Charlee Brodsky's images, words, movements combine to shine light on India

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If you've ever doubted the ability of photography, dance and writing to work in harmony, think again.

All three will share the spotlight Sunday at the American Jewish Museum in Squirrel Hill during a free public reception honoring Charlee Brodsky's exhibit "India: A Light Within," which is on display in the museum's Berger Gallery through March 21.

"[Attendees] will be walking into Indian culture [and] be immersed in an experience where you see it, you hear it and you feel it," said Ms. Brodsky, a fine art documentary photographer who teaches photography at Carnegie Mellon University.

The exhibit at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh traces its roots to the summer of 2007 when Ms. Brodsky traveled to India to take photographs for SPARSH, a foundation that helps provide health services for Indian children and women.

'India: A Light Within' opening reception
  • When: Sunday

    10 a.m.: Odissi dance workshop with Sreyashi Dey

    1:15 p.m.: Reading with photographer Charlee Brodsky and writers Zilka Joseph and Neema Bipin Avashia

    2 p.m.: Odissi dance performance by Sreyashi Dey

  • "India: A Light Within" is on display in the Berger Gallery through March 21.
  • "I Thought I Could Fly" is on display in the Fine, Perlow and Weis Gallery through March 31.
  • Information: or 412-521-8010.

"Everything was different," she said. "The air had an aroma in it. It had a humidity in it that I had never felt before. It was a totally different place, but rather than be taken back by it I was taken into it all."

She snapped color photographs of Indian street scenes with a digital camera for her own collection. The exhibit -- her first international project -- is her first display featuring color digital images.

"You're going to be walking into a gallery that's filled with a ton of color and a ton of warmth," Ms. Brodsky said.

When she looked at the photographs after her trip, she felt they didn't convey the essence of India. So she tapped creative nonfiction writer Neema Bipin Avashia and poet Zilka Joseph to add some depth to the photographs through language. Their words are on display with the exhibit's photographs.

Some of Ms. Avashia's essays describe life in Kolkata, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Spirituality and nature are a few themes reflected in Ms. Joseph's poetry. Another set of poems complement black-and-white images of dancer Sreyashi Dey executing hand gestures and body positions from the ancient Indian dance style of Odissi.

Each pair of photographs and text attempts to make people ask, "What if I could be living in that culture?" Ms. Brodsky said.

The authors will be on hand at the reception to read excerpts of their work. Ms. Dey, artistic director of Srishti Dances of India and the founder of SPARSH, will be performing three Odissi routines with two other dancers.

Ms. Dey said the dancers want audiences to "get the sense for a very old tradition and feel the spirituality that's reflected in the dances -- as well as see the beauty in the technique" of the 2,000-year-old art form. She will be hosting a free Odissi workshop before the reception for those interested in learning the basics of the dance style.

The event and exhibit aim to remind people "how important it is to understand other people and other cultures and to understand them from the inside out," Ms. Brodsky said.

Another exhibit on display at the museum with a similar message is Ms. Brodsky's "I Thought I Could Fly," a collection of black-and-white photographs and narratives exploring the lives of people with mental illnesses and their families. The project will be housed in the museum's Fine, Perlow and Weis Gallery through March 31.

Sara Bauknecht: 412-263-3858 or . First Published January 27, 2010 5:00 AM


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