Prints!

I spent several months this fall in the print shop at Mimar Sinan, Istanbul’s fine arts university.  I first stepped into the school not having made a single etching, block print or aquatint for years, so I had to roll up my sleeves and start from scratch on this one.  Working in the Gravür Atölyesi, or print studio, reminded me of my print making class in college…except for this time I had to pay extra attention because all of the instructions were in Turkish.

The reason why I found myself with ink covered hands and working among Turkish fine arts students was to make work for an upcoming print exhibition.  Since I am a painter primarily I needed to spend a few months coming up with new work for this show.  After many weeks of drawing, etching, inking, pressing and learning many new Turkish words…I had made a series of 3 prints, all reflecting my current theme of interior and exterior spaces.

On the night of the opening, we crossed the Bosphorus to Kuzguncuk, on the Asian side of Istanbul to see my work hanging along with 24 other print artists.  The best part of this process for me is of course sharing my work, celebrating with friends and loved ones…and seeing that little red dot on the wall.

A very special thank you to Can Aytekin for the invitation to participate in this show, and for all of the help and patience.  Also to my friends and family, and to Ozgur for all of your love and support this fall.

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“Untitled” Etching and Aquatint on Paper, 2014

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“Pekmaz Yaparken” Dry Point Print on Paper, 2014

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“Interior/Exterior” Etching and Aquatint on Paper. Credit for the original photograph of this piece goes to Heather Freedman.

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Snake Churches, an Underground City and Star Wars

With the end of 2014 around the corner, its time to play catch up.  When I began this blog in 2011, I was an avid poster…but travels, moves and wandering got the best of me and about a year ago I fell behind.  Now, with the inspiration of the new year, new studio and much work to be made, I’m determined to become more grounded and settle back into my routines..

With this in mind, here are a few shots from the end of my residency in Cappadocia last fall.  I have now been to the heart of Anatolia so many times that it is becoming as familiar as Istanbul, and with each visit I discover more of the region’s less touristy routes.  In May of this year, I traveled with a friend along a winding road which passed through small villages, carved rock monasteries and ended in an open air museum which was promised  to leave us feeling as though we had walked through a landscape from Star Wars.  We followed a small map marked in pen, and stopped at all the locations suggested by our residency host.  As our rental car traveled along, we felt a bit like players in a video game as we checked off from our list of tasks for the journey; 1) have breakfast in Mustafapaşa 2) stop at the Keslik Monestary and inform the gateman that we were sent from special friends in order to get the 5 lira entry 3) have tea with the gateman after our tour of the Monastery 4) Stop in the “criminal” village of Mazi and find the only man in the village with access into the underground city….and the list went on.

By the time we reached the open air museum at Soğanlı, the last stop on our map, we had found hidden churches, secret wells, archaic doorways, hid out in our car during a wind storm and plunged deep into underground tunnels alone with a with a drunk tour guide who kept running away into the shadows only to jump out again and scare us.  We were covered in dust, exhausted, hungry, but knew somehow that our friendship would be something special after sharing this experience together.

After my residency period ended this fall, I was joined by my boyfriend, and we decided to do the same tour with 2 other artists from my program.  We stopped in all of the same places as I directed us along with the map I had used in May.  When we arrived in Mazi and found the underground city, I was surprised to see a few other tourists, and our guide (fully sober) dressed in an all white suit for the Bayram.  A number of new rooms in the city had been opened, and though the tour still involved climbing up narrow tunnels with only wooden blocks feebly nailed to the passage walls as steps..the experience had inevitably changed since my visit in the spring, and made me realize how quickly Cappadocia is changing through tourism.

At our last stop in Soğanlı, we explored the cave churches, climbed slippery stone steps and picked fresh apples as we walked along the paths between each sight.  During the trip in May, my friend and I had to find solace in our car as a dust storm forced us to miss out on most of Soğanlı’s churches.  But as we watched the dust swirl outside of our windows, I was filled with the joy of a newly formed friendship.  In early October, the calm weather allowed me to climb every step and peer into each crevice, and although the experience lacked the fresh excitement of that windy day in spring, I was discovering what I had not seen months before.  I was also accompanied by someone for whom I was realizing more love for everyday.

With each new experience, I find new love and appreciation for this life and the people I share it with.

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Village Collaboration

Sometimes collaboration comes in unexpected ways and methods.  Here are some images of door rubbings done in an antique dealer’s depo in Ibrahimpasa, Cappadocia…a project he was so happy and excited to help me with.

I’m not sure what direction to take these in, but the process of working with others, especially those who are not directly involved in the “art world,” makes me realize how much we have to learn from each other…

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Drawing on Location

Below are a few shots showing my process of drawing on village streets in Cappadocia last month…

As I was making this post, I was trying to think of a way to describe why I love drawing on location so much.  In the end, I couldn’t put it into more perfect words than this quote from my friend, fellow artist, and former professor Doug Russell:

“It’s the visceral quality of it.  If you are drawing from a photograph or memory, you have all day…or week…or year.  That infinite time can be good or bad, though it can sometimes lead to procrastination or boredom or overworking.  If you are looking at something in real time, the light is changing, the weather is changing, you’re changing.  There are bugs and people, there’s wind or rain.  It makes every choice more powerful, individual, unique, exciting, frustrating, challenging and scary because it is either going to succeed or fail in that moment.  As opposed to other studio work that can take months, and move through several failures and successes, the drawing done on location is either going to work or not work.”

This quote was taken from my interview with Doug last summer.  To read more, click here for part one of our interview, and here for part two.

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Gece/Night

I started sketching at night during my stay in Cappadocia last summer, and found  it so interesting to compare what could be seen or not seen during the night, as apposed to broad daylight.  This fall, despite the dropping temperatures, I found myself outdoors most evenings…doing quick studies, taking photographs or making longer drawings with my fellow artists.

“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

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“Ibrahimpasa at Night 1” Mixed Media on Paper, 2014

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“Ibrahimpasa at Night 2” Mixed Media on Paper, 2014

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Photo Credit: Artist Heather Freedman

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Pekmez Yaparkan

Fall in Cappadocia is a time for harvesting.  All along the village streets, women sit in front of their homes to remove seeds from piles of fresh pumpkins or pick white beans from their stocks.  Crates of grapes are carried home in the back of every tractor and the air is filled with a smell of burning wood as the grapes are boiled down into pekmez..

Pekmez is a kind of molasses made from grape juice, and since Cappadocia grows some of the best grapes in Turkey, you can find this thick syrup prepared in nearly every household in the area.

The process is fairly simple, but long and a bit exhausting.  I was invited into several homes to help with making pekmez during my stay at BCH this September.  The grapes are first gathered into large tarp bags and then stomped continuously until juice runs out from the bags and through a tube and into a plastic basin.  My job was to carry the basin full of juice to a large copper pot where it would eventually be boiled.  We occasionally dipped a cup into the juice as it was pouring out to enjoy a fresh glass while we worked.  When the copper basin was at last filled, it was placed on a fire and cooked until it was frothy and boiling.

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The pekmez is cooked for hours and nothing else is added to it besides a few large ladles of a special volcanic dirt…I was told that this addition is what makes the pekmez so sweet, and without it the taste would be sour.

Families work late into the night, and wake early in the morning to continue until all the grapes are stomped and boiled..resulting in an abundance of sweet golden colored liquid to be sold and consumed with nearly every meal for the coming winter months.  the entire process takes days, but I found it to be such an enjoyable event with lots of time to visit with family, friends and new guests.

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A page from my sketchbook, “Making Pekmez” September, 2014

I managed to make a pekmez drawing in the midst of the one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever been apart of…sitting under a tarp in the rain, while pots of pekmez boiled in front of us, sketching continuously even though the smoke from the fire burned our eyes, eating fresh potatoes cooked directly on the coals, and dipping bread into a bowl of pekmez cooked just hours before..an indescribable moment that can only be attempted to capture through drawing.

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Sarah in Babayan

Due to some visa confussion, Sarah and I had to reroute our journey back down South to Ankara.  I was leaving for India in less than a week and the Embassy still had my passport!  I could go into this stressful side story that involves leaving Sarah at the bus station, jumping into a cab and speeding to the Indian Embassy minutes before it closes, dodging cars as I make my way to the embassy across the street while my taxi driver somehow convinces them to let me in after business hours…..and after all of that, I did make it back in time to catch the bus, but my passport and visa had to be sent to me later on.

This was all a major inconvenience.  However, because we were so close to Kapadokya, I ended up taking Sarah back to Babayan where we spent 2 blissful days.  We loved our time on the Black Sea, but felt as though something was missing.  We had fallen in love with the unrivaled hospitality of central Turkey on previous adventures, and though it had been fascinating to visit a new part of the country, we missed the warm heartedness of Anatolia.  In Ibrahimpaşa, we were reminded of why we return to this country again and again.

We spent our short time in the village visiting friends I had made during my residency, getting invited into homes for tea and sweets, taking walks with the resident donkey, sketching as the sun went down, having dinner with artists, and attending an open studio at BCH.  Time went so fast and before I knew it, we had to be on our way to Istanbul.  Though it was short, I was so grateful to share this special place with my dear dear friend from home…and nothing can replace it.

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Sarah sketching in the village at night

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A page from my sketchbook, Ibrampasa as the sun goes down.

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