RIT photography professor poignantly shares wife’s journey through cancer treatment

Willie Osterman’s ‘ChemoToxic, I Am That and Other Stories’ on display May 3 through June 9

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Willie Osterman

“ChemoToxic, I Am That and Other Stories,” an exhibit representing RIT photography Professor Willie Osterman’s documentation of his wife Michele’s chemotherapy, opens at 6 p.m. May 3 at Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester.

An exhibit representing RIT photography Professor Willie Osterman’s documentation of his wife Michele Adragna’s chemotherapy and his fears that the disease might be lurking within his own body will open at 6 p.m. Friday, May 3, at Visual Studies Workshop, 31 Prince St., Rochester. The exhibit, “ChemoToxic, I Am That and Other Stories,” which benefits Pluta Cancer Center Foundation, continues until June 9.

“In February 2010, just six days after returning from Croatia, I drove my wife to the hospital after she complained of stomach pains,” recalls Osterman. “A CT scan revealed a tumor in Michele’s ovaries.”

Osterman describes his reaction and need to express his emotions about his wife’s cancer journey through the comfort of his work as a photographer. The professor and program chair of the fine art photography program in RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences at the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, Osterman has been teaching, researching and working as an active artist since 1984.

For this exhibit, Osterman employed the wet plate collodion process—an antiquated photographic technique developed in the 1850s—resulting in one-of-a-kind images printed on glass plates known as ambrotypes. The “ChemoToxic” series consists of 27 original ambrotype images portraying Michele during her treatment. Also on display is an ambrotype photo sculpture entitled “I Am That,” which consists of 73 glass plates suspended by wire that represents Osterman’s investigation into his own body to see if he has cancer.

Fundraising activities at the exhibit opening will include “Shave Your Head for Cancer,” when Osterman and others who have raised money will have their heads shaved in honor of all cancer patients. To learn more about the cause or to donate, go to http://www.crowdrise.com/plutacancercenterfou.

A presentation, including remarks by Kitty Forbush, a Pluta infusion nurse, will follow the exhibit opening beginning at 7:30 p.m.