Happy New Year: Get Back to Work!

Yes, it’s December, and since there is relatively no Christmas and even less Hannukah here in Foça, it’s time to get into the New Year’s spirit, which means…

Resolutions! Now is the perfect time to decide to (as Akbar and Jeff used to say) get back to work!

And what better way to procrastinate getting back to work than designing new business cards!

My first choice was this image (above) from an installation that was part of an exhibit I organized around 10 years ago called “Art Windows”. The exhibit was held in vacant shops in Turgutreis (Bodrum, Turkey), which, sadly, accounted for a depressingly large percentage of the downtown real estate. If I remember right, we had about 20 shops lend us their empty spaces to fill with paintings, sculptures, etc. At the opening, we basically walked around town with the mayor, a city-council member, and all of the local press, as if we were tourists traipsing around with a tour guide. The local tv station showed a clip of the event all summer long, making it some of the cheapest publicity the town had ever seen. And the artwork looked good, I must say. My piece was an installation that occupied an empty shop that was once a grocers and was still filled with dusty jars of fruit preserves and tomato and pepper paste.

As far as these cards go, I’m pretty much sure I need that Dewey quote there, since I want to focus on projects involving art and education. I’m also pretty sure I want something multi-media – wouldn’t want anyone to mistake me for “just” a painter… When I took a browse through some old flash drives, I found this:

Evoking curiosity is a good thing, so I don’t mind that it might be hard to tell from the pic that this is a picture of a group weaving project. Anyone who passed by the “Çatal Ada Art, Culture and Environment” association’s stall at the second-hand market in Turgutreis was invited to do a little weaving. While the other charities were selling used clothing, we tried to have a different art project every week – mainly for kids, but we had adults interested, too. In fact, since we were close to Milas, a big carpet center, I shouldn’t have been surprised when one of the women at the market just took over the project… constructed from scrap fabrics from my brother-in-law’s old workplace. “A fun afternoon was had by all.”

The next choice for cards is from an afternoon of fun with my husband on Çatal Ada, the little island off of Turgutreis that our association got our name from. This time I had tagged along with Harun on a fishing expedition, and as usual, I found something to keep me occupied. Since I hadn’t brought my drawing kit with me, I ended up “drawing” with the trash I found on the island. Basically, I sewed a necklace out of it. (We wouldn’t have enough room in our little boat to have taken it back to the mainland and disposed of it properly, so I figured I’d at least string it all together so it wouldn’t blow away and it would be easy enough for someone with a bigger boat to haul back. I am happy to say, that that is exactly what happened.)

The next choice is from the latest work I’ve done, which was exhibited in a group show in Foça (Izmir) last month. It’s a double exposure (i.e., it’s a Photoshopped version) of an article of clothing that had washed up on the shore outside Foça – along with a lot of other clothing, a torn life vest, and a shredded rubber boat of the kind used by migrants attempting to cross the Aegean from Turkey to Europe. I took the original photos during another fishing expedition with Harun. (I’ve been tagging along much more rarely, and these days I tend to take a camera instead of drawing supplies.) I can’t really put into words the feeling that I had that day (“perverse fascination” seems to come closest, “obsession” might do) – which I guess is why I do visual rather than some other type of art. I spent a long time photographing the various articles of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing that had washed up and been caked with sand, and when I was done, I packed up some of the items in a plastic bag I found lying there and took them home. I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I just couldn’t leave them there. Somehow, it just didn’t seem right.

The group exhibit in Foça was an interesting experience, because when we were hanging up the work we got into a discussion about how to “hang” the work appropriately so it could be looked at in its best light as a distinct work of art. I had a hard time explaining that I sort of have a problem with all that lies behind that assumption in the first place, and so I sort of gave up – but I was still insistent that the “quadruptych” of 4 photos didn’t need to be on a white wall, that the glass-brick wall of the space was just fine by me. That led to ensuing discussions over the course of the week-long exhibit about whether or not I was making a mistake… and it also led to an experiment on my part whereby mid-week I added a low table on which the washed and folded articles of clothing from the photos were displayed. I’m not sure whether or not turning the work into an installation added anything or not – a discussion with one visitor to the exhibit led me to suspect it might have even taken something away.

I’d actually done a version of the card with a black border rather than a white border first –

and it’s certainly easier to see it here (against the white page), although the white border looks (somewhat) more like a “traditional” business card.

The other card options are more variations on the “pomegranate” theme,

the last one being without Mr. Dewey’s quote. (Did you know he founded the New School of Social Research in NY? I didn’t. Research.

Input, anyone?…

“Calendar Boys”: A “Lost” Installation Refound

Calendar Boy 1

When we moved from Bodrum to Foça last May, I had the task of cleaning out my studio. It hadn’t had a good spring cleaning in around 10 years, and being a natural pack-rat (a  good characteristic for someone who makes collages, but a bad one for someone with a small studio space), I found some things I didn’t even know I had.

One of those things was a series of photographs of an installation I had done while I was at Hacettepe, back in the days before smartphones and wifi, when people still took photographs with cameras that had film and that you could hold in your hands and shuffle around to look at. (Didn’t that used to be fun?)

I am happy to have rediscovered this piece. It was installed in a room/alcove near the entrance to the university’s faculty/grad-student cafeteria. The actual cafeteria was upstairs, but the line to get in was so long that it went all the way down a flight of steps and past my exhibit – so it was as if I had professors and grad students lining up for my exhibit nearly every day!

I have no memory of a title, but I hope that I named it “Calendar Boys”.  At any rate, that’s what I’m calling it now. It consisted of a bed covered in pink plush, with a pink plush pillow, pink plus slippers, and a pink plush-covered book hanging over the bed, which was sitting in the middle of the gallery/alcove that opened on to the “lunch line”.  The back wall was all windows, and on the other two walls I hung 12 framed black-and-white photos (6 on each wall) of classical Greek and Roman statues – all male nudes.

The installation was set up to encourage people to walk around and look at the photos on the walls

Calendar Boy 4

and then to lie down on the bed and look at the pictures in the book.

Calendar Boy 3

The pictures in the book were the exact same pictures that were on the walls, except that I had coloured the ones in the book (with a bit of sepia-toned and watercolour photoshopping) to make them look “more realistic”.

Calendar Boy 5

Basically, the book was my version of a “pin-up calendar” – except for women: “Twelve Months, Twelve Naked Men”.

Calendar Boy 6

(There are 10 more, but these should be enough for you to get the idea.)

As with most of my work, this installation had more questions than answers.  The ones I started out with were:

“Why are ‘nude’ statues ‘art’, and ‘naked’ pictures ‘pornography’? Or is that even true?” and “Why is it ‘normal’ to look at pictures of nude/naked women, but ‘not normal’ to look at pictures of nude/naked men?”

After the piece was installed, I had another question:

“Was anyone actually looking at it? And if so, who?”

Since I couldn’t be hanging out unobtrusively in the background every minute of the entire week of the exhibit, that question was going to be hard to answer. Luckily, I was able to get some feedback from the gentleman responsible for managing the activities in the building – who, it turned out, was also very curious about the exhibit, and who was better placed than I was to be able to keep an eye on what was going on in the gallery space (and who was also kind enough to let me take his photograph while he was lying in the pink plush bed, wearing a pair of pink plush slippers, looking at the “Calendar Boys”).

According to my informant (I no longer remember his name), although not so many people were as inclined as he was to enjoy the comforts of pink plush, quite a lot of people – mostly women, and mostly when the lunch line was gone, so there was no one watching – were going up and looking at the pictures on the walls, and then opening up the pink plush book for inspection…. (Note to myself: If I ever recreate this piece, I will have to use a bigger bed, so that the only way to get a hold of that book is to get into bed with it.)

Calendar Boy 2

Princesses at the Castle

Have you had a chance to see my piece “Have Your Photograph Taken as an Ottoman Princess” on exhibit at the Bodrum Castle as part of the 2nd International Bodrum Biennial? Well, you won’t any time soon – despite the fact that my name is still on the list of participating artists on the biennial website and has been on the blog of the exhibit since way back at the beginning of July.

Entrance (1)_sm

 Entrance (2)_sm

Another princess sm

Farm and Business princesses_sm

Bodrum P text sm

The first princess sm

Fist princess x2 sm

 

 

The pictures above are from the “Princesses” very first hours at the castle – and also their very last.

Whether or not their removal was a matter of censorship or just a bureaucratic fuckup is still unclear; however, eventually I intend to get to the bottom of this…

“Ottoman Princess”: 9 Lives

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:

OP3 BB PRINCESS

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)

OP4 BB

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.

OP8 BB

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:

OP9 BB

or like this:

OP7 BB

or like this:

OP1 BB

or like this:

OP6 BB

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:

OP2 BB

and

OP5 BB

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…

“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.

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