A Special Kind of Strength on Display at the Rye Y

An exhibit of photographs by Alex Davitt just opened at the Rye YMCA. Her ten large-format, color portraits of cancer survivors are front and center as you ascend the light-filled stairwell leading to the second floor.

Published May 15, 2015 11:38 PM
3 min read

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AEthumbAn exhibit of photographs by Alex Davitt just opened at the Rye YMCA. Her ten large-format, color portraits of cancer survivors are front and center as you ascend the light-filled stairwell leading to the second floor.

By Margot Clark-Junkins

A&E 1An exhibit of photographs by Alex Davitt just opened at the Rye YMCA. Her ten large-format, color portraits of cancer survivors are front and center as you ascend the light-filled stairwell leading to the second floor.   

The impetus for the exhibit, according to Laura Tiedge, the Y’s Senior Director of Healthy Living, stemmed from the fact that “we had an upcoming Livestrong Day at the Y and we wanted to highlight the spirit of survivorship — the positives that came out of each individual’s cancer journey. As Alex was part of our Livestrong pilot program back in 2011 and takes photos, she was an obvious choice to do the project.”

Livestrong is a free exercise, diet, and nutrition program offered by the Y to survivors of cancer. Of the survivors who agreed to be photographed for this exhibit, Tiedge said that, “all were happy to share their story and the pictures are a reflection of the positives that came out of their cancer journeys.” When asked if it was difficult for her subjects to sit for these portraits, photographer Davitt said, “No, I don’t think so. Maybe it helped a little that the person taking the photos was also a cancer survivor.”

AE2After her own cancer diagnosis back in 2010, Davitt joined Livestrong and loved it; in time, she went on to participate in marathons and triathlons. During her recovery, she also began painting portraits. 

“Cancer or any traumatic life event changes you — after diagnosis, you perceive the world and your place in it differently. The assumptions you had before cancer are no longer true,” said Davitt. “This leads to a lot of ruminating. The creative process for me was an escape from this, a coping strategy to deal with thoughts of one’s own mortality and the hardships of cancer treatment. While I’ve had a lifelong love of photography, I discovered during this time that sketching and painting were all-consuming for me. When engaged in the process, I became so focused on colors and facial characteristics that I thought of nothing else. I forgot I had cancer. It was almost as if this need to empty my head allowed me to use it creatively.” She added, “Cancer was the seismic event that triggered my creative process. Initially just as therapy, it is now something that I have to do.”

The exhibit was generously underwritten by Sole Ryeders and will remain on view through the end of May. 

 

— Photographs by Alex Davitt

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