WESTLAKE, OHIO - During a long battle with breast cancer, Jennifer Merendino and her New York-based photographer husband, Angelo, struggled with, yet documented, the exhausting life associated with being a cancer patient.
Jennifer lost her struggle in Dec. 2011, but a bulk of Angelo's photography work taken during her last year still seems to be embattled as well.
The Gathering Place in Westlake, one of two Cleveland area, not-for-profit, cancer community support operations, heard of Merendino's emotional work, contacting him for a possible exhibition in July.
A deal was quickly struck.
In July, photographs of Merendino's wife and others in her life, artfully detailed the cancer's progression were put on the walls in The Gathering Place's Westlake office for one week, set for a 10-week exhibit. It quickly drew a crowd of viewers.
Impacting patients and their families, it came under fire by some as too emotionally charged, prompting the cancer support group to pull the exhibit early.
According to The Gathering Place's director of community relations and marketing Kristina Austin, they had a "verbal agreement" with Merendino for a full exhibit time slot of 10 weeks, but pulled it with, "the interests of our cancer community members," as the reason.
"We work with a number of people at The Gathering Place from those who are newly diagnosed all the way to people who are dealing with recurrences or metastatic disease and when a number of our participants walked through the art gallery last week, they were really emotionally impacted by the photographs, and for us the first priority is to our participants. So, when we recognized that emotional impact we made the decision to take the exhibit down," said Austin.
Merendino, though disappointed, doesn't want to diminish the impact The Gathering Place makes on the cancer community in Cleveland. They often showcase images by their participants and their families, so it came as a bit of shock.
"I wish the best for The Gathering Place. They provide a very valuable service to the community," said Merendino.
Gathering support on Facebook, Merendino found an owner of a huge gallery, utilizing a former Catholic church at 1433 East 33rd St. in Cleveland, sympathetic to his work and message willing to show his work.
Director of the Convivium 33 Gallery Alenka Banco is excited to show Merendino's work.
"Breast cancer can affect anyone. The fact that the gallery itself is really intended for a bigger purpose and that's really to get the message of not only art, but what is important to people and what's in their art," said Banko. "Obviously, this subject, you can't get much deeper than that."
Convivium 33's grand showing and reception of Merendino's work will be July 27 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
While The Gathering Place's Austin is delighted Merendino's work has found another, Meredino's attorney Janiece Brown Spitzmueller said there are still problems with Merendino's exhibition agreement.
"We want to be made whole," said Brown Spitzmueller.
"As far as venue for the show, that's resolved. But, I don't want it to be ignored that we still have a breach of contract issue with The Gathering Place," said Brown Spitzmueller.
"I want to thank people for coming together to help to find these a new home for the exhibition. I'm really moved and humbled by their support," said Merendino.
His photography printer and close friend, Matthew Fehrmann, helped load his prints from Westlake into its new venue in the former St. Josaphat Catholic Church in Cleveland.
"I'm very happy they have a new home. I said there would be another venue, and sure enough within the day there was another venue and this fantastic," said Fehrmann.
"Our message kind of came from necessity. Jennifer really believed in sharing her experience and she didn't want to hide and didn't want the cancer to dictate our life. We still believed we had to live our life, and love, and laugh, and that's what these photographs are to convey. It's not about cancer, these photographs are about never giving up. These photographs are about finding whatever positives you can in life, even when you have something horrible like being diagnosed with cancer five months after your marriage," said Merendino.
To view more of Angelo and Jennifer Merendino's work visit: http://www.mywifesfightwithbreastcancer.com
Matthew Fehrmann can be found at : www.mdfeditions.com
The Gathering Place can be found at: www.touchedbycancer.org
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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