February 27, 2012; I am terrifically happy to be the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts 'Artist of the Year — 2012.' As a part of this honor, I will be exhibiting new work at their galleries in August. More about that soon... in my next entry.
But for now, it's been a while since my last entry — almost a year and a half. During then and now, I continue to explore issues that I find important.
I am working with families at Sojourner House Moms, an organization that provides housing and support services to families where the mom is a single parent dealing with recovery from addiction while parenting multiple children. My students, again, are also involved with Sojourner House Moms and we will post our work to my site in May. In addition, I am working with Emmett Patterson, an 18 year old transgender male, who I contacted after reading about him in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Emmett is an extraordinary individual. Together, we are exploring issues of body and mind during his process of recent profound identity change.
But, what has occupied my attention most during this time of 'no updates' is focus on my dogs—Max and Sam Brodsky, two Westies. I have been working steadily photographing them and from these images I am making hand-made books. It may not be immediately clear how I, a documentary photographer, tie dog photographs to serious issues of the world. Can one get at social issues through photographs of cute dogs or am I dangerously close to calendar art? Granted, my subjects are now different. But the words that inspire this work are from the great storytellers of the human condition. My new work features words from Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Mary Shelley, Samuel Beckett, and John Muir—to name several of the authors who I am working with. I am posting pdfs of this work so please look for them under 'dog books.'
If they are not there now, they will be shortly.
October 3, 2010; Remembering Stephanie; Many months ago a colleague sent me an email that a journal called Social Semiotics was having a special issue called The Body in Breast Cancer. I found this intriguing. I had done a lot of work with my dear friend Stephanie Byram who died of breast cancer over ten years ago. The deadline was October 1 and I submitted 15 pages (the limit). You can access my submission by clicking here:
Remembering Stephanie PDF
I enjoyed reworking the work that Stephanie and I made together. It allowed me to remember her clearly. It's been a long time since Stephanie's been with us. She was a gift to me.
[More images of Stephanie...]
September 5, 2010; We're already in the second week of the fall semester at Carnegie Mellon; the grueling heat of these past few weeks in gone; and my new puppy Max just peed in the house, again. Much has happened since my entry last January. But the most important news for here is, that: I have an exhibition of Indian spiritually based work with writer Zilka Joseph at Pittsburgh's Gallery Sim until October 3; I have a new book with writers Jim Daniels and Jane McCafferty, From Mill Town to Mall Town; and, there's an upcoming Odissi dance performance by Sreyashi Dey's company that features some of our collaboration at the Kelly Strayhorn theater in Pittsburgh on September 18.
Back to the unhousebroken puppy Max... he really is the biggest and best news since my entry last January. Max joins 10 year old Sam and is now about 6 months old. I've been photographing him a lot, too much so a few of my friends think. These friends are also photographers and my colleagues at Carnegie Mellon. When I told them I was getting another dog, one replied, why, to make more calendar art?; another said, are you really that pressed for content?; and the third asked after I showed him some initial pics, you'll have other photos than dogs in your next exhibition, right? This summer I made four handmade books that feature Max, the new pure white dog who my husband calls Spot. I don't know HTML and so can't post them yet, but I'll be working on getting some of these books uploaded to the site.
January 27, 2010; My exhibition India — A Light Within with writers Neema Avashia and Zilka Joseph is featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today. Sarah Bauknecht, the writer of the article, did an excellent job of understanding the many pieces of the work. She starts the piece by saying, "If you've ever doubted the ability of photography, dance and writing to work in harmony, think again..." Here's the link: www.post-gazette.com/pg/10027/1031210-437.stm. This Sunday, January 31, all the pieces of my Indian collaboration come together when we have a reading by Neema and Zilka, and a dance performance by Sreyashi Dey, at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill, from 1-3. Please come if you want some color and warmth. The event is free.
January 21, 2010; This past November I was invited to speak at Pittsburgh's first TEDx event. I spoke about my Indian work with Neema Bipin Avashia. I learned that the eight minute talk was just posted. If you'd like to hear it, the address is:
http://www.lpinc.org/tedxlp/presenters/Brodsky.asp. Also, on January 31, we have an event that is accompanying my exhibition India — A Light Within. The event features Odissi classical dance performers Sreyashi Dey and her daughters; and readings by Neema Bipin Avashia and Zilka Joseph. It is at the Jewish Community Center in Pittsburgh and is from 1:00 to 3:00. Sreyashi, Neema, and Zilka are my bridges to India.
January 4, 2010; Melissa Hiller, the director of the American Jewish Museum (AJM), and I just finished placing the photographs for my two upcoming exhibitions at the AJM which is in the Pittsburgh Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill. Fortunately, a talented art installer will be doing the actual hanging so I don't need to deal with levels, rulers, or nails. The exhibitions are: I Thought I Could Fly...; and, India, A Light Within. Both exhibitions run from January 4 until March 31, 2010. There's a reception for I Thought I Could Fly... on January 14 from 7 to 9; and for India, A Light Within on January 31 from 1 to 3. Both receptions feature a program—Fly features a presenation from 7:30 to 8:30; India features a reading and a dance performance from 1:30 to 3:00. If you're in the area, please stop by. Call the JCC for gallery hours, 412-521-8011. I owe enormous thanks to Joni Schwager of the Staunton Farm Foundation for her heartfelt commitment to the Fly... (mental illness) project. After its run at the JCC, a traveling version of the work, underwritten by the Staunton Farm Foundation, will be shown at five sites in Western Pennsylvania. I also owe enormous thanks to everyone who contributed their stories to the project. Not only was this an investment of time on their part, it was a brave act to share a difficult and sad part of their lives with others. Our country needs to understand how to help all its citizens with their physical and mental health needs. If you are interested in this work on mental illness, the book I Thought I Could Fly... Portraits of Anguish, Compulsion, and Despair is available through Amazon.com. The work is also available as an exhibition.
I'm excited to start teaching again after my supported leave from the university. My time away was rewarding. One important outcome — I realized that I exist even if I don't get email from students.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
[Please note: As I post this news item and look at how the 'page' is displayed on my site, the technology is making some strange line breaks. This is odd behavior on the part of the program... not new typographic invention on my part. I've already spent too much time trying to fix the problem with no success. I continue to love and hate technology.]
October, 2009; Yesterday, October 11, was my birthday. In the morning, I took a walk and photographed my buddy (dog) Sam. He doesn't complain as long as I bring bones. You can see the results of these walks by looking under 'handmade' books. I hope Sam becomes famous. Becky Katterson and I are still working to refine and tweak this site, but we just uploaded many of my projects. Other than photographs of my dog, you'll see that I'm a documentary photographer who has photographed subjects such as Western Pennsylvania neighborhoods when the steel industry left, India, breast cancer, girls, extreme weight loss, and mental illness. There's also work that is not on this site so please let me know if you'd like know more about what I do. I hope you enjoy looking and please email me if you'd like to connect. Btw, at the end of the month, my Indian work with prose by writers Zilka Joseph and Neema Bipin Avashia, will be on view at the Duderstadt Gallery in Ann Arbor from 10/26 to 11/10. At the opening on October 30, there will be a reading by Ms. Joseph and a dance performance by Sreyashi Dey.
September, 2009; I'm writing this on September 2. The weather's changed abruptly and August's humidity is gone, at least for now. Students started their CMU fall semester, but I'm on leave and I'm working at home. If you are visiting my site and are wondering where my photographs are, the site is under construction. But now the "News" section is active. My former student, Becky Katterson, an interaction designer who is now out in the world and doing wonderfully, is designing my site. She discovered the way of adding this 'blog' element so that I can add my 'news' when there is some. Because Becky is out in the world working, is settling into a new home and planning her wedding, there's a lot on her plate and my site sits with the decorative radish—she loves working on it but it's not the main food group. We all know that the gourmand's feast may take 15 minutes to eat, but two days to prepare; the building of this site is similar (as are many of our efforts in life). The behind the scenes time and intense effort is often only known to the maker—not the dinner guest. There are many quirks when building a site, and Becky is figuring them out. This takes time.
To give you some news:
•I am working intensely on my Indian photographs, and they are almost ready for an exhibition in Ann Arbor which will be up by October 26. Writers Zilka Joseph and Neema Bipin Avashia are a major part of the exhibition, too. Their words are seen with my images. Both Zilka and Neema are non-resident Indians living in the States. Zilka is concentrating on a manuscript now; Neema is getting ready to go back into the classroom in the Boston public schools, where she teaches.
•When life gets tough I turn to Sam, my dog. Feeling low for family reasons, Sam and I started and finished another Sam book. It's about his tail. He didn't have a clue what I was up to chasing his bum around Pittsburgh streets; even though he's used to the camera, he was confused by where I was pointing it.
•There's a new, indepth review of my book, I Thought I Could Fly..., at: http://metapsychology.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=book&id=5103&cn=166.
I am not sure when my photo projects will be on the site. Please come back and check if you want to see my work.
June, 2009; I'm writing this on June 1. Our university spring semester recently ended and I now have time to turn to my own projects.
So what's in the works?
I will be photographing! And,
Some of my work will be featured in the Carnegie Museum of Art's exhibition Digital to Daguerreotype: Photographs of People, which is Linda Benedict-Jones’ first curated exhibition at the museum since she became its curator of photography in December 2008. By the way, the Pittsburgh photo community is overjoyed with Linda’s appointment.
I will continue to work with Lydia's Place, whose mission is to help female offenders with their lives. We'll post soon what my students produced last term when they each partnered with a female offender through Lydia's Place.
Although I went to India two summers ago, I am still working on images I made there. A team of us — Sreyashi Dey, a classical Indian Dancer, and writers Neema Bipin Avashia and Zilka Joseph, are preparing for two exhibitions — one at the University of Michigan in October and the other at the American Jewish Museum at the JCC in January, 2010.
I'm working with the American Jewish Museum on an exhibition of my mental illness work (I Thought I Could Fly...) that will travel to six sites in Western Pennsylvania. This exhibition will include a ten minute film that Douglas/Steinman Productions is making. The exhibition/film is funded by the Staughton Farm Foundation whose mission is to lessen the stigma surrounding mental illness, specifically in Western Pennsylvania. The exhibition will open at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Pittsburgh in January, 2010.
Marick Press will be publishing From Mill Town to Mall Town. I worked on this project with writers Jane McCafferty and Jim Daniels. This book explores the two contiguous worlds of Homestead, Pennsylvania. One is a shopping/ entertainment complex with lots of national chain stores; the other is what was once a vibrant steel mill town. These two Homesteads are separated by railroad tracks physically. Other factors, such as cultural and economic differences, separate them, too.
I continue to photograph my partner, Sam. Sam is my beloved neurotic barkaholic dog and the protagonist of my handmade Sam books.
Thank you for visiting this page, and thank you to Becky Katterson for nudging and pushing me into launching a site. We hope that this site will be more than a news page and be up and running by July 1.