Wednesday, April 30, 2008

55th annual patient art exhibition at mskcc

Several weeks ago, I sent out the following Evite to a countless number of family, friends, and others who have been so instrumental to my family and me during my nearly five year long struggle with cancer.

Dear family and friends,

As many of you know, since completing my transplant for Hodgkin's Lymphoma seven months ago I've been spending a significant amount of time photographing. In addition to blogging, photography has become one of the most fulfilling activities that I've picked up since my diagnosis as I continue to find new means of self-expression and discovery.

The subject of most of my photographic work has been bridges. Not the great, iconic bridges like the Brooklyn Bridge or the George Washington Bridge but the smaller ones, the little known ones: the Harlem River Bridges. The Harlem River Bridges are the 14 spans over the Harlem River (which links the Hudson and East Rivers) that connect Manhattan and the Bronx.

It was by accident, really, that I became so interested in the Harlem River, its bridges, and points of interest near its waterfront. I've lived no less than 10 blocks from the Harlem River my entire life, but it wasn't until I had finished my recent transplant when I needed to get outside to walk as I tried to regain my strength that I discovered the beauty of the River and its bridges. But to my surprise, this beautiful accident has turned into a passionate project that continues to bring me much delight and interest.

So, this story about how I came to find and photograph these bridges is in part about my interest in the history and architecture of the bridges themselves but moreover, it's about how during my recovery I was able to find something that motivated me to feel hopeful, resilient, and yes, free, when it was oh so easy to not be.

A couple of my Harlem River Bridge photographs will be on display at the opening reception of the 55th Annual Patient Art Exhibition in the West Cafeteria of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where I'm a patient. The opening reception will take place from 5:00 - 8:00PM on Monday, April 28th. The exhibition will continue until May 1st. On Tuesday, April 29th and Wednesday, April 30th the exhibition will be opened from 2:00 - 8:00PM. On Friday, May 1st it will be opened from 2:00 - 5:00PM. Last year, close to 60 former and current patients participated in the show.

My parents and I will be at the opening reception and I welcome you to stop by at some point if you can. If you can't make the reception, perhaps you'll be able to visit another day before the exhibition closes.

This is the first time that I will be participating in any kind of an art show, since I was a child. Photographing these bridges has become a big part of my post-transplant life. I want to share the joy that I feel about this project with you as well.

With love and best wishes,

Monday evening was the opening reception of the 55th Annual Patient Art Exhibition at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, where six of my photographs were on display and for sale. At least 35 of my invitees showed up to see my work and I think more may have come had it not been for the rain. I arrived there at 4:30, because my photo was to be taken so it could be included with my essay in the upcoming newsletter that I'm working on. Almost immediately after the photo shoot, the deluge began. People began to pour into the cafeteria where the exhibition was held. From then until about 8:30 that night, I remained in the small corner where my work was hung greeting and trying to spend some quality time with each invitee but it was challenging. There were so many people that unfortunately in a few instances, I wasn't able to converse with a few people as much as I would have liked. I hope they understand. I was a one man show. That night I was in constant action, talking to almost everyone who came to look at my work, without any pause really, so that by the time I got home, I was pooped.

I had a wonderful time though. It was surreal at moments. Who would have guessed that my walk across the 145th Street Bridge back in November would have led me down this road. It's amazing really. Seeing myself in an entirely new role - as an artist - at a public event like Monday's is is so novel to me. Though I feel that I have an artistic voice and that my photography is filling a specific void, I'm not used to introducing myself as an artist. I'm far more used to and comfortable being called a student, but it looks like this new term is becoming a part of my vernacular as well.

Five of the six photographs on display were sold by the end of the reception. I didn't expect so many to be sold so fast. To my surprise, it was my invitees who purchased them. In my Evite, I didn't tell them that they were for sale because I didn't want anyone to think that I was inviting them solely in the hope that they would buy a piece. That was never my thought. I hoped that other passersby might buy one or two, but that's about it really. Four of the six photographs, all of equal size, were priced at $50.00 whereas the other two larger ones were at $60.00 and $70.00. In the case of the all of these, I priced them so that I'd cover the cost of both framing and printing and earn just a $10.00 profit per image. So, for me the art exhibition was not about the money. That was never my intention. I just wanted to share the joy of my work with family and friends and perhaps, cover the costs of the creating them (especially since I'm not working). In addition to those that were sold, four more of my invitees requested reproductions of either the images showcased or those in my portfolio, which I passed around during the reception. Two of these individuals placed payments for them that night. Wow. This I didn't expect. I was surprised and humbled completely by their enthusiastic requests for reproductions.

Nevertheless, mine were a bargain. Many of the other works on display at the show were priced quite high. $100, $200, and beyond. Some even were as high as $500 and amazingly, there were quite a few in the $1,000 range. Granted many of them were impressive indeed, but given the venue I thought they were not reasonable. One passerby told me that I should have priced my photographs a bit higher. Perhaps, but again that wasn't the point. Also, this was my first time exhibiting and selling art. I'm learning as I go forward.

Below are just a few of the many that were taken by Eileen at the reception.

Many thanks to her for doing so.

Yesterday after my meeting with Judith at Sloan, I stopped by the cafeteria to snap these quick photographs of my work.

They'll be up until the show ends tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone who attended and for making the reception such a memorable experience!


Comment Anonymous EFG said...

you are definitely an "artist" and "writer" and should consider yourself a good one!
I was so excited for you Monday night as were all of your friends and supporters.

7:49 AM  
Comment Blogger Michelle J said...

Hi Duane,
Excellent news on your art show! You look handsome in your suit! Keep up the good work dude!

4:17 PM  
Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Duane.

I'm so proud of you!

Great work! :)

~Sarah formerly up the street

8:14 PM  
Comment Blogger Stratman said...

Hey buddy,

Good job, it's amazing how something as simple as taking a walk can impact your life in such a great way. I've had a passion for producing art ever since taking a drafting class in high school. I still remember the high of selling my first painting and the amazement that someone would pay me for something I loved doing so much. Hang in there, maybe you've found your life's calling.

11:13 PM  
Comment Blogger One Mother with Cancer said...

Congratulations... That must have been very exciting and fulfilling.

3:08 PM  
Comment Blogger Candace Kuchinski said...


Congratulations on a successful first art show! By the pictures, you're prints look great. I still like that first panoramic when you were starting to play with that feature of your camera. Glad you had fun at the reception.


6:20 PM  
Comment Blogger Duane said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments. :)

8:21 PM  

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