Hospitable Nature Photos make Carthage Artist Stand Out
Joplin Globe 8/24/1017 by Koby Levin
CARTHAGE, Mo. — Hospital art has at least one advantage over the museum variety. Wishing you were somewhere else can drive a person to distraction — to the familiar plot lines of a bad soap opera, to the eighth inning of a baseball game that was over in the third, or to art.
Take it from a guy who has been admitted to hospitals more than a dozen times in so many years. I spent those hours on the sick bay looking for an escape from the discomfort of Crohn’s disease, which often meant hours of staring at whatever someone happened to hang on the wall.
Sadly, hospital art is quite frequently bad art. Ordering a few prints of cartoon animals is the easiest, and hospitals aren’t museums, right? I remember almost none of the many images I have pondered with an IV in my arm.
But a series of landscape photographs at a hospital in Billings, Montana, have stuck with me. As I walked the halls, hoping to regain my strength after a debilitating episode, the wildflowers and granite peaks of the nearby Rocky Mountains scrolled past in a never ending loop.
I fell ill while camping in those mountains, and the images haunted me at first. But ultimately they convinced me that those mountains held almost as much beauty as menace.
Koral Martin, a Carthage-based photographer, does one better. Her hyper-detailed images, many of which delve into textures and objects too fine to be seen with the naked eye, offer an escape.
A believer in hospital art, Martin says she is especially proud of the dozens of flower images that flourish on the walls of Mercy Hospital Carthage, formerly McCune-Brooks Hospital. Here photographs are also displayed in her Koka Art Gallery, 409 S. Main St., in Carthage, which also shows the work of other local artists.
“I’ll show you my bee tongue,” Martin offered on Tuesday morning, reaching for her phone.
The tongue in question, which looks like a translucent amber waterfall, was not visible at first. It appears only when you zoom in, the sharp details a product of the powerful 50 megapixel camera that is Martin’s go-to.
Alice Lynn Greenwood, director of artCentral in Carthage, which displays work by local artists, says she has watched the steady maturation of Martin’s skills.
“She’s very adept with the technical side of using a camera,” she said. “She uses her camera like a painter uses brushes.”
After years of working in IT, Martin says photography blends her aesthetic sense with an affinity for technology. Her work capitalizes on powerful photographic tools to produce images that are beyond the reach of the human eye.
“When photographing I strive to capture this beauty that so often has a story to tell in ways that the casual observer may never see,” Greenwood writes in an artist’s statement.
That quality drew the attention of hospital officials when the time came to decorate a new building.
“We used colors and textures and objects that you would see if you looked outside the window,” said Beth Simmons, director of the McCune-Brooks Healthcare Foundation, which oversaw the construction of the hospital now owned by Mercy. “We saw her photos, and we thought they were lovely.”
Her work hangs at the hospital alongside that of Carthage artists such as Bob Tommey and Lowell Davis, and Tricia Courtney, of Joplin.
Martin spends much of her free time traveling to out-of-the-way hiking spots to take pictures. “I love going to the places that other people never go,” she told me.
But her adventurous spirit may mean she is not long for Carthage.
She is increasingly fascinated by the natural beauty of Colorado, where both of her children live, and is contemplating retirement there with her husband.
No matter where she is, it seems likely that she will leave a trail of photos. I hope some wind up in a hospital, where they’re needed most.