“Karne” (Report Card

Btw Foça and Yeni Foça
Half-finished Prismacolor sketch of the sea, just north of Foça

Well, all the world’s school children are onto their summer holidays after getting their report cards for the year. In Turkey, the last day of school is the much-anticipated moment when your kids carry home their “karne” and parents celebrate the accomplishments of their offspring.

I have well passed the age when report cards were a thing of pride (mostly) or fear (math, usually). But last week, after all the world’s school children were already involved with swimming and soccer (or sowing and reaping, depending on your demographics), the thought crossed my mind that it might do to write myself my own report card, going back to my List of Ideas and checking to see how well the implemenation was going. Think of it as a mid-term “progress report” for 2017/2018, rather than an end-of-term final appraisal, because, as that great artist Yogi Berra once said, “It’s not over ’til it’s over.” ( Or as I said yesterday, “I’m not dead yet.”)

Report Card – Deborah Semel Demirtaş – 2017/2018

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. NO PROGRESS. (Studio is a mess, greenhouse effect is making it more than a little unbearably hot… but I did manage to clear enough space to sew me up some summer clothing to make the heat a little less oppresive. As they say, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the studio!”)

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. AND 2a, 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. PROGRESS. (Okay, this is, admittedly, theoretical progress – meaning I’ve decided that Yellow Dog’s adventures might be more interesting as an animated film than in book form. That’s as far as I’ve got.)

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. NO PROGRESS. (I’ve got a whole lot of paper cut to size, but this has been just another thing that I haven’t gotten around to. For the reason why, see No. 4 below.)

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…) PROGRESS.  (If there’s a whole lot of “no progress” on anything else on my list, this must be the reason why.)

FFG LOGO web

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.) PROGRESS. (I did one. For proof, see the  photo of the “Camouflage Table” below; bet you have a hard time finding the table leg… designed to blend in with the flagstone…)

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6. Continue making temporary trash sculptures. (This one should be pretty easy; there’s a lot of trash out there.) PROGRESS. (But since I can’t find any pictures, you’ll just have to take my word for it. And by the way, there’s still a lot of trash out there.)

7. Something to do with food! (I’m not there yet…) PROGRESS. (Still not there yet, but undoubtedly there will be some food-related cultural heritage at the 1st Foça International Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Film Days…)

8. An illustrated travel book… NO PROGRESS. (But today I’m going to Kos, with a box of Prismacolors in my backpack and a painter-friend, who might be a good influence on me… or maybe not; we’ll probably just drink a lot of frappes and eat pig.)

DSCN3126 - Copy.JPG
(By Yasemin the Art Teacher – who cannot be guaranteed to be a good influence.)

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”! NO PROGRESS. (But white looks good, too… )

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. PROGRESS(One is finished and hung on the wall. One is progress, isn’t it?)

 

There.
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”

Art+Fortunes=Art Fortunes

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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.

Art Fortunes on Indiegogo

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…

hittites

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

Art Fortunes on Indiegogo

Have Fun!!!

 

 

 

8 Women Around Town

Cases with mom and daughter

So, I do remember reading in Howard Becker’s “Art Worlds” how unlike musicians, visual artists don’t have the same luxury of immediate feedback for their work. For example, we don’t perform our work and get applause (or whinging) every three minutes like rock and roll bands. Less frequently, and less immediately, we may have our work written about by critics or sold in galleries, which may give us some measure of our level of success in a particular “artworld”; however, the reviews may just reflect how successfully we conform to certain time-bound expectations regarding what art is supposed to be, and the sales may be more a reflection of the current state of stock-market or interest-rate returns than of any emotional or intellectual connection with “the work itself”.

One nice thing about my “women” – i.e., the “try-me-on statues” that I made for my installation “Have Your Photograph Taken as an Ottoman Princess”, which were then recycled into the installation “8 Cases”, and which are currently hanging about various locations around Foça and its environs – is that I have had opportunities for obtaining immediate feedback by watching people interact with these figures in one way or another.

Not that there always is any interaction. I have seen people walk right past “the women” without even noticing they are there – which is kind of sad, because they are life-size figures, placed in the immediate field of vision of pedestrians, so not even noticing them is like not even noticing other “real” people out on the street with you – and that to me is really sad.

8 vaka farmer

Noticing, however, is not exactly interacting, and there are quite a lot of people who look up or turn their head towards one of “the women”, only to immediately look back down or turn their head away – much as you might do after accidentally making eye contact with a stranger walking towards you from the opposite direction.

Then there are the people who couldn’t wait to “play pretend”; they went running up behind a figure to stick their own face into the appropriate empty space and have their friends click away – taking a “selfie” was kind of out of the question (although the thought itself raises interesting philosophical questions about identity…) – without even noticing the text in the back.

Oh, did I mention there’s text on the back of each of the figures? In fact, I have the dilemma of explaining this, so you understand the installation, or not explaining it, so as not to ruin the experience. I guess this is where I need to say “Spoiler Alert”.

8 vaka fashionistas

“Spoiler Alert”:

Each figure represents a case in which a woman was murdered by her husband, who was tried and sentenced for his crime, only to have a judge reduce the sentence on the grounds of “unjust provocation”. (This is supposed to mean someone who is “provoked into a crime due to an unjust act”, and an example of this might be a woman who kills her husband who is beating her for the umpteenth time – rather than, for example, a man who kills his wife because she “swore at and cheated on him” – which is along the lines of the types of “provocation” considered in the “Eight Cases” described in my installation.)

Now, it has been suggested that it might be more effective to put the text on the front rather than the back of the figures, and it has been noted that most people who have their photo taken are doing it because it is fun: Well, more power to them! It is definitely fun to try on a different identity from time to time.

Interestingly, I might add, although there are eight different women you can “be”, from my observations, I’d say that somewhere between one-half and one-third of the time, people want to “be” the “sexy lady in black” (so much for our objections to the objectification of women), with the next-most-popular type being “the tourist”, followed by “the farmer”. Some adventurous “modern” folk (more men than women) have tried out the “Islamic fundamentalist”, and I’ve noticed a few girls pretending to be “the businesswoman”. Surprisingly, I don’t recall very many people wanting to be a “student” or anyone at all wanting to be a “fashionista”, either with or without a headscarf. In fact, the fashionistas are my personal favourites, because they’re the most colourful. But my most favourite part of the installation is when I get to watch someone saying to her friends, “Hey, wait a minute; did you read this?”…

8 vaka sexy lady islamic fundamentalistAdmittedly, that probably only happens about a third of the time, but it’s worth waiting for, to see the expression on the face of a person that has just had something sink into their brain. If the text were on the front, sure, more people would read it, but I don’t think anyone would want to “play pretend” anymore. I can’t imagine people wanting to “be” a murder victim…

So, there you have it. If you want to “play pretend”, you can “be” a “sexy lady” or an “Islamic fundamentalist” in Eski Foça in front of the studio of Şenay and Hatice (who noted that while these two might be the most extreme, they also are the ones likely to attract the most attention) – it’s on the street near the parking lot behind the archaeological site and the fish market. If you want to “be” a “tourist” or a “student”, you need to go into the Foça Municipality’s Reha Midilli Cultural Centre (or just walk by on a weekend, if the weather’s okay and the staff remember to put them outside). You can go to the Iraz’ca Taş Cafe on the Marseilles Plaza in Eski Foça to be a “fashionista” (and I noticed that someone put a table behind one of them to make life easier for the littlest icon-wannabees).  Finally, if you are tooling around the villages, you will find a “businesswoman” outside Yağcı in Kozbeyli and a “farmer” (appropriately) in front of the Dirim Farm shop in Bağarası (where you’ll also find jams and other yummy things to eat, and maybe even Öngör, the woman who runs both these establishments).

And, if you happen to be heading in the direction of any of these places in the company of friends who haven’t read about the “Eight Cases” (or the “Ottoman Princess”), you can find out just how much they’re paying attention…

8 vaka businesswoman

 

 

Oleanders

The oleanders by the side of our house/apt have just started to bloom! It’s late, I know, but we don’ get so much sun on us (a Good Thing for an Aegean summer), and our oleanders are probably not looked after as well as they should be. We only have a few – just enough for some color and shade.

We’ve got the kind with ‘single’ flowers – in white

Zakkumda Kus Detayi 2 (Bird in Oleander Detail 2)

and then we’ve got the kind with ‘double’ flowers – in pink.

Bird with pink oleander

I’ve been waiting for them to come out to do some more painting – but the Princesses are still taking up space in my ‘outdoor studio’ and the so-called ‘construction ban’ apparently hasn’t started (at least no one’s told the builders next door – and they’re almost done, so let them finish – please, lord…)

This means I should be in the ‘indoor studio’ working on some more ‘water drawings’.

For more paintings of oleanders, have a look at these mixed-media pieces from my exhibit at the now-defunct Ayna Gallery from a few years back.

Indolence…

water pastels boat trip 070516

It’s the lazy season around our house these days.
Next door there’s banging – lots of loud, house-building banging – which is unfortunate, because it’s just the time of year when my ‘outside studio’ is at its most pleasant.

The banging (and the occasional excruciating whine of metal slicing through metal) has been a good excuse for not carting the princesses up to the roof and buying a new piece of plywood to replace the studio table-top that rotted away in the winter rains – the two things that would need to happen to get the ‘outdoor studio’ functioning. But I’ll get it together before the summer heat makes the ‘indoor studio’ the less pleasant of the two workplace options. Right now I’m very happy inside – especially since my discovery of a few pieces of Canson in a lovely shade of blue at my local stationery store, just after I managed to rescue a new order of Sennelier pastels from the Customs…

So I’m enjoying – thoroughly enjoying – making more ‘water drawings’.

And I’m very pleased to say that the two most recent drawings are of ‘swimmers’ rather than ‘drowners’. (Although I am slightly worried that there might be an imminent shark attack below…)

water pastel 070516 swimming lesson shark

“Shoot the Artist at the Right Moment”

There’s some saying I heard once somewhere about how to create a masterpiece:
“Shoot the artist at the right moment.”

Basically, what that’s saying is that artists tend to overwork, never know when to quit, and in the process of going after perfection, end up fucking things up.

I was in the studio yesterday for the first time in what seems like ages (drawing table having been taken over by sewing materials, as it were), and after a couple of minutes, I stopped working, and this is what I saw:

water pastel 300416a

And  I had to work hard – really hard – to stop there.

I actually felt guilty that I could have finished a drawing so quickly. I felt like I was cheating if I didn’t keep going. A mix of Jewish guilt and Protestant work ethic and the sense that I was somehow getting away with something.

Luckily, I managed to overcome all this. Because this is one of my favorite water pastels of all the ones I’ve done so far (series – A4 paper – check out earlier posts if you like).

I’m not sure if I managed to maintain the same sense of spontaneity in this one:

 

water pastel 300416b

Luckily, I had to go cook dinner….

 

 

 

 

A Photographic Interlude

A Photographic Interlude

It was when Mel was in Istanbul being a poet that we were able to take over the house in Foça. In addition to some watercolors of the coastline, I managed to take some photos of some beautiful waterfalls inland, up towards Manisa.

Getting there was an adventure in itself (let’s just say that anytime you’re follow the directions of someone who’s kicking himself in the head because he didn’t Google it first, you really ought to Google it first) – and I’m really not someone who can sit down and start drawing or painting a place I’ve never been to before, anyway – I like to get the feel of a place by walking around and exploring before I can really get into examining it in detail from only one place – so I decided I would take photographs instead (as well as some video, because who knows?, it might come in handy some day).

I figured out a long time ago I was not going to be a professional photographer, and also that I don’t like to carry around a big, heavy camera, so I found myself a great Nikon that might not have all the options of a big ‘SLR’ – but that fits in my front pocket. It’s got a whole lot of gadgets on its ‘menu’, but it won’t let me play with apertures and focal lengths like I’d like to… so I’m sort of limited to ‘one-step-above-point-and-shoot’. Still, it gives me a record of where we’ve been to (and trust me, in this case, we’re not likely to find ourselves there again), keep some ‘digital sketches’ for whatever they might come in handy for, and occasionally act like I’m a ‘real’ photographer…

So, here is my photographic interlude:

pool at bottom of fallsShot Number 1: The Waterfall (because this is where we went)

 

harun at bottom of fallsShot Number 2: The Waterfall with Harun (because this is who I went with)

 

selfie waterfallShot Number 3: The Waterfall with Me and Harun (because a selfie is obligatory)

 

treesShot Number 4: Trees and Moss and Rocks (because I was trying to play with the focus on an auto-focus camera)

 

sepia treesShot Number 5: Trees and Moss and Rocks (because I was trying to be romantic with the sepia setting on the ‘menu’)

 

very cool waterfall poolShot Number 6: Water Falling in a Pool (because I was still trying to play with the focus on an auto-focus camera)

 

high waterfallShot Number 7: Waterfall (because it was a pretty tall waterfall after all)

 

dripsShot Number 8: Drips (because I like to crop things)

 

obliteratedxShot Number 9: Obliterated (because I like to crop things and I like Photoshop)

 

sudsShot Number 10: Suds  (because I really like to crop things and I really like Photoshop)

I hope you enjoyed this photographic interlude.
Now, get back to work!

 

 

 

Big! Bigger!! Biggest!!!

Foca landscape 4 fishing day

What a misleading title.
But then again, I think these photos are misleading, too.

Foça Fishing Day 1

When I look at them, it makes me want to make BIG paintings.
Which is kind of interesting, because I NEVER want to make big paintings.

Foca landscape 3 fishing day

But I could see making these big. At least as big as a couch painting.
A COUCH PAINTING!

Foca landscape 2 fishing day

How big do you think these are, anyway? Come on, take a guess…

Lone Fisherman

Well, at the moment, they’re big enough – or small enough – to fit in a daypack.
Which is pretty convenient when you’re out for a walk in the woods, or a stroll by the sea.

Thanks to recent technological advancements, I am seriously thinking about making these big. At least bigger than a backpack. After that I’ll just need someplace to put them.

Any takers?

Foca landscape 1 fishing day

 

But seriously, folks…

Whenever I’m asked about who has influenced me, I always think of my undergraduate printmaking professor at Washington University, Peter Marcus, and my favorite quote from him: “Make it big, do it in color, and have 100 by Friday.”

Well, I might not have had 100 by Friday, but I certainly liked doing them big and in color. We were lucky to have a very large press (Peter liked doing large prints himself), and so I was doing prints that were at just about a meter tall – just as large as the press could handle.

Back then it was mostly technology that dictated the size of my work. Nowadays it’s storage space.

Confession: While it may have been storage space that got me started doing small works, it’s the idea behind them that’s kept me going. (My friend Hüsnü used to tell people I was a conceptual painter, after all… )

I like the idea that people have to stop in front of my drawings and get up close to them to see what’s going on in them.

Not that they always do.

In fact, they mostly don’t.

But I’m stubborn, and I will continue to try to get people to pause.

And pay attention.

Buddhist mindfulness, and all that.

Heads Above Water

I think that’s going to be the title for my most recent oil pastel drawing in my series of water drawings.

Water Pastel 010416

When I was finishing this drawing, part of me wanted to paint out the white ‘waves’ so that the drawing would be just 2 disembodied heads in a field of blue.
But I kind of like that there is some consistency in how I’ve drawn water over the years.
Consider this drawing of a Bodrum landscape from a few years ago…

Pembe Sis

And then again, I thought of how the video that was part of my ‘Homesickness’ installation was also basically an image of somewhat disembodied people in the water…

inst13

Maybe it’s time to make some more videos…

 

 

Take me to the river, drop me in the water

Water Pastel 040316

Well, not the river but the sea, and I am feeling immersed in it, even though I am presently sitting well above the high-water mark inside a cafe overlooking the sea and Kos. The waves appear to be coming from the west – a reverse-migration? You might not believe me, but the lit-up waves are looking to me just as they do in this picture.

I believe this is a picture of a father and son, son inside a little plastic blow-up tube, probably hasn’t quite learned how to swim yet. The swimming lesson may have been interrupted by something they’ve seen…

Water Pastel 050316

The drawing above started out as two girls talking to each other as they crouched down in the shallow water. Somehow it morphed into two men holding onto a sinking rubber boat, waiting to be rescued…

I was getting a little depressed finding that all my swimmers were morping into drowners; so, I decided to draw a kayaker. She appears to be doing okay, although heading towards a rocky shore…

Water Pastel 090316

I got a message the other day that there the Citizens’ Advisory Council (“Kent Konseyi”) is organizing an exhibit of Bodrum artists; we all get to have 2 pieces in the show. That makes me happy, because I won’t have to choose between swimmers and drowners. I can have both. Bodrum. Just like I pictured it.