Titles, a Thought Experiment.

Water Pastel 150116_bSwimming in the Aegean

Today I thought I’d post some more drawings. I’ve been really enjoying working with oil pastels again. I’ve been able to do that thanks to a big piece of turquoise fake fur that I’ve turned into a curtain to keep the cold air out of the studo. Its almost like looking out into the turquoise-blue Aegean… ok, not really…

But from the pictures here it should be clear that we are looking out at the sea – or at least at water: you wouldn’t know it was the Aegean (or any sea, for that matter) unless I did something like title the painting ‘Swimming in the Aegean’, or something similar.

In fact, I hadn’t thought about titles for these drawings until I went to save the digital photos on the computer, which prompted me to ‘Save as.’

So I saved them as Water Pastel (date, a-z).

And I got thinking about the problem of titles again.

I’ve always hated when paintings are ‘titled’ Untitled. It seems to me such a breach of responsibility. One could argue, on the other hand, that a title gives to much ‘direction’ to the viewer, instructing them on exactly how to look at the work. In fact, I vaguley remember there having been times when I have used the strategy of not titling a piece because I wanted to let people find their own way into a work. Most of the time, however, I like to give some kind of instruction – althogh maybe ‘instruction’ isn’t the right word – maybe a title is more like identifying a field – like in charades, when you say (or sign) ‘film’, or ‘book’, or ‘whatever’ to let the other members of your team at least know what ballpark you’re playing in…

In other words, instead of just calling the drawing up above Water Pastel 15.01_b, I could have given it the title, Swimming in the Aegean.

Would that have changed how you looked at the piece?

I think it would have. Although I hate people who go to an exhibit and go straight to the little title card hanging next to a piecce before they look at the piece itself, titles can be very helpful in providing information that can bring a new or different understanding to how you see the work. Sometimes in very surprising ways.

So, let’s try a little experiment:
Here are some of my new oil pastel drawings, with some new titles…

Water Pastel 150116_b
Swimming in the Aegean

 

Water Pastel 150116_a
First Swim of the Season

 

 

Water Pastel 170116_a
Surfs Up

 

Water Pastel 170116_b
Making Waves

 

Water Pastel 150116_b
Look Before Crossing

 

Water Pastel 170116_b
One Down…

 

Water Pastel 170116_a
Drowning Migrant

 

Water Pastel 150116_a
Lonesome 

 

As always, your feedback is appreciated.

 

Decisions, Decisions…

 

 

One of the things I’ve been wondering about lately is how we make decisions.

Actually, one of the big questions for me is how we decide what we’re going to believe, but that’s way too big for me to take up here.

The much smaller, but still very interesting, question I’ve been thinking about when I’m in the studio is how we – make that ‘I’ – make decisions in a piece of art. So here I’ll try to go through the decision-making process for what I’ve been working on lately, which are collages.

I refer to these as ‘water collages’ – because they’re about water, and they’re collages. Simple enough.

The reasons I decided to start making them are:

  1. I like making collages, and I like water.
  2. I have a small indoor studio space and I like to make small art and collages are not very messy and the weather has gotten cold so I’m not using the space outside these days.
  3. I had a lot of extra paper lying around that I wanted to use up for reasons of ecology and obsessive-compulsivity.
  4. One day while I was making some collages I must have gotten tired of concentrating on juxtaposing images and also probably noticed I had a lot of blue paper, so I thought I could use up the extra paper faster if I just concentrated on making blue collages – and hence water.

Like this:

Water Colalge 3Water Collage No.3 (25x25cm – about 10″)

And this:

 

Water Collage - weird landscape

Water Collage No.4 (25x25cm – about 10″)

And this:

 

 

Water Collage - Island Landscape

Water Collage No.5 (25x25cm – about 10″)

OK, so that explains why the ‘water collages’ in general, but what about the process of making decisions for each collage? That’s a much tougher question – deciding what should go where. I suppose the first reason is:

Because it looks good. That means ‘composition’. I’m paying attention to how the image is balanced – which directions lines are moving, where the darks and lights are – stuff like that – and then if it’s not just abstract color and shape, but a more defined image (looks like an island, looks like a tree, for example), then the ‘meaning’ that comes out of the relationships between the objects (tree on island, tree floating over island, etc.). Sometimes, in fact, it comes down to expediency – i.e., laziness (‘Got a big piece of blue paper cluttering up the worktable? ‘Glue it down!’)

But as far as all that goes, there’s always more than one possibility – always ‘more than one right answer’ – so this really hasn’t explained anything – why decide on one thing from all among all the other possibilities?. Thinking about this reminded me of my favorite art writer – who in fact happens to be a sociologist.

Howard ‘Howie’ Becker, author of ‘Art Worlds’, is one of the editors of ‘Art From Start to Finish’, a lovely book filled with essays about things that get made by artists.

Basically, a lot of decisions just comes down to ‘what feels right’. But why they feel right is a whole ‘nother question…

(By the way, pictures of the Water Collages 1 and 2 are in an earlier post here)

 

Severed Heads

Head 1

This beautiful work by an art student in New York  and my wish to share it with you has finally put an end to my procrastination.

After the hectic energy and motion involved in getting together my most recent bit of installation art, “Have Your Photograph Taken as an Ottoman Princess”; followed by total paralysis in response to the piece’s sudden removal from the Bodrum Biennial under mysterious and rather disturbing circumstances; and a gradual thaw that involved slow travels along the Mediterranean coast and fast times with friends and family in New York, which, gratefully, brought me back to myself… well, let’s just say, things are back to normal – if you can call editing a magazine, writing a grant proposal and cooking a Turkey – all at the same time – normal.

A propos this posting, the grant proposal had to do with a project for a workshop on ‘community arts’ here in Bodrum. That idea was prompted by the experience of putting together the ‘Ottoman Princess’ exhibit – and then having it taken down. As a piece designed to raise awareness about violence against women – all kinds of women – and the Turkish legal system’s tacit acceptance of this violence through court decisions that reduce the sentences of the perpetrators (usually husbands/ex-husbands and boyfriends/ex-boyfriends), I thought I would have the support of women in realizing this exhibition. In fact, I had a lot of women – as well as men – support the piece financially, but finding a woman’s advocacy group willing to contribute to the content of the piece was difficult. Moreover, it eventually became clear to me that the decision to remove the piece was due to a combination of fear and mistrust – by women!

Princesses on the truck_sm.jpg

Luckily, however, there have been a few women (you know who you are) who have given me the encouragement to try and find another place to exhibit the work and, just as important, if not more important, to continue doing work that keeps me in the world rather than just in my studio, and to encourage others to do the same.

Reading up on ‘community arts’ confirmed my belief that there are two things that art is really good for. The first is self-expression, and the second is community expression. A lot of times, the second type of expression comes more in the form of ‘expression about community’ than ‘self-expression by members of the community’, but when you manage to get both of those things together, well, there you’ve really got aesthetics in the original sense of the word, which had as much to do with moral satisfaction as it did with sensual satisfaction.

head b.jpg

Back to where this post started out: the clay sculptures created by students in the Forensic Sculpture Workshop, a class offered through the New York Academy of Arts’ Continuing Education program, are reconstructed facsimiles of unidentified crime victims that “capture the likenesses of unknown citizens who faced cruel and untimely deaths from a variety of gruesome circumstances” created by students and displayed in the university’s windows in the “hopes that someone walking by the university windows will see a face and recognize it.” As the program’s director explained to the Huffington Post, the program is “the perfect marriage of art and science. Having students use art and their extensive knowledge of anatomy for a bigger purpose and real world application to help the community at large was an opportunity worth waiting for and one we hope to replicate for years to come.”

head group port.jpg

I find poetic the fact that the ‘community’ being represented here is a community that, up until these art students became involved, had lacked representation in the literal as well as the figurative sense of the word.

And I’m impressed that this all took place in a continuing education program. Presumably, all the students in the class could have chosen to take a sculpture class that would have allowed them the opportunity to focus more on their own self-expression, but instead they chose to focus on the expression of someone else.

To read the Huffington Post’s story about the program, click here.

Medium Practice (For Ayni)

This post is for Ayni, who liked my little notebooks and wanted to know if she could buy something and have me send it to the Netherlands.

Besides just being a wonderful person, Ayni will always have a place in my heart for introducing me to someone who could ask me “In what medium do you realize your practice?” with a straight face.

So, to answer that question in a size that will fit in an (albeit large) envelope:

2000 women installation shot

Not a great photo, but those are 2000 watercolor drawings of nudes from my installation ‘2000 Women’. Can Özgün of the British Council wanted me to do something special just for him – with the excuse that my other installation ‘Nü-Nar’ (Nude-Pomegranate) wouldn’t ‘fill the gallery space.’

Antalya nunar installation

I redid the ‘Nu-Nar’ installation in Antalya (sorry – another bad photo) – and I think it shows that Mr. Özgün was wrong about the space, but right about getting me to do some more work.

What can I say? I guess I am just one of those artists that needs to have a deadline.

By the way, I ‘recycled’ the ‘Nars’ for an installation called ‘Manav’ (Grocery) done in an empty shop that used to be – ta da – a grocery.

Manav (Deborah Semel Demirtaş)

I had to sew them all together to get them to stand up, but I could rip a couple of stitches and pop one in an envelope for you to hang up, Ayni.

Or, if you want something else to hang up, how ’bout a mouse?

super fare

Or maybe a bird?

pembe kus

Both of these were from an installation I did a few years back.

Ayna Bahce-Filmler_agactaki kuslar (Garden Filmstrips_Birds in Trees)

So, in what medium do I realize my practice? Trees?

Actually, I’ve got a couple of really nice sculptures made from trees, with a little rebar, but they wouldn’t fit in an envelope.

But I could send you a couple of little drawings of some cotton pickers…

Soke Pamuk toplayanlar 1

but you’ll have to get your own painting easel to display them on.

I suppose you could just hang them on a wall, like a ‘regular’ drawing…
Swimming

ishik

Although I’ve been told that these are ‘too dark’ to appeal to people.

What people, I wonder?

(Oh, and as far as medium practice goes, these ‘regular’ drawings are oil pastels that started out as photographs that I digitized and then altered in photoshop and then used the altered photos as sketches that I printed out on drawing paper and drew on top of. FYI.)

Lots of practice.

Kisses,

Deborah

Number 10

It is the time of year where it is warmer outside the house than it is inside the house.

Still, it is not quite painting weather (the blessed shade is less blessed in April than in July), so instead of getting back to the Water Paintings (or following up on the urge to begin some Wisteria Paintings), I finished up another ‘Column Collage’.

Because the pieces are only 10 cm wide and about 70 cm long, with a lot of detail throughout, they don’t really lend themselves to being viewed on the computer. But I can show you the top, the middle, and the bottom separately…

The TOP:

Suburban Wilderness topWhat we’ve got here is: some sequins cut from an old exhibition poster, part of an oil pastel drawing of sky, some black paper I cut in fringes to match the fringes from a picture of a ‘puffy pillow’ from an old exhibition (Nu:Nar) and in between a watercolor drawing on very thick tracing paper, some more sequins, the edge of the ‘puffy pillow’ picture that shows the beaded seam on the edge over the gold leaf, a bird I cut from a business card (original bird was a painted piece of wood from another painting -the collage got an addition of a yellow breast), an ink-jet print of a photo from Avanos that I printed on Japanese rice paper (and glued down backwards), a bit of a garden watercolor, a bit of a watercolor and ink drawing of an old Chinese cauldron, and a bit more of a watercolor and ink landscape.

The MIDDLE: 

Suburban Wilderness middleAnd what you’ve got here is: more of that bit of watercolor and ink landscape, some photos of some very damaged pavement photocopied (the photos, not the pavement) on light blue paper, a little bit more garden landscape, a drawing based on another drawing of a Hittite clay object from the Museum of Anatolian Civilization in Ankara, a red flower from part of a design for a mosaic tabletop, some bits of an old drawing (red and gold leaf) and photocopies of old sliver leaf-coated drawing paper from another piece (from nearly 20 years ago!), a map of Long Beach (I had planned on using in a collage for the installation Homesickness, but never did, and the back of the poster that had the sequins on it.

The BOTTOM

Suburban Wilderness bottomAnd finally what we’ve got is: some more map, some more birds, some more poster-back, some more pavement, a bit of watercolor ‘gift-wrap-paper’, a pastel drawing of a bit of oleander, a photocopy of bugle-beads that were sewn onto an earlier painting (from 15 or so years ago!), and (‘a partridge in a pear tree’ – no, just kidding) a glimpse of the uncovered surface of the marble-patterned paper that everything else gets glued onto!

This post is titled Number 10 because this is the 10th of the ‘Column Collages’ I have been making using the paper leftover when I cut the paper for the Water Paintings. I titled this one ‘Suburban Wilderness’ – Suburban because Long Beach (and Bodrum) is suburban – otherwise it would have been titled Urban Wilderness – because ya gotcha animals, ya gotcha pavement cracks, etc.

Sometimes I wonder where the images come from – and sometimes people ask me what I was thinking about when I made something – and I think the answers to these questions are : ‘I got a lot of stuff hanging around’ (in other words, the images are all recycled from someplace else – so that I can save resources by using up all the paper I have collected over the years); and, ‘don’t know, whatever…’

Clearing up the mess…

I am sitting and waiting for my husband to wake up so we can have a late breakfast before he goes to work this afternoon and I go down to the Turgutreis Sevgi Yolu Sevgililer Panayır (very loosely translated to the Valentines Day Bazaar on Turgutreis’s Lover’s Lane).

While clearing up the mess in my studio (a never-ending process) and packing up some drawings to take down for my ‘discount days’ art sale at the bazaar, I came across the following text glued inside the cover of a box holding some old papers. I have no idea when I wrote this, or what I wrote it for, but I like it, and I thought I’d share it, for what it’s worth.

Aesthetics

What is Art About?
What do we look at to judge the value of a work of art?

Renaissance to Pre-Modern:

Mimetic. Art is about how it represents things.
We judge the value of a work of art by appreciating its formal qualities.
(What happens after the invention of photography?)

Modern:

Aesthetic. Art is about how it represents things.
We judge the value of a work of art by appreciating its formal qualities.
(What happens after the ‘white square’ or ‘black square’?)

Post Modern:

NOT primarily Visual. Art is about anything.
If art is about anything, how can we judge a work of art?
What kind of knowledge is necessary to judge?

_________________________________________________________

The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions to be a Work of Art

1. Be about something.
2. Embody its meaning.     (IN other words, art should give form to an idea.)

And on that note, here’s an idea 😉

Goddesses 1