New Exhibit is Personal 'Journey' for Photographer [IMAGE GALLERY]
Tragedy and opportunity have punctuated photographer Jeanine Vitale's life.
Journey is the perfect name for the Westboro Gallery’s new show, which features photographs by Northborough-based Jeanine Vitale, a multi-talented artist. Jeanine’s photographs, which reveal her spirituality, her loss, and her hope, will be on display from Sunday, April 15 through July 6.
Jeanine’s life has been punctuated by tragedy and opportunity. She told Patch, “My life’s journey has taken many paths already. Some doors were closed in my face and forced me onto another path. Other paths I did choose… Fine art allowed me to heal my soul.”
Journey’s 20 photographic illustrations — some digitally retouched and some not — explore images of dancers, stairs, New York City, and woods. Priced from $80 to $225, each 8 by 10, or 16 by 20 inch photograph is matted and framed. Postcards for $4 each, and smaller unframed prints for $10 to $80 are also available.
The show's opening reception was held on Sunday, April 15. Jeanine, who is also an accomplished contralto, voice teacher, and dancer, filled the gallery with the music of Enya, the Irish singer who inspired some of her work.
At the reception, Chris Rutchick from Newburyport said, "I'm impressed by the variety of styles in the show. Some of them are like paintings, and others are realistic.”
“My dad’s death (when she was 11) was possibly a result of shrapnel that lodged in his chest when he was hit by a hand grenade while fighting in the Pacific during WWII," said Jeanine. In 2002, tragedy struck again when Jeanine lost her husband, Tony Vitale, after his 10-year struggle with ALS.
Art and religion have played a huge role in Jeanine's recovery from tragedy. Raised a Catholic in Nutley, New Jersey, Jeanine started taking voice lessons about 6 months after her father passed away. She went on to study vocal performance and music education at Ithaca College. While there, she met her future husband, who was a doctoral student in theoretical linguistics at Cornell University.
Married in 1978, the young couple headed to Poland in 1980 when Tony was awarded a Fulbright. While there, Jeanine developed a mysterious neuromuscular illness. Without a diagnosis, Jeanine turned to dance as a form of physical therapy.
In 1983, Jeanine and Tony moved to Massachusetts, where he took a job with Digital, and she taught voice and founded a dance group called Windows on the Heart. Jeanine said about the dance group, “We insisted that spirituality was a component of everything we did. Our music was always religious in some way.”
In the late 1980s, Jeanine expanded her interest in art by taking classes in photography at the Danforth Museum and Assabet Tech. Everything changed in 1991, when Jeanine’s very fit husband noticed that his left foot was dragging. That was the begining of ALS.
Jeanine said that she put her camera in a box, and devoted years to his care. When Tony lost his ability to speak, he relied on DECtalk, an early speech synthesizer. This was a twist of fate; Tony was a member of the team at Digital that developed DECtalk.
About a month after Tony died, Jeanine opened the box that held her camera. Sitting on her bed in tears, she said, “I had a feeling that (Tony) was standing in the doorway… He spoke to me for quite a while… I asked him what I should do, and he said, whatever your camera focuses on.” The next day I called the Danforth and signed up for photography class.
“This exhibition is a metaphorical journey,” said Jeanine. She continued, “There are many sources of inspiration— some pain and sorrow— some just love and art form.”
Jeanine’s favorite photo in this show, also called Journey, features a big hand (hers) with a small pilgrim, which was inspired by Enya’s song, Pilgrim. Jeanine said, “I was singing in Verdi’s Il Trovatore with the Tri-cities Opera in Ithaca. Another cast member read my palm as we sat under the stage during breaks. She predicted several things that freaked me out, and I was not pleased. She said that my lifeline wrapped around my thumb.” Jeanine said that she thought about the piece for two or three years before she made it work.
Tenement Stairs, one of five photographs of stairs in the show, was taken in a building in Worcester that was rehabbed by Rebuilding Together Worcester. Jeanine said, “When Tony was sick I had a lot of dreams about he and I climbing stairs and travelling long distances in the dark. I am still trying to process.”
Jeanine said that she used her dance training to lean over a railing to take this photo. In spite of several stories, the stairs appear flat, which Jeanine said that she achieved by focusing on many elements by using a high F-stop and some digital techniques. This grainy photo is stunning.
Journey includes three photos of dancers. Jeanine shot Legs at the Barre at Dance On in Hudson. She said, “I didn’t have permission to show all the girls’ faces… By cutting off the top, the photo is more timeless and anonymous.” This photo has a painterly effect achieved with a filter, according to Jeanine.
See More of Jeanine’s Work
To view more of Jeanine’s fine art photographs, along with portraits, events, and theatrical photographs, visit her company’s website, Prism Point Photography.
See the Show - The Westboro Gallery, a nonprofit cooperative, is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. The gallery is located at 8 West Main St. For more information, call 508-870-0110.