RED BANK-Despite being diagnosed with colon cancer and enduring months of chemotherapy, artist Alexander John Goldenberg created a series of colorful paintings to not only face his illness but to fulfill his lifelong passion of being a painter.
“Confronted with a cancer diagnosis, he followed his dream to paint bigger, brighter and bolder. It was more than ‘coping,’ it was Alex painting because his life depended on it. He was creating the life he always wanted and did the work he loved the most: painting,” Goldenberg’s wife, Donna Panarello, said.
After months of numerous treatments and undergoing a liver resection surgery, Goldenberg passed away on May 5, 2015, at 65 years old, according Panarello.
To celebrate his life and his work Panarello organized an art exhibit where locals were able to view Goldenberg’s many paintings from June 1 to June 24 at Middletown Public Library’s Community Room located at 55 New Monmouth Road.
“It took months for me to measure and photo. I knew I had to do something with the paintings. I joined a writing group at Middletown Public Library. I showed one of the women photographs of the paintings and she suggested that I could display the paintings at the library… I wanted Alex’s work to be seen, to finish what he was not able to do because he ran out of time, [to] show his art, not store it and find good homes for his paintings,” Panerello said.
On the last day of the exhibit, Panerello and their nine-year-old son Jonathan hosted a reception where locals got to enjoy light refreshments, learn more about Goldenberg’s story, and purchase his original paintings or print copies, on June 24 at the Community Room.
Goldenberg and Panerello adopted Jonathan in 2012 and all of the proceeds made from the paintings and print copies will go toward Jonathan’s college fund, according to Panerello.
“Donna came in to the Noble Writers Group, which meets every Wednesday here at the library at 10 a.m. and she just showed up a few months ago and she sat right next to me at the conference table in the New Jersey History room that we use…Donna is an amazing writer, she’s an amazing mother, she’s an amazing physical therapist, she’s just an amazing women. Considering the tragedy, it was just a year ago in May and the life and the passion and she’s got a nine-year-old and he’s amazing,” Myrna Bonin, a member of the writers group, said.
“So essentially what happened is that we started to talk and she showed me one of the paintings here on her phone and I was just enchanted. To think that this man painted these things while he was going through chemo, because chemo [is] rough and I have been in the medical profession for about 30 years and to think someone was able to create this amount of work so vibrant and so full of life that it was just astounding. And so we got to talking. She talked about wanting to show his work and I said, ‘Why don’t you show it here? They have a community room here and it doesn’t cost anything and we have a wonderful library. The Middletown Public Library is excellent.” And that’s how this came to be.”
During the reception locals were able to view and learn more about Goldenberg’s most notable painting “Bad Girl.”
“Alex had wanted to paint on big panels and large canvases, he wanted to paint bigger, brighter and bolder and he did it. He started experimenting with bands of color and for the painting ‘Bad Girl’ he began to add words. ‘Bad Girl’ is the largest painting he ever painted, on a heavy wood panel,” Panerello said.
In 2015, Goldenberg followed another dream to enter “Bad Girl” in ArtPrize, which takes place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, according to Panerello.
“He drove out to Grand Rapids Michigan with the painting on the roof of his car in torrential rains. The he drove back home to Red Bank and participated in an art show in Hopewell. Then he again drove from Red Bank to Grand Rapids to bring the painting home. He built a wooden case for the painting to drive it [to Red Bank]. This was a guy who had just been on chemo for a year. He was strong and vital,” Panerello said.
In his ArtPrize online profile Goldenberg explained how at first titled the painting “Bad Girl” as a dysfunctional relationship metaphor for chemotherapy, according to Panerello.
“…[But] as I worked on it I realized that it was really about the transformation and healing that I’ve been going through for the past year…there has been plenty of grieving and crying and side-effects and pain along the way, the flip-side to this experience has been wondrous,” Goldenberg said. “I’m closer to my wife Donna and my seven year-old son Jonathan, I have developed new friendships, I paint more now than I ever have, I am growing faster as an artist that I ever thought was possible…I’m more open to life and love and every day I feel grateful to be alive. Cancer has been and is a part of my life; I am very close to moving on from this disease. It’s possible to come out of an experience with cancer stronger than when you began. I hope this painting will convey that belief…”
Although all of Goldenberg’s paintings were up for sale during the reception, “Bad Girl” was the only painting not for sale.
“His ‘Bad Girl’ is a unique painting. Besides stunning colors, read the painting ‘Bad Girl’ from top left to bottom in three columns, the sides [and] bottom of the painting too. The first column Alex learns his diagnosis, the big C, in the second column he tells of the complimentary practices and humor; he copied a self-portrait of our son, Jonathan’s, then drew it and himself painting it. ‘My seven-year-old can do this stuff.’ In the last section he’s still alive but there are side effects to chemo, he questions surgery, life, death,” Panerello said.
Members of Goldenberg’s family were also at the reception to view his work and to also show support.
“I just think it’s fantastic and she’s donating all the money to their adopted son for his college fund so it’s philanthropical and it’s kind of overwhelming to see all of his work in one place like this,” Goldenberg’s sister-in-law Sandra Pattison said.
Print copies of Goldenberg’s work can be viewed and ordered online, according to Panerello.
“My overall thoughts on Alex and what he accomplished? He was thoughtful, kind and courageous facing a life threatening disease with grace and dignity. Only freaked out on me one time and I did need to use my skills as a physical therapist too. Alex was extraordinary,” Panerello said.
To purchase Goldenberg’s work visit www.imagekind.com/art/stunning/alexgolde nberg/artwork-on/fine-art-prints.
For more information about Goldenberg’s story and work contact Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Vashti Harris at email@example.com.