From the press release:
BROOKLYN, NY – Artist Joe LoGuirato was bereft when he lost his wife of 38 years, Stella, after her heroic battle with cancer ended in December 2011. So he did what artists do: he began creating, working from memory, infusing images of life and beauty in the moments shared during her illness. The result, on display from May 9 through May 20 at the Urban Folk Art® Gallery on Smith Street in Brooklyn, shows the full range of his talents. The exhibit’s art sales will benefit the American Cancer Society for adenocarcinoma-lung research, the most common lung cancer afflicting women and non-smokers.
“LoGuirato’s capable of moving from painting, drawing and various two dimensional media to modeling in clay and other three dimensional sculptural processes,” said Brooklyn author Bob McGee. “He defies a curator’s instinct to find a stylistic oeuvre with the exhibit, instead focusing on the memory and experience of Stella’s peaceful desire to carry on. An abstract of a mutant cell, a sculpture of syringes, an anatomy figure, studies of Stella in various media; the work is eclectic, driven from the memory. Its depth and resonance will touch anyone who has had any experience with cancer.”
On Lincoln’s Birthday, 2009, Stella saw her doctor for results of a left hip CT scan. She’d had some discomfort; as it turned out, the problem was more severe than previously thought. The scan revealed a large tumor that was undermining the integrity of the bone. After a biopsy, Stella was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of the lung, where the disease originated.
“The metastasized cancer would later spread to her vertebrae,” LoGuirato recalled. “She courageously fought the disease for almost three years — a success story of sorts according to statistics. During that time, she went from a wheelchair, to a walker, to a cane, to briefly going back to work. Not one for self-pity, Stella accepted all the medical procedures and treatments without complaint. She was an inspiration to me and our three surviving children. (Their first child, Christopher, died after as asthma attack at age 13, before the others arrived.) The exhibit is a visual journal of some experiences we shared during her last months.
“She had an ongoing joke with the oncologist about participating in the roller derby,” LoGuirato added. “The pastor would stop by to visit Stella and regularly give her Communion; it was a spiritual boost for her. Stella was able to fight her illness with great resolve, dignity, and peace because of her faith.
“The physical therapist recommended that Stella wear sneakers in the house for stability, instead of slippers, but Stella felt her slippers were just fine. Always a lady, but never a pushover, Stella cordially listened to his advice, but wasn’t so quick to give them up.
“Jersey Boys was the last play we saw together. Both of us were Four Seasons fans in the 60s, so seeing the show allowed us to reminisce about our childhoods. It was all enjoyable, and Stella was always fond of Broadway, even though she was getting weaker in general and felt most comfortable at home.
“The last restaurant we went to was Smith and Wollensky. Stella felt good after chemo one day so we had lunch in the city rather than going straight home as we did most often. We enjoyed the steak — and the red wine.
“The oncologist often told Stella she was a tough cookie because she handled the illness and the treatment well. Her favorite was linzer tart. Stella also loved key lime pie, if it was made well. When she felt up to it, we would take a drive to Red Hook in Brooklyn, and get a pie from Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie.”
LoGuirato’s images of roller skates, the communion box, the exterior of Smith and Wollensky’s, a glorious linzer tort, and slices of key lime pie, accompanied by explanatory notes, are part of the exhibit.
The treatment strategy by the oncologist involved drugs familiar to those who have dealt with cancer and its associated complications: Cisplatin, Pemetrexed, Tarceva, Zometa, and Lovennox. Stella, according to Joe, was not overly concerned with researching statistics or dwelling on her prognosis. She had no inclination to focus on the negative aspects of her condition and always instinctively remained positive.
Stella plateaued in 2010, so the LoGuiratos took a vacation cruise to Bermuda. It also was a sweet-sixteen celebration for their daughter, Lani, who brought a friend and a cousin along. Sons Matthew and Max also each brought a friend, and Stella’s brother, sister-in-law, and nephew joined them.
“We knew the future was uncertain,” her artist-husband remembered, “but we were hoping there would be more vacation trips together. Unfortunately, we were wrong. I don’t think any of us will ever forget how special that trip was.
“As the illness progressed, Stella became weaker and spent her days at home resting. Sometimes she would wake up in the morning feeling good and wanting to do something. I always recommended lunch in a fine restaurant or a matinee show somewhere, but most often she just wanted to do something simple like grocery shopping and cooking. Stella was a good cook and when she had time, enjoyed being in the kitchen.”
Stella, in home hospice, died at 1:30 a.m. on December 16, 2011 in the reclining chair in her bedroom, where she spent her final weeks. She was surrounded by the people she loved. In addition to her immediate family, her parents, brothers, sister, nieces, and nephews, as well as the pastor, all were there. She was 58 years old. LoGuirato’s testament celebrates her life, underscoring the importance of every moment that each of us are given.
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