There is a natural tendency to turn our heads from things which are upsetting.
But as adults it is our responsibility to be aware of them.
Protecting is not always the right thing.
Jennifer Merendino was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, shortly after her wedding. Her husband Angelo began taking photographs (www.mywifesfightwithbreastcancer.com). Angelo documented her surgeries and treatment all the way through her death in December of 2011 after she experienced metastases to her liver and brain.
The Gathering Place: A Caring Community for Those Touched by Cancer in Westlake, Ohio, said they wanted to exhibit some of Angelo’s photographs in their art gallery.1
After a successful opening, The Gathering Place pulled the exhibit. In their own words:
Shortly after the exhibit was hung some of our volunteers (many of whom are cancer survivors) and our participants found it very difficult and emotionally upsetting to see the exhibition. Because our mission at The Gathering Place is to provide a peaceful, healing and nurturing environment where our participants feel supported and encouraged, we have chosen to remove the exhibit so as to not add to the emotional challenges a cancer journey creates.
It’s not that I can’t understand how someone might find the images disturbing. In fact, I think you are pretty hard-hearted if you don’t. But that is the point. It isn’t enough to say you want to be “a community for those touched by cancer.” It’s important to get the message out: breast cancer isn’t pretty. It isn’t a pink ribbon or a one-day walk to raise money. It isn’t about wearing a pink football cleats in October.
I do not agree with The Gathering Place’s decision to remove the photographs from their art gallery once they had seen the photos, chosen to display them in their gallery, and had a public opening. Despite their stated goals, in this instance they don’t “get it.” The proof of that to me is the web address name The Gathering Place used to announce the removal of the photos from the gallery. The web address for that post is http://www.touchedbycancer.org/2012/07/art-imitating-life/
Art imitating life? No way. Angelo’s art is no imitation. It’s the real deal. It captures the reality of his wife’s cancer treatment for all to see. And sometimes, even when it’s painful, we must look.2