A while back I wrote my list of 10 ideas. Of course, as soon as I posted it, I realized that I had left one out. And it was a really important one, too. It involved the next step in an ongoing project of recycling paper by using it in collages and then using the collages to tell fortunes. It even had a name: Art Fortunes.
‘Reading the collages’ had become a really nice way of interacting with people over art. Imagine waiting on line to get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and when you finally got up to the window to make your contribution, you were told you had to go around ‘two by two’, and then they paired you up with a total stranger and said to you, “Okay, now go look at the art – and talk about it.” That’s sort of what Art Fortunes is like.
I loved Art Fortunes so much I decided that the next step was to ‘spread the love’. So I put together an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to reproduce the collages as prints and get them out there to people who wanted them (which means, partly “giving” them away as “perks” to “supporters” of “the Art Fortunes Indiegogo Campaign”). I’m even making a handy dandy little ‘User’s Guide’ to explain a bit about the cards and how to ue them to tell fortunes.
Believe me, it’s not at all complicated like Tarot Cards or anything else where you’d have to have some special fortune-telling skills or anything – although I find dressing up in a bit of ‘gypsy chic’ does help the mood along…
The ‘User’s Guide’ is pretty basic, too. For example: “This card (above) combines a sketch of a Hittite idol with a picture of a detail from a mixed-media painting that sort of looks like a spine, or maybe a bug. Note the olive tree fragments and ‘feathers’. A celebration of flora and fauna?”
Also, I put together a little video so you could see ‘a reading in progress’. Obviously, every one is different, because every person is different; it’s really fascinating (to me) to see how people get into looking at the pictures and making up stories to go along with them. In fact, as luck would have it, on an ‘involvement scale’ of 1 to 10, (with 1 being ‘being polite, but trying to get this over with as quickly as possible’ and 10 being ‘hey, I know you’ve got 3 more people sitting waiting to have their Art Fortunes told, but heck, I wanna keep looking at the pictures, and I can tell way better stories than you, anyway, and I think that those feathers symbolize pens, so that means that I am going to get a letter from someone very soon, and, also, you see that that one person has two heads? well that means…”), the person in the video with me was kind of a ‘1’.
If you want to find out more (and I hope you do), you can click on the link below, and it will take you down the rabbit hole and into the land of
You may have noticed that I haven’t written anything in a while, and that I haven’t posted any pictures of nice-and-shiny artwork, or even rough-and-tumble work-in-progress.
Of course, you may not have noticed, because you were busy doing things in the actual, three-dimensional world rather than (how shall I put this?) “spending time enjoying your vibrant, virtual community”.
Although you could be forgiven for assuming that my not posting can be chalked up to my “spending time enjoying my vibrant, virtual community”, you would be mistaken.
In fact, I have also been busy working.
And not just in the dosh-producing sense of the word, but also in the “production of creative material” sense of the word – although mostly, in the “travelling” and “thinking” senses of the word.
Yes, travelling counts as “creative work”, in the same sense that “research on background” and “sketching” count as creative work. In my case, I like to think that it especially counts, because in addition to just taking the opportunity to refresh the eyes and this sorry old brain with new sensory information, I use the time travelling to take photographs that I use the same way that some artists use sketches – and on occasion I even sit down and do some old-fashioned sketching myself.
Thinking also belongs in the “creative work” box. Despite what some people think. (Here I must interject a memory: While visiting a friend at Hacettepe University one day many years ago, I got involved in a conversation that ended in a now-well-known contemporary Turkish conceptual artist explaining to me, “But Deborah, she (a now-well-known contemporary Turkish painter) isn’t a conceptual artist, so she doesn’t need to have an idea.”
On the other hand, even I sometimes “live too much in my head” and forget that just thinking about a thing doesn’t actually get the thing done. (In that way, “art” is a lot like doing laundry and cleaning the house…) So, when that lightbulb-reminder went off in my head again yesterday, I decided that I was not allowed to have any more ideas until I use up the ones I already have. These include:
1. Sitting down in my studio and doing some more oil pastels of people in the water, using the photos I took in Georgia, Portugal, and the Turkish Mediterranean coast as sketches.
1a. “Shooting” some video interviews of people and their relationships to the water that I can edit to use in an installation with the above-mentioned drawings; interviews to include “individuals who attempted to migrate from Turkey to Greece by sea”.
2. Writing and illustrating a children’s book about “The Adventures of Yellow Dog”. In it, the erstwhile Yaprak is transformed into a doggie who had to leave her home for reasons she is too young to understand, but ends up making friends with a chicken and learning to swim.
2a. And then there’s the sequel, “Yellow Dog and Her Friends”, in which Yellow Dog and her chicken-friend, over much objection from their families, end up visiting one another at their respective homes – and nobody gets eaten.
3. Going back and doing some large (for me) oil-stick drawings like the ones in the “swimmer” series I had started a few years ago and then had to abandon because “the princesses” had taken over my “outdoor studio” so there was no room to work out there anymore.
4. A “film project”. (I have this “wild hare” of an idea to organize a festival, or something, of films on “cultural heritage”… please don’t steal this one…)
5. Paint some more wooden furniture. (This is not as easy as it sounds – if you place the emphasis on “wooden” – because everything these days seems to be made of pressboard and the like. Boo-hoo.)
6. Continue making temporary trash sculptures. (This one should be pretty easy; there’s a lot of trash out there.)
7. Something to do with food! (I’m not there yet…)
8. An illustrated travel book…
9. Painting a mural on the top row of kitchen cupboards. (This was agreed with my husband before we got new kitchen cupboards. The choice was not between whether to paint or not, but between what to paint: 1. Beach scene; 2. Abstract painting of the vastness of the universe, with lots of gold leaf and light blue; 3. Tropical paradise. And the winner is… “3, Tropical Paradise”!
10. Two paintings (oil stick on plywood, 40x40cm, of flower blossoms on a mainly black background with a lot of line drawing done in gold leaf) “commissioned” by my husband in return for making him not hang a painting in a spot that I didn’t want it to be hung in.
A list of 10.
A nice, round number.
“Top 10 Ideas From Amongst Which At Least 1 Must Be Chosen Before Another Idea Is Had”
Hey, I like that I am using a template of an old blog post for this post about recycling…
Or is it refurbishing? More like refurnishing…
It has been several months since the movers carted our stuff out of our place in Bodrum and up to our place in Foça. (Well, geographically up , but then physically down – the three levels from our street to our garden.)
Although most things have long since been put in place – up from the garden and into the house – there is still “the ex-furniture issue” – also known as “the question of furniture reincarnation”, i.e. how to incorporate the remains of the Yerleşim Cafe into our new abode. (FYI, the Yerleşim Cafe brought installation art and espresso to Turgutreis way back when, but I just tried googling it and it apparently no longer exists.)
In previous incarnations the cafe’s kitchen counter/bookcase was cut up into garden furniture and end tables, among other things, and the cafe’s tables became, well, tables – with the only transformtion being accomplished with another layer of paint.
In this incarnation, the tables have once again become tables – but they’ve been snazzed up thanks to my new favorite possession, an electric sander. Also, in this life, they have titles!
Here’s “Islands on the Map”, followed by “Tide’s Turning”…
If you’ve got any wooden items desiring a make-over, feel free to stop by…
“I eliminated from my painting anything that anybody has ever said that I was good at. So if I was good at drawing, I took it out. If I was told I had facility with color, I took it out. And then I said, “Well, if I give up all these things, what is painting, for me?”
That is exactly what I did back in 1990 during my first year in graduate school at MICA when a visiting artist came into my studio at Mt. Royal, looked around at my paintings, said, “Nice,” and then proceeded to engage me in conversation about Baltimore or something else without another word about “my art”. When I asked him why he didn’t want to talk about “my art”, he said he didn’t think it was necessary, because I was already, in his exact words, making “perfect paintings”- so he had nothing to say, I should just keep on doing what I was doing.
That “keep up the good work” was what prompted me to “eliminate what I was good at” to find out what was left. Paradoxically, the moment I decided to head off in an unknown direction was the moment that I knew I had a direction.
But what’s most interesting to me all these years later about the words above is that they are not my words: They belong to Enrique Martinez Celaya.
I had never heard of this “physicist, philosopher and painter” until a few days ago when a friend sent me a link to an interview he did with Krista Tippet for her radio program, “On Being”. Quite frankly, I was a bit wary when I saw the image that came with the link, but trusting in my friend’s judgement, I started listening to the interview. From the very beginning, I felt like I’d found a kindred spirit. The way he described working in his studio, how he thinks about art – I just kept thinking, “Yes!
Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you may have noticed that I very rarely post work by other artists (and if you’ve only started reading recently, you’re probably wondering if I even write about art at all!). That’s “my bad”, and I will try to devote more time to this in the future. Sharing “some consciousness” from Enrique Martinez Celaya seems to me to be the perfect place to start.
So, below are some paintings along with some quotes from the “On Being” interview. (To find out more about Martinez Celaya, here is a link to his his web site.)
“I think paintings are odd, in the sense that it seems to us that everything that is important is on the surface and visible. Unlike, say, science: we expect that we have to go in deep to understand what’s really at play in an equation or something. But that’s very deceiving. I think paintings have a complexity, a relationship to presence and reference in the work of art, the tension between what seems to be and what is… Rather than just be representatives or embodiments of a consciousness of the producer, they themselves having some consciousness: I guess animated, open engagement. There’s nothing intelligent I can say about it other than a feeling that I have that this is the case…
“One of the most obvious examples, I think — and it happens to me every time I encounter any work by Van Gogh, no matter where it is, and the moment I see it, something happens. There’s an intelligence at play in the work itself and a sense of something I can only describe as a consciousness in that work that engages me, forces me to be a witness, forces me to be a conversation partner, places me in a very unstable place. And there’s an instability in that exchange that is more, simply, than just looking at a bunch of marks and thinking of how Vincent might have made them or something like that. And this is a rare thing, I think. But I will suggest that somewhere around that, one could construct the definition of what art is, as opposed to an art activity. It’s when something has the capacity to embody consciousness in a way that it can be unfolded…
“When you go to a museum, and you look around, most works are forever trapped in their moment in a way that they are completely historical. But then the great works of art are always ahistorical. Regardless of the historical condition, they speak to you in the present…
“It seems that both in science and art and anything — in anything, the truth is not screaming that much. And I think that you have to be attentive, silent enough, be able to look and listen very, very carefully. And even then, you have to be very lucky to hear something…
“Even though sometimes people don’t realize it. I think that one of the most important ways in which (a background in science is) alive is the treatment I have towards my studio. I approach it not as a factory, which has become very much the way of artists looking at the studios in the last 40 or 50 years, but rather as a laboratory, as a cross between laboratories and a monastery, that kind of hybrid place…
“Many of my experiences with academic art and art theory has been the tendency to want to be scientific — or pseudoscientific. And when I came to art, I came to art without apologies. And that gave me a great deal of freedom…
“A lot of people talk about art as freedom when, in fact, it is the constraints that allow the possibility of art to happen. And color constrained under the pressures of these relatively small dimensions is beauty under compression, which is always an exuberant form of beauty…
(When asked about “what it means to be human, this is his response:)
I think the thing that is most pressing that comes up when you ask that question is compassion. I think — not because it comes naturally but because it doesn’t, to me. And I find that at this age, with four kids and with a world that everywhere one turns — and not just in the news, in just about every encounter with every — every person is carrying something. And I think what I’m reminded constantly is, to be human is to be aware of that, more than intelligence, more than anything else. And it’s increasingly urgent and increasingly hard to remember that.
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:
- I like making collages, and I like water.
- 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.
- I had a lot of extra paper lying around that I wanted to use up for reasons of ecology and obsessive-compulsivity.
- 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.
Water Collage No.4 (25x25cm – about 10″)
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)
As the media reports on Black Friday pointed out so emphatically, the holiday season is upon us. Need I list them all? I don’t think so…
If you’re among the anxiety-prone and you’ve already begun fretting over the proper response to ‘Merry Christmas’ (as I get wished in Turkey) if you aren’t Christian (I’m not), or ‘Happy Winter Solstice’ (as I get wished in Facebookland) if you aren’t Pagan (I’m not…sure…), then take heart in the advice I read the other day:
Don’t worry about making any ‘corrections’, and certainly don’t get into a politically incorrect huff, just say,’Same to you.’
So, to warm you up with some holiday cheer – especially those of you who have already gotten out your winter woolies – here are a few modest little watercolors that I did on the way to and from Adana in September-October before Harun and I left for New York…
and have a very happy and merry Same to You.
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!
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.
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.”
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.
So I suppose I ought to post ‘the princesses’.
These are the 9 sketches that are being transformed into life-sized models as we speak (well, ok, it’s 8 o’clock on a Saturday night, so there is probably no one at Show Reklam working at this very moment – but Monday afternoon I’m supposed to go and check them out, so I guess it’s fair to say that they are almost ready. Inşallah.)
If you’ve been following the project so far, then you know that the original ‘Ottoman Princess’ in this installation was designed based on an Orientalist engraving from the 19th century. We had a little group discussion regarding how to ‘dress up’ the version in this installation, and based on that discussion, she ended up looking like this:
I particularly like her ruby necklace and her turquiose shalvar. She’s in the same pose as the first engraving I had picked to use as a sketch, but I like her better because she looks to me ‘more realistic’. Just what that means is a bit confusing, because, in fact, she’s a totally made-up character.
But then all identities are ‘made-up’, aren’t they?
This is one of the things that I wanted to point out with this installation.
In fact, one of the most difficult things was making up only eight identities; I had to set a limit somewhere, due to space as well as costs, and 8 seemed like a good number. The idea was to have four of the women wearing a head covering and the other four not. But there are so many reasons why women may ‘cover themselves’ – and so many ways of doing it, from a traditional village headscarf (that you don’t need to be a Muslim woman to wear)
to full ‘black chador’ – an extreme form of dress for a woman – and something that is not all that common in Turkey – but not all that uncommon, either.
That extreme form of religious dress is something that a lot of ‘secular’ Muslim women get pretty upset about; the worst fear: that someone (or some government) will force me to do this.
At the opposite extreme, there’s definitely a prejudice that equates an ‘uncovered’ woman as a whore – and that doesn’t make distinctions; in other words, dress like this:
or like this:
or like this:
or like this:
and you are immoral.
From the pictures, I think you will be able to make the judgement that all these uncovered women are different types – or, better, have different identities; in fact, the same woman may adopt a different ‘persona’ – i.e. ‘identity’ – on a different occasion (opening party? office work? shopping and a movie? a hike in the woods?) that is reflected in what she wears.
The possibiliities are endless; for the installation ‘Have Your Photograph Taken as an Ottoman Princess’, I just tried to pair up ‘covered’ and ‘uncovered’ versions from ‘casual’ to ‘extreme’. This is what I ended up with: all the women above, plus two more:
And while none of these women are ‘really real’, they are all ‘sort of real’ – or, better ‘could be real’ – they could be on the streets of Bodrum or Ankara or Nevşehir – all places where I’ve lived, and where I’ve seen ‘women like them’.
In just about 2 weeks, it’ll be time to try out these women in public at the Bodrum Castle as pat of the Bodrum Biennial – to give other women (and men, and girls, and boys) the chance to see what they would look like ‘as’ these women.
Of course, just trying on someone else’s clothes (so to speak) doesn’t mean you know what it’s like to ‘be’ them (not to mention that it would be pretty hard to know what it’s like to be someone who isn’t real).
Still… the possibility to see yourself differently – or see someone else differently…
More on the process behind my latest installation, “Have Your Photograph Taken as an Ottoman Princess” (with more background below in my previous posts.
Most of ‘the Princesses’ are now beyond the sketching stage, getting onto the watercolor stage, and a few of them are on the computer already, getting ready to be blown up to life-size.
For that, I was down at the sign shop last week to go over the process, trying to find the best way to blow them up to get the look that I want. Unfortunately, it is not a straightforward process (would that it were!). The ‘Princess’ I’ve named ‘Sunglasses’ (for file-finding purposes) has been the one I’ve been using for try-outs:
Zeynep at the sign shop was skeptical about the size of the ‘face opening’, but after she tried it out she agreed that it was not ‘too small’ as she had feared.
Zeynep also thinks the image is fine the way it is, but I think it is a little too ‘cartoony’, when I was really going for ’19th-century engraving’- so that’s going to change.
But more interesting than the printing has been the response to people trying on ‘the princess mask’. Two things stood out there:
- I was over a friend’s house, and her gardener was one of the people there who tried on the mask. Next thing I know, I get an email from my friend that has her gardener’s son’s email address, and could I please send the photo to him? Her gardener, who, I am guessing, is not a regular art-gallery patron, is looking forward to visiting the Bodrum Biennial so he can see ‘what this is all about’. (I call that a ‘positive outcome’, and the exhibit doesn’t even start for another month!)
- I was over at the Bodrum Castle to figure out exactly where the installation needs to go (based on, among other considerations, things like where do the tourist groups congregate and where is the ground not ancient paving stone). While I was there, I was introduced to a family, and my friend asked them if anyone wanted to try on the ‘princess mask’. Out of 8 people, the first one to want to try on the mask was the oldest child – who happened to be a boy. His father promptly said that this was ‘not for him’, that it was for his sister. I promptly corrected that: I said the ‘princess’ was not a real person, and that anyone – male or female – could try out ‘being the princess’. For proof, I showed them the following:
Harun as ‘Princess With Incipient Beard’.
Or maybe ‘1970s Rock Star’ ?
For more on ‘the Ottoman Princess’, you can click here to get to the Facebook Page.