Reflections of Cleveland shows breathtaking views of the city by kayak

From Christina Sadowski’s perspective, there is no better vantage point of the Cleveland skyline than from a purple kayak at the crack of dawn. Her upcoming photography exhibition, “Reflections of Cleveland,” is the product of Sadowski’s kayak jaunts on Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River—and what her camera captured along the way.

“A lot of what you see [in Reflections in Cleveland] is a working-class industrial city: the mines, the smokestacks, the massive boats that are the size of Tower City, the whole cityscape of the Flats before the city is awake,” says Sadowski.

“Reflections of Cleveland” makes its debut this Friday, January 18, at e11even 2 (one of the two “e11even” spaces Sadowski co-owns with mixed-media artists R!ch Cihlar and Billy Nainiger in 78th Street Studios). Though Sadowski continually showcases her work in the first e11even space, this is only her second themed solo show in the adjacent e11even 2 gallery. The first was the “Cleveland At Home” show in 2015, in which Sadowski sold home goods like duvet covers, rugs, and tapestries with her photography on them.

While Sadowski might seem like a seasoned kayaker—having handled her camera while navigating Cleveland’s waters—she says that’s hardly the case. “In 2016, [photographer] Natalia Dale posted randomly on Facebook looking for someone to go kayaking with her,” says Sadowski. “I was in the process of trying to do new things in life and pushing boundaries; I don’t like water or being on boats. The first time I went out on the water, I was like, ‘I need this in my life.’”

Sadowski soon “pulled the trigger” and bought two purple kayaks, which she swiftly dubbed “The Mermaid Squad.” She started heading out regularly with her camera to try to capture the sunrise and soon realized that “there might be a strong [photography] show here.”

Kayaking isn’t the only learning curve Sadowski has dealt with in her career. Once discouraged after a high school teacher told her she was “too slow” to be an artist, Sadowski instead chose to major in business management as a college student at Baldwin-Wallace. It wasn’t until she took a digital photography course at Baldwin-Wallace in 2009 that she found her true passion.

“I had a great professor behind me that was pushing me and saw ability I didn’t see in myself,” shares Sadowski, a Maple Heights native. “Grumpy’s in Tremont also had a huge impact on me getting into the scene; they gave me wall space so that I could see my own potential through people purchasing the work.”

Patrons of “Reflections of Cleveland” will have their own opportunity to purchase Sadowski’s work, as Sadowski will be offering limited-edition prints for sale. The opening reception is this Friday, January 19, from 5 to 9 p.m. and the exhibition runs through February 16.

Sadowsky believes her show is one of many great things that will happen on the Cleveland art scene this year. “The art scene here is growing and evolving and getting such great national news, and with the FRONT Triennial coming up, we’ll be on an international level as well,” says Sadowsky. “There is much good to come over the course of the next year, and it’s really exciting to be part of it.

Jen Jones Donatelli
Jen Jones Donatelli

About the Author: Jen Jones Donatelli

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast.

When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.