Butler Art Features Claudia Berlinski

By Will Keffler

Many professional photographers would be quick to dismiss cellphone cameras as a valuable tool in art, but for Claudia Berlinski, Youngstown State University’s assistant art professor, the camera phone is mightier than the sword.

This past Sunday, the Butler Institute of American Art debuted an exhibition featuring Berlinski’s work with every photo displayed taken using a camera phone. Don’t be fooled; according to Berlinski, her camera phone has liberated her as an artist and created freedoms that weren’t available with her digital camera. 

“There is this impulse to record every second, every experience,” Berlinski said. “I think everybody has that quality, and I’m no different. I have a 35-millimeter digital camera, but my phone is always with me, and sometimes opportunities present themselves when you aren’t expecting them.”

Berlinski’s exhibit features many pictures from a visit to Turkey she took years ago, but many of her photos are more spontaneous with layers added to enhance the imagery. Berlinski said that she has almost become a photo hoarder in a sense, with her impulse to document the beauty she sees around her being her guiding force.

“I respond to the beauty that I see in the environment whether it’s going to mosques in Turkey or just going on a bike ride and seeing interesting formations in the clouds,” Berlinski said. “I have this romantic view of the world, and I think it’s reflected in the images I take.”

The exhibit will be on show at the Butler until Feb. 5, 2017, as part of the Regional Photography Gallery. Lou Zona, executive director and chief curator of the Butler, said the committee who chooses artists for the gallery thought Berlinski’s work was a perfect fit.

“[Berlinski’s] exhibition is wonderful because of its professionalism and the amazing imagery that she was able to create by overlaying concepts,” Zona said. “The work is presented beautifully, and I love the surreal quality of her work. She creates these wonderful environments that you lose yourself in.”

Berlinski is just one of many regional artists that Zona said will be featured in the gallery. The program is run by encouraging artists to submit their photos to the Butler for committee review. The committee, which is made up of staff members at the Butler, is not only focused on showcasing regional artists, but they hope to show artistic diversity throughout the region.

“We try to show a variety of approaches, that’s the key for us,” Zona said. “We want to encourage photographers of all types to apply to our program, because it’s a very active exhibition schedule, and we love to present work that is particularly unique.”

For Berlinski, the chance to be featured at the Butler is an opportunity she holds in high regard.

“The Butler is a well-known, respected museum,” Berlinski said. “It’s certainly an institution that has a stronghold in this community, and it’s very well respected.”

To YSU Art Professor Christine McCullough, Berlinski’s work is unique, and she encourages students to visit the exhibit at the Butler.

“[Berlinski’s exhibition] is very eloquent, and the color is striking,” McCullough said. “Claudia is a valuable member of the art department, and I think students should go to the Butler and see her work. It’s always interesting to know what your professors are creating.