Les Femmes Folles, January 9, 2015: Artist Belgin Yucelen is exhibiting in Box Heart Gallery’s 14th Annual Inter/National Exhibition (Jan. 13-Mar. 13, 2015 see boxheartgallery.com for details). The Boulder, Colorado and Istanbul-based artist generously shares with Les Femmes Folles about how she came to artmaking, her work “Impudence” included in the Box Heart show, how her hometowns compare to Pittsburgh for artists and more (see complementary interview in Pittsburgh Articulate).
Where are you from? How did you get into art?
I lived in Istanbul during the first half of my life and in Boulder, Colorado during the second half. Nowadays, I feel that I belong to a land in between.
The men of my family, my father, grandfather, uncle and brother were all born with a strong talent for storytelling and drawing. All the women were equally creative and prolific with always an ongoing craft in hand. Growing up with stories of unlimited imagination and the joy of creating educed my passion for arts.
I started painting when I was 15-16 years old and I educated myself in arts at the only library with art books which was located at the American Consulate on the other side of the Bosporus Strait. I went to school for engineering to follow my father’s footsteps in Istanbul, then earned a doctoral degree in US. I worked in the field many years full time creating when I had the time. I was able to work part time after a while and finally in 2011 became a full time artist. I am now sculpting and making prints everyday and feel like I am fulfilling my purpose in life.
“Who I Am”
Tell me about your inspirations, process.
The human figure is the main source of my work. For me art is the aesthetic appreciation of beauty. But beauty can be formed out of ugliness as long as it is presented poetically.
Both sculpting and printing are ways to communicate for me, a way to record my emotions. They provide an imagery where I can present my ideas and beliefs. I would like to see my work as a philosophical journey through the essential elements of life. When it is time for the realization of an idea, I start. There is always a call, but the result is unknown even though I know why I am making it.
To me art is beautiful if it is simple and quiet. I sculpt and draw ideas offering the viewers the opportunity to self-reflect and connect with them through their own experiences.
Creating is exhausting, but it is rewarding. Clay and ink are responsive but hand has its own dreams, there is always a surprise element. I stop when I see my idea born together with some magic. Creating is an act of giving for me.
“Man and the Bird”
Tell me about your work to be included in Inter/National and why it’s important to you.
One of my most recent sculptures “Impudence” will be displayed at the Art Inter/National exhibition at the Box Heart Gallery in Pittsburgh between January 19 and March 5, 2015. This sculpture is one of a series of sculptures I created during last year under the series “a journey of a thousand years”. This solo exhibition is in a way an invitation to an inner journey.
My exhibition is intended to inspire the viewers to travel the undiscovered lands of the self and recognize their purpose in life. We are complex beings with many facets of our personalities. Self comprises our values, goals, beliefs, roles we play, and the thoughts and feelings derived from real and imagined relationships. But more importantly what really underlies who we are is how we see ourselves in our own mirrors and the value we put for our self-worth. This is why I think it is important to travel our inner journeys to find and value our skills and talents and respect our intelligence and our beliefs in order to be content.
Each sculpture is an examination of a different aspect of the self and I am hoping that each will be a step in getting closer to realization of our selves. Some sculptures are figures looking at mirrors with laser etched images of memories and different personalities we assume in life. Some have figures looking at their reflections in the water. They represent identities framed out of lived experiences and rehearsed or glorifying self images, how we see ourselves and how this leads to the emotional judgment we make about our self-worth.
Do you think your city is a good place for women in art? Do you show your work elsewhere/is there a difference in how your work is received?
There is a large community of artists living in Boulder although we are mostly disconnected. It is a dream of mine to establish a community space where artists would gather and exchange ideas. In 2014, there have been some efforts by the city of Boulder in raising public awareness and funding for public art and establishing an arts community, which are promising. There are a few art galleries however people tend to spend more on outdoors equipment then arts, unfortunately. I have galleries representing me in Telluride, Denver, Boulder Chicago, Istanbul and Park City, Utah. I would say in general people in Istanbul and Park City are both more arts oriented than the rest. When I participated in the SOFA show in Chicago I sold 11 sculptures in two days which is a number hard to reach in Colorado in any show. High quality art fairs, museums, public art adds a civilized touch and increases public awareness for arts. I am not aware of any differences between how men and women artists are received in Boulder. But I am very happy here as an artist.
“Humor and Impudence”
Artist Wanda Ewing, who curated and titled the original LFF exhibit, examined the perspective of femininity and race in her work, and spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?
I do not think of feminism when I create. I think of humanity more.
If you could make one wish for art today, what would it be?
I would wish that art would not be seen as luxury. Art provides an imagery where reality becomes more clear. Art lifts us from “now” to strangest timeless lands transferring ideas and emotions across time and countries. Art gathers people together. Art is a necessity.
What do you think is the most important issue facing artists today?
I admire quiet and traditional approaches to art. However, some modern or non-traditional art has a certain crispness and freshness to it which I find very attractive. However contemporary artists seeking originality sometimes forget the purpose of art which is expressing emotions, values and ideas in an aesthetic way. Art has to be something you would want to look at again and again.
Ewing’s advice to aspiring artists was “you’ve got to develop the skill of when to listen and when not to;” and “Leave. Gain perspective.” What is the most helpful advice you have received?
“Build a solid routine”, by choreographer Twyla Tharp “Start something new right away and don’t look back”, by author Steven Pressfield.
Les Femmes Folles is a completely volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with the online journal, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins. LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012 and 2013, available onblurb.com, including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists. A portion of the proceeds from LFF books and products benefit the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund.