Saturday, June 30, 2007
The question is asked in the spirit of education. Says Documenta Director Buergel, “Today, education seems to offer one viable alternative to the devil (didacticism, academia) and the deep blue sea (commodity fetishism).”
Let’s see, has this been my experience? Has educating myself as an artist or my students or the general public, all of which I have done and continue to do, offered me an alternative to academia or capitalism? No, it has not. To be respected as an artist I must commodify myself, and this is what Kloe is part of. There are so many wannabe academics out there that we can only distinguish ourselves by our success in the marketplace. And that meat market demands artists with impressive resumes coming from first rate art schools who started showing straight out of grad school at the age of 26. I am totally f***ed.
So what is to be done? I have to go back to SoCal, grit my teeth, and change my strategy.
This is my 250th post. I now start my final 30 days abroad.
On a kinder, gentler note, today I also picked and ate raspberries off the vines at my friends’ farm in between drinking red wine and eating bagels (yes, var!). There were pollywogs and tiny frogs in the pond and blue wildflowers in the fields. How can I stay angry with that kind of afternoon?
Friday, June 29, 2007
So that’s the second question, and I love it: What is bare life?
Today at the student festival I had my students do a graffiti wall on it. “Bare” doesn’t have a translation in Turkish. I tried to suggest “vulnerable,” “naked,” or even “primeival.” My assistants decided “basic.” So what is basic life?
I think this is one of the most important questions facing an artist. Because making art about trivial life produces one-liners. We are constantly asking ourselves, what is important? And when we ourselves can live a basic life, do we produce better, clearer, more inspired artwork? One of the students wrote “Can there be a bare life?” I think we can live such a life for short periods, but our natural tendency is to complicate and fill our time with stuff and people and places. I know that’s me.
Leading a vulnerable life is so trusting. Exposing ourselves is both thrilling and scary. We do something and immediately cover our eyes at the consequences, then peak through our fingers to see that indeed it was brave to do it. And we are still here.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
In less than a week I’ll be traveling to Germany to see Documenta 12. The curator, Roger M. Buergel, has asked over 100 leading artists from all over the world the following three questions:
Is modernity our antiquity?
What is bare life?
What is to be done?
Here, read the artspeak for yourself. I thought I would un-artspeak my own answers to these questions before I see the work.
So for tonight, is modernity our antiquity? Meaning, I guess, is the modern era, with its emphasis on capitalism and rationalism, over? Doubt it. But what I think is interesting is that the era of America as the definer of modernity is almost over. I’ll be very excited to see what the Chinese artists have to say about the matter. I want to be a citizen of many places. I’ve seen first hand here in Turkey what provincialism does to Art, and it’s not good. It doesn’t mean that all art must look the same the world over. But staying in your little flat hanging on to tradition is so boring. See, read, eat, experience, make art.
My model and muse had to leave Our Anatolian City, and I’m two large nudes short of material. So today I stayed home in my cool flat and tried to paint from myself with little success. Tomorrow and Saturday I’m teaching all day workshops outside (yikes) at a student conference. Maybe heat stroke will improve my self portraiture…
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
It's basically useless here. At video stores you can get the latest movies that you can’t find yet in the US. To rent one costs about $2, to buy one about $4. There are guys who have little video copying businesses on the side. Even my bank, you would think a solid business, has a video running in its main branch that basically strings together 20 iconic movie clips under their logo and platitudes. There is no way the bank got the rights to all those scenes of Melanie Griffith, Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe.
My friend from TRT explained to me there are not sufficient laws in Turkey to protect creatives. She said TRT also gets its content stolen, and she feels helpless to change the situation.
I also know (don't ask me how) that small magazines published here sort-of-don’t-really-bother with getting permission to use images, etc…
Yet, when I tried to get my students to steal from pop culture for their artwork (this is called Postmodernism), they had a hard time doing it.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Just got home from Ankara, and it’s bloody hot there and here. I visited my gallery (did you hear that, I am now represented by a gallery) to give them more paintings, and as usual they hosted me in Turkish fashion (meaning I can’t pay for anything or be alone). My friend, the gallerist’s wife, works at TRT, Turkish (Public) Radio and Television, and showed me their campus. Somewhere around 8000 people work there. Eat your heart out NPR.
Did I mention it was hot?
My friend just won an award for a documentary she produced on the corruption of the Turkish language. Besides being shy of speaking English (because they learn English only to pass tests), Turks also don’t speak their own language well. I asked several intellectuals at the art opening last night who then speaks Turkish well, and they couldn’t tell me. But I hear it often, for example, that leading authors Orhan Pumuk and Elif Safak, don’t know how to speak correct Turkish. Also that at ODTU–Middle East Technical University, one of the best in Turkey, the faculty and students speak their own language, a mixture of Turkish and English.
OK, it was about 95F in Ankara today. In JUNE.
So I’m getting really excited about seeing Documenta 12 in about a week. Here’s a video about choreographer Trisha Brown, who was very influential for me in the 1980s. A former professor, performance artist Eleanor Antin, is also an artist at Documenta.
It’s 9pm now and still about 80F. It was reportedly 50C on the South Coast where my friends are vacationing. That’s 120F. Unheard of.
Got a comment from Turkophile that you should all read, concerning the bias of the New York Times. Plus, he (I assume he’s a he) called me Darling and Honey, which I LOVE…
Kloe in Heat
Monday, June 25, 2007
Although my artwork is usually about the body somehow, I haven’t painted straight nudes in about 10 years, until arriving here. I teach figure drawing and figure painting, so keep in practice, and I love to look at the nude body. But it’s sort of depressing to think that most of my painted nudes end up in someone’s bathroom, or at best, bedroom. Like you have to be naked to look at a nude.
When I was growing up we had a semi-nude Indian woman (I know) lithograph in our living room. I guess I’m realizing my mom was pretty brave to have it there. Why are people so hung up on the body?
So now I’m painting these really BIG nudes, and they are much more confrontational at almost 6 feet tall. The paint is drippy and spattered like bodily fluid. The brush strokes are thick and shaggy. These feel much more sexual to me. Maybe that’s what I need to do to be noticed in Amerika?
Yesterday I attended graduation as a faculty member for about 4000 students in the football stadium. I was not surprised but terribly proud when one of the students I worked with all year was announced as First in our Faculty, which besides painting includes sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, graphic design, interior design and animation. He’s one of the best students I’ve ever had. His paintings weren’t always totally successful, but he was exploring and thinking; I learned things from him.
And get this, when a graduation speaker mentioned Prime Minister Erdogan, the audience booed. I was shocked, can you imagine? We are a rather liberal institution.
The ceremony ended with a pop concert by Turkey’s Cher, Sezen Aksu. I left before the fireworks.
Am off to Ankara for a day or two.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
The Kina Gecesi was held in a tearoom with tables pushed to the side and an open space for dancing. All sorts of women were there, young to old, modern to conservative. The music was Turkish, the only drawback being that often songs would be stopped after 20 seconds, very annoying. My friend the Bride was in the semi-professional folk dance troupe at the university, so she and all her friends are good dancers. They danced in partners and also started line dances. They liked it that I was game to try the steps, which are different from how we dance in SoCal (with butt out, Latin style; Turks throw pelvis forward and tend to be more subtle with the hip movements).
The new mother- and sister-in-law are quite conservative and were dressed in dark costumes and scarves, with gauze overlay. Although it looked exotic, it was hot for them and they were uncomfortable dancing.
After a couple of hours the Bride changed into a traditional costume and we surrounded her with candles and threw evil eyes. Traditionally everyone cries to sad music as henna is applied to the bride’s hands and a red veil covers her face. The groom came in for henna also, and then they danced together. I’m so glad I got to experience this ceremony!
The wedding today was underwhelming. The bride and groom, in Western bridal wear, march into the salon together to applause. No music. They sit at a table, an official reads a few lines, they say evet/yes to more applause, and it’s over in five minutes. I actually missed it because I was 10 minutes late, so stayed for the next wedding, which was an hour later. No reception. So I walked through the main shopping street very overdressed in my high heels, wearing my strongest “don’t mess with me” face to meet a friend for coffee.
Tomorrow I have yet another ceremony to attend, a sunnet/circumcision. As I write this I can hear celebration music blaring from the neighborhood. Apparently June is the season for this stuff.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Today I’m having the most wonderful day. After a lovely late night chat with a friend, I slept in (that in itself is amazing). Went to school to paint, and was picked by a colleague and his wife to visit their studio in the city. We are trading paintings, so I picked out one of his that I am so happy with! Then met another friend who showed me his cactus collection. He throws his own pots and puts Hittite designs on them that reflect the shapes of the cactuses. He gave me one (although I’m only babysitting it, E).
I also went to a birthday party in the faculty (Happy 29, M!), and got invited for coffee in the office of a secretary (can’t understand much of the conversation, but I’m trying). Even my janitor brought me tea.
And tonight I’m going to my first ever Kina Gecesi, the women’s party before a wedding; my good friend is getting married tomorrow.
The thing is, all these friends are dear to me; how am I going to be able to leave?
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Tonight I was at yet another going away party, this one for one of my American students. Her Texan boyfriend had arrived that day and it was very interesting to be around an American man. First he was HUGE compared to Turks, who tend to be slightly built (see above). He was boisterous and funny and outgoing. A very positive presence at the party, even though he had lost his luggage and my student had her wallet stolen. Of course, several glasses of raki improved all our moods! And it doesn’t hurt to be kissed by a Turkish boy, right?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
We toured a couple of factories last week. The first produced chocolate cupcakes with nut slivers (these are actually my preferred snack with my morning Nescafe… I know). The second factory was making chocolate bars filled with caramel. Kid.01 was in heaven, these businesses marry his passions: science, robots, and food.
The factories were quite overwhelming: very hot, noisy, only male workers, and smelly. One minute the aroma was chocolatey, the next machine-oily, then chicken-shitty (in the egg room). I felt faint. What a place to work! But extremely clean--you can feel good about eating Turkish snack foods.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
So after driving all night on the bus, watching the clock read 2:30, 3:30, 4:15 (getting light), 5:30, we arrive in Istanbul at the Ulusoy bus station and the shuttle refuses to take us to the airport as promised because we have too much luggage. Take two taxis after a yelling match. Sit down at Gloria Jeans for a $6 cappuccino or two and find out the Delta flight to NYC is iptal. This is not a good word. It means cancelled. Yep.
So followed four hours of frantic searching for another flight with a hundred other angry passengers. Finally put them on KLM to Amsterdam and then to NYC.
I took the train from Hydarpasa back to Our Anatolian City. When I made my ticket reservations the agent told me the single seats were gone (train is one seat on one side of aisle and two seats on other). I said no problem. So I find my seat and pretty soon the steward is asking to check my ticket for a young guy who will be my seat mate. He disappears and 10 minutes later takes his stuff and leaves a lady and little girl in his place. Very interesting.
Then it turns out the lady didn’t buy a seat for her daughter and she was supposed to. I feel sorry for the kid whose mother isn’t setting a great example. I play with her, she is entranced with me and I wish I had another change of clothes and my hairbrush so she could make me prettier. I love to have my hair caressed.
I am very very tired, can you tell?
Monday, June 18, 2007
Yesterday I gave an all-day farewell brunch for the friends who I knew would be stopping by. I fed and caffeinated about 30 people, including 8-10 boys (lost track) who basically ate candy bars and nothing else. Tonight we take the 1:00am bus to Istanbul, and tomorrow I send my family home to SoCal.
Everyone except my close friends here raise their eyebrows at me staying. But I’m not ready to leave. I have work to do and places to go, friends to be with that I won’t see again soon. My next classes don’t start til August. And I’m interested to see what it feels like to be without my kids. I know it will be lonely. Maybe I’m a bit masochistic.
Bought tahini rolls to take to my mom and gram. These are only available in our city, and they are amazing: sweet, crunchy, texture like peanut butter in between thin layers of dough. Major calories.
Sonra gorusurus. (See you later.)
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Earlier in the week were the school performances of both Kid.01 and Kid.02. These are long, drawn out affairs with huge casts dancing, singing, reading poems and doing drama skits. Lots of tributes to Ataturk. I guess Turkish kids have no chance to develop stage fright.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Tonight we were with doctor friends, attending another dinner in a series of farewell parties. It was good to be out and among interesting people, because I was feeling a bit anxious and down. I am about to be alone; my family is leaving Turkey. We finished a wonderful Turkish meal with walnut and pistachio baklava on ice cream.
It is raining and I’m packing up small clothes, report cards and a few indispensable toys. Today was also the last day of school for Turkish kids. Apparently everyone cried.
Happy Bday M.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
In a few weeks I am traveling to see Documenta 12, an international art show in Kassel, Germany. Luckily I have friends there who are In-The-Know. Here’s a short video they made profiling Kassel. I’m very excited.
The beautiful narrator is my girlfriend L; she's originally from Bulgaria.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Yesterday noon was my final for my Performance-Installation class. I met my students in the city at the tram stop on the main shopping street. Together we “altered” three small sculptures on this pedestrian street: a bear, a turtle, and a snail. These are not great artworks, and the students were to “improve” them temporarily. They wrapped one in newspaper, gave one a wig and a blindfold, and painted one with temporary paint.
BUT, even though people on the street generally were interested in what we were doing (some even helped), tram-riders thought we were destroying the sculptures and called the police. And so I found myself talking to two officers who were not pleased to be spending their lunch hour sorting out art vs. vandalism. I was taken to the station to explain. Unfortunately, I found the whole situation laughable, which probably didn’t help matters. In the end I only got a scolding. And my students learned some valuable lessons: that the public does care about public art, that it’s fun to involve everyday people in art-making, that risk-taking is thrilling, that a good story can be Art.
Will post a video soon.
On a sad note, my good friend’s husband finally died of lung cancer. He was an art dealer and only 49 years old.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I’m working on my own collection from Turkish artists, and have some random thoughts…
• Collect artwork from unestablished artists (did you notice I didn’t say “young” artists? Lots of unknown artists are not young…) you like from a reputable gallery (not a tourist gallery). Check out the local university. Also collect from your friends and friends of friends. If you buy prints or watercolors, be sure to keep them out of bright sunlight, they’ll fade.
• Every year or so move your artwork around your house. I learned this trick from my grandmother. When you change an artwork’s position, you can see it fresh. So the painting you looked at over breakfast every morning last year is now what you look at from your bed, etc.
• I’m going to start a little club among my artist friends who have a lot of original artwork around like I do. Every couple of months, when we get together to critique each other’s work, we bring a small piece with us for a temporary trade. Then you get something new to look at that you maybe wouldn’t have considered for your own house.
• Artworks like to talk to each other. Group them. Put a little sculpture in front of a painting on top of an old piece of embroidery or tapestry. Make a little shrine to art.
• Consider that some artworks may be private, for your pleasure only. This is an old idea that deserves another chance (before the photographic era, erotica and portraits of mistresses were kept under curtains). It goes against the grain of obtaining art for status. You can take out your special artworks only for certain friends, like sharing a secret treasure.
I took my show down yesterday, sold 11 small nudes and one knitting painting, and got one commission. Pretty good, all in all. Have already spent most of the money on canvas and paint for my new big nudes.
My grandmother’s health seems to be under control again, so I have decided not to leave Turkey suddenly. Thank goddess. I am really exhausted from worrying and my own health could be affected.
Plus, I sort of got arrested today… story tomorrow…
Monday, June 11, 2007
As an expat I find myself writing a lot of emails. Many are to friends far away. But also I write emails (and cell phone text messages) to friends for whom English is not their first language because it’s much better than trying to talk on the phone.
The strange thing is that sometimes the email relationship gets ahead of the actual friendship. For example, I have an artist friend who has written me lovely letters and I don’t know her well (I want to). She feels an emotional connection to me after reading this blog! Emails and letters can become more intimate than regular conversation. I think this is not new (think Jane Austin).
This morning I received an upsetting email that my grandmother is ill and in hospital. So now I’m waiting for word that I should come home to SoCal to be with my family. Even though this world is small, it still takes two to three days to get from where I am now to where I should be to receive comfort I crave and give some in return. And I love people here, too, and they were with me today.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Yesterday I went with my students and some painting faculty by bus to Bursa for the opening of their Senior Exhibition. It looked pretty damn good and my young painters were happy (they sang all the way home on the bus).
We visited a beautiful village at the base of Mount Uludag, Cumalikizik. It was established in the 12th century. Many of the Ottoman houses are restored and surrounded by gorgeous flowers and cherry trees hanging with fruit. It is still a living village besides being a tourist destination.
Gram, I am sending you all my love.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
You are in your quiet studio with windows to the sky and it is getting darker and darker even though midmorning. You are painting a very large nude from a smaller study, with big fat brushstrokes of yellow-green and muddy pink. And you are thinking how beautiful the model was/is, how innocent and sexual at the same time, when the sky opens up and huge raindrops begin hurling down. (Last night you were caught in such a storm and even with an umbrella your jeans were soaked to mid-thigh in under a minute). You have anticipated this moment and it is perfect to be alone.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
A blog I have been fascinated with for months went silent for a while. She is a very funny ex-Mormon in Texas who struggles with motherhood, poverty, school, chickens, lovers, and depression (from the looks of it). Her blog has existed since 2002, over five years. She’s back, furious, but back.
Blogger has this big button labeled “Delete Blog.” When I first started this project I didn’t understand this button. Why would you want to delete your hard work? But I come across bloggers who have done it, or deleted sections of their blog they felt were damaging to themselves or others. Readers can be referred to archives that no longer exist, and it’s frustrating, sometimes sad. Other bloggers fantasize about pulling the plug. And it’s almost like killing off a friend. But I could also see myself getting to a place like that. It’s possible.
What will I do in two months when I leave Turkey? Write a blog called Kloe Among the Rich Americans? Kloe Gets Reaquainted with her Life? Kloe Continues her Struggle with Art and Life? Will Kloe still have things to say when she’s no longer the exotic blond foreigner, living among lovely exotic people whom she often can’t understand?
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
All year I’ve been teaching life drawing and painting to 2nd year ceramics students. Because of their immaturity, the models don’t feel comfortable totally nude with this group (in contrast to my advanced students). But I have grown to enjoy these kids very much.
Today was their final. I wanted to do something silly and fun, because art here by definition is generally so serious. Working in groups of three, they “painted” the model using only food stuffs. I was very happy with how they worked together and with the results!
Monday, June 04, 2007
Mattel's Barbie is 47 years old.
Bratz, the dolls with a "Passion 4 Fashion," are six years old. M.G.A. Entertainment's Isaac Larian, an Iranian immigrant, produced the toy because his daughter, Jasmin, thought the initial drawings, by doll designer Carter Bryant, were cute. In the first five years of production, 125 million Bratz dolls were sold worldwide. Global sales of Barbie are declining; we have captured 40 percent of the fashion-doll market compared to Barbie's 60 percent. The two companies are currently suing each other over copyright infringement.
Barbie is wholesome compared to a Bratz. Writes Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker, "Bratz girls seem more like kept girls, or girls trying to convert a stint on reality TV into a future as the new Ashlee or Lindsay or Paris..." (p. 76) We are multi-ethnic, inspired by SoCal racial mixing. And Bratz are sassy, the toy industry's euphemism for sexy. Larian: "Bratz are not merely dolls but 'fashion icons' that look to the runways and what kids wear in and out of school for inspiratıon." States Talbot, "With Bratz, M.G.A. is selling the notion that divahood is something for girls to aspire to, with or without a talent to go with it." (p 77)
[Troubling side note: if you ask a group of American tween girls what they want to be when they grow up, many will answer "singer, model, or actress," but few have ever taken a singing or acting class. In Turkey, thank God, girls still seem to want to be doctors or teachers.]
Moms originally hated Barbie because she supposedly contributed to girls growing up too fast. Many parents REALLY hate Bratz for the same reason. Plus Barbie, who had career aspirations, was never about expressing sexuality in the way a Bratz is. Basically, we go shopping and then party.
You can buy a Bratz doll at Target in the U.S. for as low as $8. Here in Turkey she costs the equivalent of about $30, out of reach of the average Turkish family, and not many toy stores carry us. But every Turkish stationary and school supply store is filled with Bratz pencil cases and notebooks. All over Anatolia little girls wear t-shirts emblazoned with Bratz and Bratz gear. Yet no Turk that I have talked to is aware of the controversy surrounding us.
Of course as a Bratz myself, I love the notoriety. It makes me so much more interesting, don't you think?
notes: "Little Hotties," by Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker Magazine, Dec. 4, 2006.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Yes, you are seeing correctly, in the middle of Anatolia, at the train station bar actually, there is a Latin dance club. It’s like being in Tijuana, with short skirts and sweaty dark guys. The Turks dance salsa, cha, and merengue pretty well, thanks to dance teachers from the University. Turks also love Argentine tango, and I can see similarities between the two cultures.
(In traditional Turkish culture, the sexes dance apart. These are line folk dances where the men's steps are sometimes more athletic and the women's movements quieter.)
An earlier incarnation of Kloe was as a professional ballroom dancer, which means I had a pro competitive partner, but mostly I taught dancing, eight hours a day. And I pounded the boards with a lot of beginners. I’m retired now and I almost never dance. Almost. You have to be really good or really lucky to be Kloe's partner. Ha!
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Here in Turkey my life has become strangely segmented. I am a mom a few hours a day when my kids are home and on weekends. I am a hocam/professor at the faculty. I make art. With one friend here I am a fashionista and worldly woman. With other friends I am almost like a college student again. A large part of my life is spent online, writing this blog and long email letters to friends, and reading their replies.
I have an inner life and an exterior life, and at times here the two have had almost no connection. This is not really healthy, I know. And when they come crashing together it can really hurt.
Ideas on how to present myself:
Kloe as sexy ditz
Kloe as know-it-all artist
Kloe as friendly teacher
Kloe as self-destructive bitch
Kloe as M.I.L.F.
Kloe as helpless foreigner
Kloe as independent blond unbimbo
Kloe as aggressive preditor
Kloe as ambitious career girl
Kloe as freedom finder
Kloe as center of the universe
Kloe as alone.
Friday, June 01, 2007
I don’t notice a class system in SoCal, but I’m sure it’s there. In Turkey, however, I can see the lines drawn clearly. I’ll use my own faculty as an example:
Top: The Dean. He has his own toilet that he locks. It has toilet paper, not known here as a necessity-of-life. (Faculty/Staff have their own toilets too, and then there are the students’, enter at your own risk.)
Near the Top: Full Professors. There are just a few, quite powerful.
Then: Several other layers of professors, followed by Graduate Assistants and Graduate Students. The lower you are, the more you do for other people above you.
Next: Administrative Staff. They keep themselves apart.
Below that: The undergraduate students. They have it OK: their own canteen, their clubs, in fact this whole city basically exists for them.
Even lower: Security and workers. Several levels.
Somewhere in there: Tea service.
Bottom: Janitorial staff. Several levels. (Portrait above is of a janitor. Isn't she beautiful?)
On another subject:
Detailed article in the NYTimes about marriage and immigration among the Turks who live in Germany. They are not assimilating into German culture because they keep bringing young, illiterate wives, often their cousins, into the country. The article didn’t paint a great picture of Turks. A bit unfair, I think. Anyone else read it besides millions in NYC?