Elithe, 93, is Jewish, has spoken four languages fluently, and was a professional violinist who performed at the Hollywood Bowl, Copley Hall, and Tijuana Concert Hall. She was an athlete who played numerous sports and danced professionally at age 17. Her mother lived to be 105.
Bob, 85, born on a Texas farm, was “entrepreneurial.” He owned, along with four partners, a large gold mining company. He also sold aircraft in Europe, Africa, and Asia as well as building condos in South Carolina and establishing a yacht business and two large self-storage companies.
Then there is Fran, 93, a Marine, and dean, 90, who looks like a senior model in a fashion ad.
These are just a few of the seniors showcased in “Your Life Is a Work of Art: A Celebration of People in Their 80s and 90s,” now showing at the Presbyterian Church at 2128 Chatsworth Blvd. A few of those depicted are native San Diegans. Several are from the Midwest or rural backgrounds.
“I was inspired to do this project through my work with seniors here who are 80 and 90 years old and above,” said Elaine Fotinos Burrell, director of senior adult ministry at the church. “I would hear their wonderful life stories and learned so much from them. I felt that their stories needed to be told, and their beauty celebrated through a portrait.”
Added Fotinos Burrell: “Being blessed with a long life certainly has its challenges, but there is beauty in the faces of our precious octogenarians and nonagenarians that only comes from life experience. Each person’s story is valuable and important, whether they lived a worldly life full of exotic experiences, or a simple life of home and family.”
Of her exhibit subjects, Fotinos Burrell said, “There’s so much beauty in their life experiences and it all shines through their faces and their eyes.”
The church director was also inspired by church senior pastor Karla Shaw who exhorted her ministry directors to “do things in a creative way.” So Fotinos Burrell responded by “coming up with the idea to photograph them and feature their stories.”
The exhibit of 22 men and women ranging in age from 80 to 98 includes, besides their portraits, information revealing their life histories discussing their formative experiences and work and family lives, as well as answering questions regarding their favorite age and happiest and saddest days. The photographic and literary portraits include a discussion by seniors of their most profound life lessons.
The photographic exhibition was supposed to run in May but was delayed by the pandemic. Fotinos Burrell pointed out the changed exhibit timeline is “good especially now while our cherished seniors are most vulnerable and invisible due to the pandemic. Let us honor and celebrate these living examples of perseverance, strength, and hope.”
When the exhibit is through, Fotinos Burrell said she will give the portraits to each of the participants.
Will she do this again?
“Maybe in a decade and have a fresh batch of octogenarians and nonagenarians,” replied Fotinos Burrell.
Free exhibit days/hours are Sept. 8-30, weekdays 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Enter through the parking lot to the right of the Family Life Center. Guests must wear facial coverings and observe posted social distancing guidelines while viewing the exhibit.
Burrell, MSW, is in her fifth year serving as director of the church’s Senior Adult Ministry. Originally from Sonoma, she is a hobby photographer living in Loma Portal with her husband and three sons. She thanked Nelson Photography, her son, John Burrell, and the pastors and staff at the church, as well as the seniors who allowed her to photograph them and who trusted her with their unique stories.
Where: Point Loma Community Presbyterian Church at 2128 Chatsworth Blvd.
When: Free exhibit days/hours are through Sept. 30, weekdays 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Enter through the parking lot to the right of the Family Life Center. Guests must wear facial coverings and observe posted social distancing guidelines while viewing the exhibit.