But the turkeys that inhabit Brookline have also become part of the fabric of the community over the years. And for artist and illustrator Caroline Barnes, their presence around town is inspirational — despite the many complaints people may have.
“You either love them or hate them,” said Barnes, who admits that she falls within the “love” category. “I am one of those people that if I see them, I have to stop and have a chat. People will stop and say hello to dogs, and talk to dogs in a dog voice. I talk to the turkeys in a turkey voice.”
For more than a year, Barnes has been using the turkeys she runs into around town as her muse, creating colorful works of art based on her interactions.
The works are reminiscent of travel posters from the 1920s and 1930s. Some show angry-looking turkeys breathing fire, flying above the words “terror!” and “attack!”, while others paint the birds more whimsically, walking alongside chicks, wearing fancy apparel, or even riding a bicycle.
“Sometimes we take these birds too seriously,” she said.
Barnes, a Brookline resident for nearly two decades, was inspired to start using the turkeys as the focus of her work based on their aesthetic and the way they’ve become a topic of conversation with residents.
“Plenty of people fear them, distrust them, hate them. But does this stop the turkeys from living their turkascious lives? Heck, no,” reads a description about Barnes’s artwork on her website, BrooklineTurkeys.com. “They continue to strut down the street, hold up traffic, block doors, and destroy mirrors. You’ve got to admit, that’s pure moxie. And perhaps this is why I so admire them.”
Turkeys have long been considered a nuisance by residents of the tony town just outside Boston.
The Associated Press last year reported that as turkeys spread farther into urban communities, they’ve been increasingly at odds with humans, with complaints about the irksome animals surging over the last three years.
“They’re terrible. Every year they’re worse,” one Brookline resident told the Associated Press. “I really do think that they’re a menace to the town.”
But Barnes has nothing but love for the birds, even after being attacked herself. (A mother hen once swooped down on her head, she said.)
“I find them utterly fascinating,” Barnes said. “Visually, they’re gracefully geometric and beautifully colored; spiritually — if you can say that given their little walnut-sized heads — they’re determined. I like that.”