Pittsburgh Articulate, January 27, 2015

Pittsburgh Articulate, January 27, 2015

Belgin Yucelen Interview with Sally Deskins

Belgin Yucelen. Image courtesy of the artist.

Artist Belgin Yucelen is exhibiting in Box Heart Gallery’s 14th Annual Inter/National Exhibition, January 13 – March 13, 2015.  

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.

Belgin Yucelen, Allegories.  Image courtesy of the artist.

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.

Belgin Yucelen, Humor and Impudence.  Image courtesy of the artist.

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.

What do you think of the Pittsburgh art scene?

My introduction to Pittsburgh art scene was through the Box Heart Gallery when they accepted one of my bronze pieces for an exhibition. Pittsburgh offers a number of non-commercial venues with a few private galleries. It seems to be a very exciting place to be for an artist, with great museums, and art events. However, I believe there is room for improvement. More private galleries, public art and grants for artists could make Pittsburgh more of an arts community.

Do you think Pittsburgh is a good place for women in art and in general?

Pittsburgh seems to be a great place to be for an artist. There is support from the community and non-profit organizations, museums offer educational exhibits, art programs and classes are available.  But like many other small cities, more can be done.

What could Pittsburgh do better to bring in more artists?

The galleries, museums and any other non-profit or community based venues might invite national and international artist to display their work through temporary shows and annual art fairs. Residency programs would attract artists as well.  In other cities, I have seen initiatives to coordinate between wall spaces or display areas at businesses and public facilities and artists who are looking into showing their work. These types of programs do attract emerging artists.

Belgin Yucelen, Man and the Bird.  Image courtesy of the artist.

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.

 Does feminism play a role in your work? 

I do not think of feminism when I create. I think of humanity more.

Belgin Yucelen, Who am I.  Image courtesy of the artist.

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.

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.


Twitter/Belgin Yucelen

facebook/belginyucelen’s sculptures


Sally Deskins is founding editor of Les Femmes Folles, a completely volunteer run organization founded with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art; femmesfollesnebraska.tumblr.com.



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