“Ottoman Princess”: Head Shots

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:

OPSG-Z

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:

  1. 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!)
  2.  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:

OPSG-Ha

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.

A TYPE OF SKETCHING, A SKETCHING OF TYPE

A TYPE OF SKETCHING, A SKETCHING OF TYPE

(Preparations for the installation “Have Your Photograph Taken as an Ottoman Princess”)

So, the goal was to have a bunch of different ‘types’ of women to represent the range of women that you might see on any day on any given street anywhere in Turkey. In fact, you probably wouldn’t see all of them on the same street at the same time, but you might; I’ve seen all these ‘types’ myself, so I know.

OP desktop1

Let’s be clear here: There’s a difference between ‘archetype’ and ‘stereotype’. I really started to notice that when I began working on the sketches in more detail, and felt that there was a certain direction I should be going in – more accurately, that there was a certain direction I shouldn’t be going in. The only difference between ‘archetype’ and ‘stereotype’ might be that an archetype has no negative connotations and a stereotype does. I certainly don’t want to be a stereotype. The problem is how to tell one from the other. I wanted make sure that each ‘princess’ was a different type without being a stereotype, but how? And why?

I’ll open up these 2 topics in a minute, but first, to quickly address the issues of ‘why “princess”?‘ and ‘why “Ottoman” Princess?’:

  1. The ‘Princess’ (and certainly not the Turkish ‘prenses’) in ‘Ottoman Princess’ does not refer to a member of a royal family, it refers to ‘what we call little girls’. It suggests a lot of things, and I hope here it evokes two opposite ideas: first, the idea of being ‘special and privileged’ and second, the idea of being ‘frail and in need of protection’. In either case, the ‘princess’ is NOT real. And it’s important to realize that ALL THE PRINCESSES ARE BASED ON REAL WOMEN, BUT NONE OF THEM ARE REAL WOMEN.
  2. The ‘Ottoman’ (‘Osmanlı’- from the ‘Royal House of Osman’) in ‘Ottoman Princess’ is not connected with any contemporary sociopolitical effort to distinguish between ‘Ottomans’ and ‘Turks’. The idea to use the image of a 19th-century ‘Ottoman’ woman along with 21st-century ‘Turkish’ women came from the fact that the original engravings of Ottoman women were NOT images of REAL women: they were images of a Western fantasy of Eastern women; in other words, they were filled with ‘ideas’ about ‘others’: They were saying (in a visual language), ‘THIS WOMAN IS SOMEONE WHO I AM NOT.’

So, now that that’s out there, back to the questions of why I want to present images of ‘not-stereotypes’ and how I am going to do it.

OP1   OP78

Why: because (as the 19th-century Western male artists and publishers of ‘Ottoman Princesses’ probably knew), it’s easy to dismiss someone who is ‘other’ (read: inferior, mistaken). It is less easy to step into their shoes (or in the case of my installation, into their clothes) and try to see what it is that you have in common with them, try to understand them.  I think that is important, but I don’t think it’s easy; heck, I don’t understand all the princesses, and I’m the one making them!

Interestingly, the PROCESS of making them is helping me to understand them. I wonder if this is what a novel-writer goes through when s/he invents a character. I am sitting with these sketches on my work table, and I am trying to understand, ‘WHO IS THIS WOMAN?’

One princess seems to ‘want’ to have her hair coiffed up (Trying to impress someone? Or forced into a social role?), another has short hair (Easier to handle? Oh, my god, is she a lesbian with a buzz cut??),  a couple of princesses have cell phones in their hands (at the moment; I’m still not sure if this ubiquitous  21st-century is going to be replaced with something else), and one has got a garden tool and some kind of vegetable (at least she will;  or maybe she’ll be holding some weeds. I can’t decide yet).

OP 23

Interestingly, the easiest woman for me to draw has been the one who is covered in black from head to toe. It’s easier for me, because I don’t have to decide what she’s got on underneath; I don’t need to know if she’s wearing high heels or sneakers (or high-heeled sneakers), a high-buttoned blouse or a sleeveless t-shirt… In short, she’s the ‘princess’ I least understand. She’s also the one I LEAST want to be. I must admit, I am having a hard time feeling any empathy for her. I don’ particularly like her – which is strange to say, because I’ve already admitted that I don’t really know her. If I don’t know her, how can I say I don’t like her?

And there in a nutshell is what this is about.

(I’ll be posting more on this project here. If you’re interested, be sure to “follow’ this blog. You can also “follow” the Ottoman Princess blog to see what happens after the exhibit opens (‘more to come’), and sign up to the Ottoman Princess facebook page for all types of related information (which you can add to as well).

Ottoman Princess : The Blog

Update: My latest installation – “Have Your Photograph Taken as an Ottoman Princess” – will be included in the upcoming Bodrum Biennial opening on 12 September.

In addition to information about the project (in Turkish and English), the Ottoman Princess blog will post news about violence against women in general (unfortunately there is a lot of that) as well as artwork addressing the issue. (Since there appears to be more bad news than good news, I would particularly welcome contributions of good news from anyone who has any. The best way to pass on this news is by joining the Ottoman Princess facebook page (in Turkish and English) and posting there, and I’ll repost to the blog.)

People who visit the exhibition and have their photos taken as an Ottoman Princess will also be able to post them on the facebook page, and I’ll repost to the blog, so that they’ll form a running exhibition catalog.

Finally… Since I try to give a high priority to ‘demystifying’ what it is that artists do, I’ll try to post ongoing information about the process of putting together the exhibition. For the background information on the exhibition, you can go to the Indiegogo Ottoman Princess page. The project is already funded (thanks to all who donated), but the site will be up through the 15th of August, which is the official end of the fundraising campaign, and it has the most detailed information to date.

OP5Ottoman Princess 2

I’ll be posting here on this blog, so please ‘follow’ if you want to get the updates on the proect, and then I’ll either be linking or reposting to the Ottoman Princess (have to get the ‘technical details’ worked out on that).

And as they say somewhere, ‘Thank you for your interest.’

Arts Administration (Readying the Ottoman Princess)

Arts Administration (Readying the Ottoman Princess)

OP Louis-Dupre-Helene full princess

I think the blues have won.
No, I don’t mean I’m sad: I mean the feedback from Facebook about which image would make the best Ottoman Princess was leaning to the lady above. (In the final version, I’ll incorporate some yellow and red into the scarf around her waist, and the style will be more like the red-and-yellow version that was the second choice.)

That’s going to wait a bit, though, because of the rather less thrilling and too time-consuming task of getting ready for ‘the arrival of the princess(es)’ – in other words, getting the last details re: the costs of getting 9 figures produced for my installation at the Bodrum Bienial this fall – and more imporantly, getting the project on the Indiegogo web site for funding. (Look for ‘Ottoman Princess.)

The piece is something I designed several years ago in response to a particularly heinous court decision that took jail time off the sentence of a man convicted of murdering his wife; apparently, she had ‘provoked’ him by going into town dressed in jeans.

All the details of the project will be on the Indiegogo web site, and I’ll have more details here as well – hopefully by next Wednesday (July 15).

In the meantime, I’ll just leave you with images of 2 of the ‘perks’ I’m giving away to people who contribute to the project. (They are both printed invitations from former exhibitions of mine – not ‘original’ art – although there will be some of that, too – but I thnk they’ll look rather nice framed (if I do say so myself), and they’ll be’signed by the artist’ – that’s moi.

OP Handmade Dreams

Above, a detail from a mixed-media piece that was exhibited at the Ankara Museum of Painting and Sculpture (and now owned by a very nice couple from southern France),

Below, a detali from another mixed-media piece that was exhibited at the Soyut Gallery in Ankara (and if I remember correctly, it is now in the gallery’s ‘collection’)

OP My Landscapes

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

Women in Art

The following  pictures are from the installation titled ‘2000 Women’ from 2000 that featured 2000 drawings of naked women. The drawings were all copies of about 7 classic nude images from artists ranging from Reubens to Degas.

After the exhibit, I thought that a better title might be ‘Backfired’.

2000 women installation shot
(unfortunately, best resolution I’ve got – sorry…)

That’s because the original intent of this piece – together with ‘Nü-Nar’ (‘Nude-Pomegranate’), another installation in the British Council’s gallery in Ankara – was to raise the issue of the commodification of women through art.

With 2000 women, I thought that the entire piece would turn into a giant abstract work that would in some sense supersede the individual drawings (200 per month over a 10-month period, 50/week, Mon-Friday, 10/day). In a sense it did, but in a sense, it did not. Horny men still expressed the most interest in the big-busted blondes, whereas they had less appreciation for well-drawn feet and faces.

I thought I would post these today, 4 days after a young woman in the southern Turkish city of Mersin was murdered by a would-be rapist.

The first photo below is another exhibition shot, but the next 2 are pictures of some tea trays I decorated using parts of some drawings that had been in the exhibition. Over the weekend, I had a box of about 200 of the drawings on sale at an open-air Bazaar in Turgutreis that hoped to breathe some life into the dead downtown of a tourist trap in winter and earn some money for some women trying to improve their economic circumstances.

Money – Sex – Violence – Power.

These are the things that ‘art’ messes with.

In the meantime, my husband and I happily celebrated Valentine’s Day with a dinner out on the town:
I’d rather celebrate love than excoriate hate.

Let’s see how to ‘tag’ this one, folks.

 

2000 women detayi fuzzy

 

Tray- Caryatids

tray - angel w winged bowl

 

 

A Couple of Old Columns…

So, in my last post I was discussing strange shapes, or, more specifically, how I like to work in formats that are not in the usual Golden Mean of proportions – namely, squares, or columns.

Lately, I have been working on a lot of vertical collages (just browse some of the earlier posts here), but this format is nothing new. Way back when (in graduate school in Baltimore), I got infatuated with columns – part of a general interest in architectural decoration. After a couple of long, tall paintings on wood, I got the opportunity to install some ‘real’ columns in a church in Baltimore. The occasion was a small exhibition of installations I was organizing at the back of a space that was being used for theater performances; the church had had a fire that had done some serious damage to the main hall, so until they got the funds together to replace all the pews, they were holding services in a smaller room on the other side of the church and using the pewless hall for art – bless them!

The pictures below are the only images I have of the 2 columns (had old slides turned into JPEGs last year 🙂 ). The columns were made out of sonotubes, i.e.concrete formwork, which I sliced in half vertically so that I could work on them and then put them back together around the existing church columns. Once I managed to get the tubes to fit in the elevator to my studio, things were pretty straight forward – except for a little difficulty that I might refer to as the ‘pop’n’fresh effect’ (picture a giant toilet paper tool trying to uncurl itself). I covered the surfaces of the columns in a layer of plaster mixed with plastic, another layer of acrylic paint, and then metal leaf, and then drilled holes for Christmas lights – as, luck would have it, the existing church columns each had an electric outlet at the base: plugged in, I had some pretty flashy columns…

With the theme of religion as inspiration (!), the 2 columns were a Goddess Column and what I refer to as my Crusader Column – or, from a more modern perspective, “Black Man, Blue Man”.

Column - brown man Column - blue man

This has been fun, this “Blast from the Past” – makes me want to do some more big sculptures. (I believe one side of the lower half of the Goddess Column went to a friend of mine in California, but the other parts are long gone to the landfill…)

Homesickness (Sıla Hasreti) Installation

Homesickness (Sıla Hasreti) Installation

title

 

Homesickness (Sıla Hasreti) is the name of the installation I created with collaboration from a lot of other people, including

Deniz Defne Acerol (sculptures)

Hope Holtzman (tapestries)

26 students in the 4th-grade class of Jale Toprak, a teacher at Akyarlar Elementary school, whose students I have known since they were in the 1st grade,

and artists from Turkey (Istanbul, Balıkesir, Antalya, Bodrum), Spain, Iceland and the US, who sent original mail art that arrived via traditional post n time for the exhibit, which was held at the Şevket Sabancı Culture Center in Turgutreis-Bodrum from 18-28 November 2014. You can download the catalog here:

Sıla Hasreti Homesickness PPS Catalog

Anyone interested can also contact me for the audio file of students reading their poetry (in Turkish).

Below are some more pictures from the exhibit.

You can also view the mail art one by one by clicking here.

DSCN0117

The sand is from Long Island, the Old Bay seasoning is from Baltimore, the tapestries are from Dereköy and the drawings from Akyarlar.

inst8

The lonely kitty is from Deniz in Istanbul.

 

 

inst7 The photographs and wine cup are from Avanos.

 

inst12

The tapestries are Hope’s from Dereköy

St Louis - Whoopee Bowl

The drawings are of all the places I’ve lived and miss – from St. Louis…

 

 

Aachen - portcullis

to Aachen…

Brooklyn  - Carroll Gardens Neighbors

to Brooklyn.