Could you please tell us something about yourself?
I create sculptures, installations, movies and prints. I aim to create in a simple and quiet form without too many details or instructions in order to allow space for personal connections. There is always a theme which often times has been developing through years of observation and research. There is variety of subjects I am interested in but mostly I find myself going back to the concept of time. I am interested in tracing the shifts over time in cultural values by referencing history, anthropology, philosophy, theology, architecture and other disciplines. My intent is to engage the community in understanding how our norms and values within the present landscape were shaped by the past and how the future will form them. I am also interested in current events such as the war in Syria, refugees, women with no rights in Islamic countries. But I also create just imaginary people with imaginary tales which I enjoy quite a bit.
Let me explain what I mean by all this by talking about a few examples of my work: “Journey of a Thousand Years” includes an installation and fifteen bronze sculptures. This exhibition was an analysis of how the self is shaped over time. I also wanted to emphasize how important it is to know ourselves so that we can identify our purposes in life. The installation piece “Rehearsing Mirrors” is about the roles we play in front of different audiences. It is a large 4×8 feet piece and it includes golden mirrors etched with the face of a mime. When you looked at the installations you would see your own fractured image which becomes part of the artwork as if you are rehearsing. Each sculpture looks at their reflection either in water or a mirror. The mirrors have etched images representing an aspect of the self, such as memories, values, beliefs, false identities and everything else that define us.
“Words” was an installation and an audio exhibit. It was about listening to each other more. I was inspired by a poem I read as a child, which led me to imagine that words would fly up in the skies and ceilings forever if they are not heard. So I created this installation which represented the floating words themselves by making about 350 transparent spheres using a Japanese technique and I hung them from the ceiling so that they would sway with the air flow. In the audio part you would hear people’s responses to some personal questions. The questions were who they are and what they would want to change in themselves. It was difficult for many people but they were all honest about their answers. During the opening night of this exhibition in Chicago last year, a mother and her daughter came. I told them about my inspirations. Then, the girl who was about 4-5 asked whether if the spheres can they talk, and it made me so happy just to know that someone believed in my art and my imagination.
“Floating Children” was intended to display the fragility of children in times of war. I collaborated with photojournalist Brian Rutter from Ireland. I hung his photographs of Syrian children printed on sheer fabric in a way to seem like they are floating in the wind. I was inspired by a Japanese woodblock from 18th century by Torii Kiyohiro of a woman whose letters were carried away by a sudden wind. I meant to say that these children can also be carried away and disappear. So this was more of a cause-driven art installation. (summary for the last two paragraphs: “Words” installation, which included an audio element, was aimed to encourage people to listen to each other more. In “Floating Children”, a collaboration with photojournalist Brian Rutter, the installation featuring floating transparent fabric with photographs of Syrian children was my way of speaking to the fragility of children in times of war.)
My art has won major fellowships and awards including the 2018 Moon and Stars Project Grant; 2018 Executive Level and 2017 Fellow for the Business Accelerator Program by the Clark Hulings Fund, 2018 Kristal Martı award by KALID; and the 2017 Tending Space Fellowship for Artists by Hemera Foundation. I am also an elected Member of the National Sculpture Society (NSS). My work was widely publicized in Arttour International, Amplified Art Network, Fort Morgan Times, Pittsburgh Articulate, The Tribune Review, Les Femmes Folles, the Daily Camera, Chicago Reader, The Examiner and Reporter Herald.
Solo exhibitions of my work have been organized at the Customs House Museum, Clarksville, TN (2020); BoxHeart Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA, (2019); Helena Davis Gallery, Artspace, Richmond, VA, (2018); Arts/Harmony Hall, Fort Washington, MD; Light Space & Time Art Gallery; Dole Mansion, IL (2017); Memorial Hall Galleries, Chadron, NE (2016); CACE Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Morgan, CO (2015); Smith Klein Gallery, Boulder, CO (2014); Consortium816 Gallery, Denver, CO (2012); and Denver Performance Arts Complex, Denver, CO (2004).
Select group exhibitions featuring my work include Susquehanna Art Museum, Harrisburg, PA; Foundry Art Center, Saint Charles, MO; Pollak Gallery, Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ (2018); Sarah Spurgeon Gallery, Central Washington University, WA; Core New Art Space, Denver, CO; Irving Arts Center, TX; Spark Gallery, Denver, CO; Ground Floor Gallery, Nashville, TN; Allegany Arts Council, Cumberland, MD (2017); Brookgreen Gardens, SC; Maryland Federation of Art Summer Annex, Annapolis, MD; Core Annex Gallery, Denver, CO; Armaggan Galeries, Istanbul, Turkey (2016); Lacuna Galleries, Santa Fe, NM; Hilliard Gallery, Kansas City, MO; Loveland Public Library Galleria, Loveland, CO; The Studio Door, San Diego, CA; Box Heart Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA (2015); Open Studios, Boulder, CO (2014); Bunzl Gallery, Highlands, NC; Bell Studio Gallery, Denver, CO; Sculpture in the Park Show, Loveland, CO (2013); Women’s Works at Woodstock, IL; B.J. at the Spoke Gallery, New York; Hilton-Asmus Gallery, Chicago, IL; Littleton Museum, CO; SOFA Chicago, Chicago, IL; Elinoff Gallery, Telluride CO (2012); Art at the River Market, Little Rock, AR; Rembrandt Yard Gallery, Boulder, CO (2011); and Event Gallery, Denver, CO (2009).
As it has been seen in your installations and other works, you have an intense interest in Ottoman and Islamic history. Could you please tell us about this tendency of yours and the reasons behind it?
I am fascinated by Turkish myths, poetry, cultural art forms such as traditional carpet making and ceramics. I am also interested in Islamic architecture, geometric patterns, and rhythmic sequences in sacred places. But my interest is not limited to Turkish and Islamic culture and history. You may find influences of Asian and African cultures in my. For example, in my “Time” series I made bronze sculptures inlaid with gold, which is a Japanese concept of treating breakage as part of the past of an object, called kintsugi. I also employed Japanese fabric manipulation techniques in some of my installations. In my stone sculptures you could trace influences from African art.
Rather than emulating the history I am interested in bringing it to the present by innovating and redesigning.
For example in the “Clothes from the Past” exhibition, I wanted to present a past culture’s sophistication in a contemporary form. So I recreated clothes worn by women and children in Turkey and Europe between the 17th and 19th centuries using metal. I also employed materials that I collected from Turkey and other parts of Asia as embellishments. The metals I used were industrial metals even though they look like a high quality fabric from a distance. But they are mainly made of brass, copper, stainless steel and monel. In some cases I heat treated them or applied chemicals to develop new colors and textures. Then I added contemporary embellishments to them which were my own designs. I did an extensive research on motifs, textiles and clothing patterns of the time from literature sources and miniatures and I had a great time during the period I created these because it was like going back in history and bringing all this to the present.
By adding my own designs I felt like I was inciting a dialogue between the past and the present.
I am also interested in languages and calligraphy, which I use on my prints and installations. I find Arabic letters enticing. Even if an inscription is not legible its mere presence delivers a powerful aesthetic message. In addition to Arabic letters, I am also attracted to Japanese scripts, Chinese characters and ancient languages.
Last year I created fifteen large monoprints which I call “Overwritten Scripts”. In one of them I printed sacred texts from the Hebrew Bible, New Testament manuscripts in Greek, and in Aramaic and Quran in Arabic. At the moment I am creating an installation inspired by palimpsests which are ancient manuscripts that survive as faint traces beneath others. I am also interested in Islamic architecture for example I use mashrabiyas which are projectings enclosed with carved wood latticework.
It seems that you approach time as your fundamental perspective. There are many of your works addressing to the fragility and temporality of time. Well, what do you think about the way that humans should take between the present and future?
The French philosopher Henri Bergson defines time as a continuous flow where each moment contains the memory left by the previous one. I am interested in these relationships, connections and changes that take place over a period of time. These can be changes taking place both in individuals or cultural societies. I am fascinated for example with the changes in our own personalities, or the changes in values, norms, traditions, fashion and even the concept of beauty. I refer to history, anthropology, theology, philosophy and architecture and many other disciplines to trace these shifts in time.
In my “Time” series which included eleven bronze sculptures, I wanted to emphasize the importance of being aware and being in the moment. The sculptures had clocks or a reference to time. And to suggest the frailty of each moment I added gold to each sculpture which is a Japanese concept of treating breakage as part of the past of an object. In my autobiographical short movie, I wanted to display changes that took place in my own life when I left Turkey behind and moved to US.
“Journey of a Thousand Years” which consisted of an installation and fifteen bronze sculptures was an analysis of how the self is shaped over time.
My “Overwritten Scripts” elaborate on how the manipulation of religious scripture influenced social and cultural norms in a way to deprive women of their given basic rights. So this was a reflection on the changes of social norms by time.
And my next project “A Dialogue Between Past and the Future” is about combining the past and the future within the present. I am creating a series of work in which I will portray the power and grace of classical Greek sculpture together with cutting edge components. And here is why: With all the technological developments, I know how exciting the future is. However, I am also passionate about our norms and values honoring sensible relationships which form the meaning in life.
I would like to demonstrate that a present is possible where we can hold on to our values that encourage face to face interactions and human intimacy while moving on to an exciting future. This will be an extensive project which will be possible only with strong collaborations and funding so at this time I am recruiting partners. I believe that one should live in the present and be in the moment, while holding on to our norms and values which form the meaning in life, yet be excited about the future.
You have been showing your works domestically and internationally. In this case, where do you associate yourself and your works more?
How I love being back in Istanbul in the lovely days of summer every year, taking the ferry and drinking tea with the lightness of being a visitor in my old familiar neighborhoods. Of course, I associate with Turkey where I was born and raised with all the memories and old stories that we repeat every time. And there is also the assuring feeling of belongingness even if it is a rapidly changing landscape. But where I am is where I chose to live. I am at home here more than any other place. During our travels however, I come across other places that I feel that I belong. For example, Japan. I feel more connected to earth every time we visit Japan and meet with the Japanese people living respectful lives weaved with traditions. So perhaps I don’t really belong to a particular place.
In most of your sculptures, you have been inspired by the gray color. When I tend to associate time and the gray color I have been stucked between the portrayals of the limbo and the dulness. What was your relationship with color when you create your works?
In my sculptures, I am more interested in form than color. So I use mostly grey which is to me a quiet color. It doesn’t take away from the form of a sculpture. I am also interested in the contrast it forms with gold which I use extensively in my sculptures, installations and prints. Gold is considered sacred in many cultures in history and it is associated with Gods and immortality by the ancient people. For me it symbolizes timelessness, nobility and eternity.