1900s travel posters.” That love comes through in the bold, dramatic illustrated posters and their sassy catch phrases, such as “We kindly ask that you refrain from making eye contact.” Some of Coolidge Corner’s architecture harkens back to the era of the travel posters Barnes loves so much. The Coolidge Corner Theater and whimsical spired tower in the neighborhood center often appear in her work. At the moment Barnes is incorporating more images of Brookline Village into the designs, at the request of residents there that want to see their neighborhood immortalized.

Barnes has exhibited her work around town but hopes to take another step in her Brookline turkey publicity campaign. “I would love to set up a “Brookline Turkeys” lending library,” she says. This would allow businesses that only have space for one or two posters to exhibit the work without having to lose a whole wall to a gallery space. 

“Brookline Turkeys” reminds the community that there’s humor to be found in these creatures. Traffic stopping or not; they’re a part of the Brookline experience. Barnes says, “I want to give a shout out to the Tappan Street turkeys. They strut their stuff, and it reminds me of the muscle men on Venice Beach.” Well if we can’t have Venice Beach muscle men, we guess the turkeys will do.

By Celina Colby