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Art−O−Mat’s farewell also honors photographer’s legacy

Long Island City’s artist community lost a longtime member this year when photographer Jayne Mangino succumbed to cancer. And as the neighborhood prepares to say goodbye both to Mangino and the Vernon Boulevard gallery Art−O−Mat, her friends have organized a memorial exhibit there.

The exhibit, along with Zeitgeist 2009, an exhibition of works incorporating the latest generation of contemporary culture, runs through May 31, when Art−O−Mat is slated to close. The gallery is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting at noon. For more information, visit licweb.com⁄artomat.

“Nothing weighed her down except her cameras,” exhibit co−organizer Margaret Stetz wrote of Mangino in an exhibit brochure. “She traveled everywhere with at least one slung around her neck, and her shoulder bag was more likely to contain lenses and film than tissues or a comb.”

The 58−year−old photographer was born in Queens and raised in Long Island City for five years before moving to Flushing and then upstate. She returned to her native borough to attend Queens College in the 1970s.

Things changed for Mangino, who worked in public relations, when in 1986 she was diagnosed with late−stage lymphoma. But that did not slow her down. In fact, according to a 2007 interview in the cancer patients’ magazine Cure, her cancer diagnosis finally gave her the jolt she needed to start exhibiting her photos.

She received one of the first bone marrow transplants performed, said friend and exhibit co−organizer Sharon Florin, noting the operation helped keep her going for another 23 years.

Mangino’s struggle with the disease also introduced her to Buddhism. She learned to focus herself through meditation, and after a recent marrow transplant was unsuccessful, a pair of Buddhist monks presided over her funeral service.

“She really was quite a survivor,” said Florin, who met Mangino at a cancer support group in 1990.

Mangino’s photos appeared in numerous exhibitions between 1989 and 2002, including the 1994 International Photography Competition Exposition in Mexico, where she took home third place honors for one of her shots.

Mangino was also very active with the Creative Center for Women with Cancer, a Manhattan−based group that helps women battling the disease maintain and even improve their artistic skills.

Her mother, Anna Mangino, 84, said Jayne had a fascination with photography from an early age, partly thanks to a hobby darkroom her father kept in his mother’s house, but she had not seen much of her daughter’s work.

“I was just so wrapped up in her cancer,” she said. “Now that I’m seeing them, I am just amazed she was doing this while she was so sick.”

Jayne’s sister, Suzanne, 53, said that when they were children, it was she and not Jayne who was known for her artistic talent.

“In recent years, I told her, ‘I’m not the artist. You’re the artist,’” she said.

Mangino’s subjects ranged from Long Island City’s industrial streetscapes to flowers, beaches and other nature scenes. But she was also not afraid to depict the effects the disease had on her own body, producing a series of self portraits using color shifts, flares and blurs to capture what she described as “the fog of medications and illness.”

“Horrifying as this transformation has been, in some ways the losses associated with it freed me from my preconceived notions about photography,” she wrote in an overview of the series.

Florin remembered the candor with which Mangino approached the reality of her own condition.

“She had a great sense of humor,” she said. “She went for the gut and told it like it was.”

The idea for the exhibit occurred to Florin and Stetz when they were helping to clean Mangino’s apartment after her death on March 20.

“She didn’t make any plans in case the transplant didn’t work,” Florin said, noting the photographs on display are the same ones that hung in frames in Mangino’s apartment. “We figured these were the ones she was most proud of.”

If You Go

Jayne Mangino and Zeitgeist 2009

When: Through May 31, Fridays & Saturdays noon − 7 p.m., Sundays noon − 5 p.m.

Where: Art−o−Mat, 46−46 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City

Contact: artomat@licweb.com

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