Let's talk about art: 2012 Artist of the Year Charlee Brodsky

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This is a biweekly series about art and artists in the region. Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts serves the community through arts education, exhibitions and artist resources.

Artist Charlee Brodsky is an expert at being a novice. She's been a fine art photographer for 40 years, and with each new project she starts over. It's all about the exploring -- whether it's people, places or ideas she doesn't yet understand but would very much like to.

Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside has named Ms. Brodsky the 2012 Artist of the Year, and Vanessa German the Emerging Artist of the Year. The exhibit opens Friday with a reception from 5:30-8:30 p.m. and runs through Oct. 28.

After decades of using black and white film, this Pittsburgh-based artist -- who is also a Carnegie Mellon University photography professor -- began exploring digital photography in 2007 while on a trip to India. When she returned she had a bounty of beautiful, colorful compositions from which she felt detached. Then she asked Neema Bipin Avashia, a writer of Indian heritage she knew from CMU, to write a series of narrative texts for her photographs. Ms. Brodsky says she instantly felt a new-found connection with the images.

Since then all of her projects have been a three-way collaboration among her, the subject and a writer.

Much of Ms. Brodsky's work has focused on serious issues, such as illness and body image. For this show, however, she moved in a different direction. She explored classical works of fiction, and the deeper meaning of texts by Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Mary Shelley, Samuel Beckett, John Muir and more. The photos she chose to juxtapose with the words are of her dog Max, a West Highland white terrier. "I love where a little dog could take us very innocently," Ms. Brodsky explains while paging through her handmade photo books.

Bookbinding replaced the darkroom for Ms. Brodsky, who wanted to continue using her hands to make art. "We all love well-crafted stuff, and we should," she says. Her handmade books will be on view and the proofs will be available to leaf through. Prints will also hang on the walls allowing visitors to walk through the stories with Max.

To learn more about Ms. Brodsky's photographic projects, visit her website at www.charleebrodsky.com. For more information about PCA's exhibitions visit: www.pittsburgharts.org.

-- By Jessica Futrell for PF/PCA

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