A scary diagnosis, then a spiritual health journey

Islip Arts Council helps heal

Linda Leuzzi
Posted 11/9/23

Works of art transcend viewers, either by scene or pose, brush strokes or color. But last Friday night, at the Islip Arts Council Gallery’s closing reception of “Limitless: Healing Cancer …

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A scary diagnosis, then a spiritual health journey

Islip Arts Council helps heal

Posted

Works of art transcend viewers, either by scene or pose, brush strokes or color. But last Friday night, at the Islip Arts Council Gallery’s closing reception of “Limitless: Healing Cancer With Art,” stories behind the art provided a portal to the artists’ lives. Faced with adversity, through pain, perseverance and grit, their experiences ultimately triumphed.

Simply put, the exhibit represented the heft of the human spirit.

Belinda Rubino of West Islip was one of the dozen artists. Rubino had skin cancer, then had Mohs surgery. It was a year-long process, but she is now cancer-free.

Her “Steeples of Hope,” via three photographs of local steeples, were chosen because “I felt that steeples and looking up are hopeful, no matter what your situation.”

“Steeples” along with “Waterworks,” photos of colorful fire hydrants, as well as gorgeous BOHO recycled art with applique fabric on jeans, were included.

Rubino has an impressive background that includes owning her own marketing company called Sweet Spot, and volunteering for numerous nonprofits, including the Islip Arts Council.

Barbara Fitzpatrick as well as Tove Abrams, both of Sayville, were there, too.

Fitzpatrick, a reiki master and president of the Sayville Village Improvement Society, displayed her stained-glass beach glass flower, her first exhibit, after taking a class at the Islip Arts Council in the medium. She had found a lump in her breast at age 49, then had surgery and radiation for a year, then was cancer-free. In 2017, she had situ surgery. Her feelings were poignantly displayed in a drawing of a woman’s face, along with hair highlighted in writing as a kind of journal. There’s a smile, but also tears. “It was a big learning curve,” she said of the diagnosis.

Abrams’s gorgeous painting of an evolving sunset, with intense hues of swirling orange amidst blues that darkened beneath, was from a photo taken at the Brookhaven Hemodialysis Center parking lot in Patchogue, after her husband Steve’s treatment. “It was a foretelling,” she said of her husband’s illness. (Steve died 10 years ago.) But Tove herself was diagnosed two years ago with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She is making progress with an experimental drug that has just been approved. Tove, a firebrand, owns her company Video Matters and is active in Bay Area Friends of the Fine Arts and Women Sharing Art.

Talking to these artists urges you to put a hand over your heart.

It was a sentiment echoed by Islip Arts Council executive director Lynda Moran, who greeted over 50 visitors that night. “I’ve been especially moved by this exhibit,” she said, adding it was part of their “Art With A Purpose” series, “both with the story behind the art and the artists themselves.”

There were 30 pieces in all that included Len Goldschmidt’s, who began taking pictures at age 4, had a career in pharmacy, and now seeks to produce uplifting images while he continues treatment with prostate cancer, like his “Bird of Hope at Sunset,” taken at Long Beach in Smithtown, and “Painted Dahlia” at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum, which is on canvas. He uses a Fuji mirrorless camera.

Rachel DeMolfetto, co-founder of Mondays at Racine Cancer Care Foundation, who opened Racine Salon & Spa in Islip, which has created a welcoming place for people to go to and feel beautiful for over 20 years, gave a stirring talk. Her mother, a successful woman diagnosed with breast cancer, closed the door on life for five years after getting the diagnosis. It was the catalyst for offering free beauty services for cancer patients at DeMolfetto’s salon, which has grown to include several others. Wellness services are now also offered. “When I help others,” she said, “I help my mother.”

Mondays at Racine was one of three grants funding the exhibit that included Suffolk County and Suffolk County Credit Union.

There was no clue when first speaking with upbeat Bellport High School art teacher Lisa Carrano, whose riveting painting “Romut” (spelled backward, it is “tumor”), that she’d had 30 rounds of radiation for a brain tumor.

Carrano gave kudos to friend Marie Frovitch, her family, and art department colleagues for their support. But a sense of humor surely helped.

“It was the best brain tumor,” she said, smiling.

“I don’t have it anymore.” 

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