Thursday, May 31, 2007
OK, my opening was pretty successful. I am happy.
In the morning I carried heavy paintings up and down stairs from studio to car until my arms were shaking. I should have asked for help, but full of American-style pride, I thought I could do this myself. Picked up more work at the framers (the shop of my friend who died earlier is being run by his widow). By the time I got to the gallery I was exhausted. Then I had to hang the show. Here you don’t put nails into walls, which are brick and plaster; you use these tricky hanging wires. Ran back to the faculty to finish one more portrait (Swan Lake)--the gallery owner was in disbelief at my obsessiveness.
The opening attracted a respectable number of people, not packed, but not sparse. Several friends who mean a tremendous amount to me were there, including one who surprised me very much. It was raining and hailing, so I was lucky anyone showed up at all. I think I sold eight small nudes. Many liked the large portraits, but were unimpressed by the abstract work (conversely, my friends in the US are most interested in these).
After the opening I went to a meyhane with artist friends and we drank and talked art for hours. It was lovely.
Now I have exactly two months left in Turkey.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Tomorrow I hang my exhibition in a commercial gallery in Our Anatolian City. I’m showing 12 portraits of Turkish women, 13 knitting paintings, and 28 small nudes. All the nudes are new, as my gallery in Ankara sold 26 of the original set. I have no idea if I’ll sell here in this much smaller and less cosmopolitan city. My biggest fear is that no one will come to the opening tomorrow night. So little self-confidence. Classes ended today and finals start next week, so the campus is pretty empty. I do hope my painting students come to support me.
Of course I know what you are wondering, what is Kloe the Bratz with a Passion for Fashion going to wear? (For those who don’t understand this, I’m planning a post on all things Bratz soon.) Well, I have a designer top, a gift from a friend who affords such things. The blouse is big but OK, but the pants I generally wear are like p.j.s on me now, so I was forced to buy new black, tiny pants, very shiny. Over five inch platform sandals. Height is power.
Monday, May 28, 2007
One of the major topics of conversation this past weekend was the state of Turkish education: elementary, middle and lise. We all pretty much agree, that Turkey makes the American system look pretty damn good. But we are headed down the Turkish road with NCLB …
There is a distinct lack of student involvement in and enthusiasm for learning here. Turkish students for the most part don’t learn to ask questions, think creatively, or synthesize information to arrive at their own conclusions. They don’t learn to write. Why? Tests. Teachers teach to the test and students absorb only what will help them get a score high enough to get into university.
(Note: Elementary school students do have some things going for them, at least at the private schools. They learn music, they have art classes, sports and chess. But all these things drop away as they get close to the big tests of fifth grade.)
Turkish parents who are friends of mine tell me they’ll only have one kid because they are so afraid of the educational system. They want a way out, but I don’t think homeschooling is legal here. Smart grad students tell me they got nothing from their school days. Turkish teachers despair over the system, but have no tools to change things. Innovative artsts, engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs in Turkey succeed in spite of their education, not because of it. As one American teacher lamented to me, we don’t have anything to fear from Turkey. And that’s so sad.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
In Antalya I met K, who writes a blog about teaching science and baking cakes in Istanbul. We met briefly in September, but now that I’ve been following her blogging life, I feel I know her. The thing is, I do not. Blogging is strange that way.
Some of you who read this blog may also think you know me. You may have never met me in real life. You may have known me years ago and are catching up with me occasionally. You may be a new friend I’ve met here in Turkey. Or you may be one of my closest confidents. But let me tell you, except for those very close ones, you do not know me. You do not know my dreams or my tragedies or my favorite color or how I feel when I look at my children. I am not the same person I was yesterday or last year or 10 years ago. Kloe is a dynamic character who shapes her narrative as she wants. She reveals happiness and sadness and anger according to her whim.
You may have loved me in the past, you may love me now or in the future. Or I may have loved you, which I do fiercely. There’s a part of me that will always love you even if we don’t see each other anymore. Even if you are gone from my life, I think of you. You have become a part of Kloe.
As you can see, I escaped the pirates, with some regret...
Saturday, May 26, 2007
I was carried away by pirates, sailing past Roman ruins and an armada of ships of gyrating bikini-clad women, fueled by vodka and sun. I was thrown from the ship into the clear cold sea, and pulled up again to dry in the heat of the top deck, surrounded by menacing sailors, and ambassadors from far away.
Friday, May 25, 2007
So we’re at this resort, the type you never have to leave because everything is included. The kids are in heaven with the pools and slides and beach and dessert buffet. Besides the American group at this conference the place is filled with Russians. It’s bizarre, to have gone from Turkish culture to Russian culture overnight. Most are blond, the women are incredibly sexy in their string bikinis, the kids are for the most part naked, and everyone drinks a lot. Last night I danced with a man from Kazakhstan! The American men are positively puritanical in their long bathing suits, the American women in the shade to avoid tanning. But it’s good to get away.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Kloe is an extremely physical person: she works out, she walks everywhere, she always takes care of her appearance. The way my/her body feels at rest, at work, drinking coffee with friends, typing on this mac, making love, holding my children--I am hyper-aware of all these things in a physical way. I don’t know if this is an innate part of me, or it was created by all the years of doing plies at the barre and holding/being held by my ballroom dance students. I have come to peace with attributes I used to hate: that my skin won’t tan, than I have freckles and moles and scars, that more and more wrinkles appear each year, that my legs are thick with muscles. What I have never accepted was my weight.
I’ve been obsessed, like many women, with my weight since adolesense. I have almost never been happy with my size, although I have never been fat, even with the 40 pounds/18 kilos I gained during each of my pregnancies. I can appreciate the beauty of a voluptuous woman, whom I enjoy looking at and painting from. But I don’t want to look like or feel like that myself. I’ve never been a big eater; I’d rather have a few bites of caviar to a bag of chips, a small Haagen Daaz to a banana split. But I’ve never thought of myself as thin. Until now.
It astounds me my weight loss in Turkey. When I catch myself in a mirror I cannot recognize myself. I look like my thinnest students who smoke and drink endless cups of coffee. And I have to say it feels amazing to be this thin, like all my limbs are streamlined and I slice the air as I walk down a hallway. I am shocked when a clothing store doesn’t have a size small enough for me. Turkish women often comment on how thin I am, my janitor running her finger on my back and asking, hocam, are you eating enough?
I probably won’t stay this thin. It’s probably a result of this year in Turkey, and the coming normalcy of SoCal will put 20 pounds back on me. I’m not looking forward to it. I’d like to be like my chic slightly older women friends who are thin and have punky haircuts and throw fabulous dinner parties. Shit, that sounds so shallow.
I’m writing this on the bus down to Antalya, where we’ll be staying at a resort with all-you-can-eat buffets. I’m pretty much dreading that part of it.
(This plate was served at a friend’s house to Kid.01 an hour after a big breakfast, as teatime. How Turkish kids are not as big as boats I do not know.)
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
All year I have been working with senior/4th year painting students, and I have grown to care about them deeply. Today was their final class session with me. I was sort of a distracted wreck today, between my show preparations and other situations, but we painted from my favorite model and I just sort of hung with these soon-to-be-released young artists.
Few have any firm plans for their futures. I empathize–remembering how my life was at 22 (yes, dear readers, I am older than 22), straight out of college, having to make decisions for the first time in my life. I think I worked for almost 20 different employers in LA that year, from a Hollywood theater (loved it) to a pseudo-pornographic film studio (grossed me out) to a graphic design house (hated it) to a decorative house painter (who was also a professional body builder). I crashed my car, I loved and lost, I partied too much, and decided to get the hell out of the Westside.
Oh, my sweet Turkish students, how can I save you from the pain of being an artist? It is not possible. And it doesn’t seem to get easier with time, at least not for me.
Tomorrow we are going to Antalya. I hope I feel better.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Here’s an interesting article from the NY Times about how the internet is changing pop music. The writer follows a singer/songwriter who ignores traditional record companies and touring, and instead posts songs directly to his blog (one song a week) and must then spend up to six hours a day interacting with fans online. These fans promote him, attending his concerts through word-of-mouth, buying his songs online, and getting him new fans.
I think that eventually all the arts will be affected this way. It’s too easy for a fan to find the email, or at least the gallery email, of Painter X, and write her a letter, and then expect a response (I’ve done it myself!). Right now the people with money to buy visual art are basically over 50 and not big Myspacers or blog readers, but give it a decade and visual artists will be doing the same thing mucisians are doing now—spending a lot of time online.
I know, above photo doesn’t have much to do with this post, but I really love those legs!
Monday, May 21, 2007
One day I was at a student art opening, and all of a sudden a group of soldiers came marching a guy down the main hallway of the faculty to the bathroom. It was a public humiliation. The soldiers were arresting the student for smoking, not dealing, pot
He’s in jail now. All I can say is wow.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Kadir asked about my experiences in developing friends, so here you go:
In Turkey, you can have many arkadaslar (friends), but you have a few dostlar (friends for life, almost brothers/sisters). A dost can be from childhood, because you go to school with the same group from first to fifth grade (see how these kids are holding eachother?), or from later in high school or at university. But dostlar are friends for life.
So how does an expat like me fit into this scene? It’s difficult to get close to people because they already have such a tightly knit group of friends. Turks are very helpful and generous, but it takes time to really know them. Turks also seem to be shy of inviting me to their homes (perhaps because they think the “rich” American will judge their apartments? or because they live with extended family? I don’t know…)
I have had to consciously work to develop relationships in Turkey, and it’s been a big priority for me, because I depend heavily on friendships at home. An artist’s work is solitary, and I need friends to talk to and share with. Part of my struggle and depression earlier in the year was due to the fact of having no support network.
And, as a woman, I still don’t understand having male Turkish friends.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
1. She’s the janitor who got her driver’s license. Has a classic Turkish face, very sweet. When I asked her to sit for me she was hesitant, but later very excited. In my broken Turkish I learned she got married at 14, and has two children, a daughter 21 (married) and a son (19).
2. She’s one of my friends here. Someone close to her is dying, and as she sat for me she told me the doctors had said what everyone dreads: prepare yourself. I love her terribly and wrapped her suffering in rainbows and flowers in my painting. She liked it. I hope it made her feel better, even if only for a moment.
Friday, May 18, 2007
They are mostly very busy and running around frantically because planning isn’t big here. So everything is last minute. But when they are with you, they are really with you. Not like Americans who are always multitasking, even when having coffee with a friend. Maybe that’s why Turks have such close bonds with each other. And now that I have friends here, finally, I am so sorry to be leaving soon.
And I don't mean to say my Turkish friends look like this lobster! It's just that there is a dearth of Barbies and Kens in this neck of the woods...
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
As a woman growing older, I need role models. In SoCal there are many accomplished women I can look to, who do amazing work, have exciting lives, and who look beautiful. I know the last part depends somewhat on money, genes, and health.
Here in Turkey, I am confounded. Where are the older women? (I know where they are, at home.) My friends here are younger than I am. Occasionally I meet a woman and will think, oh she’s much older than I, and then find out she is younger by several years! It’s as if Turkish women go directly from 40 to 60 in one year.
In the March issue of Turkish Marie Claire there was an article profiling five high-powered Turk businesswomen, with accompanying full body photos. Three were married, one was single and one divorced. Four were in their 30s and one was 50. All looked older than Americans do at the same ages. Is it that life is so hard for Turkish women?
On a different note, I finally got the news I was waiting for, that I will have another one-person exhibition! It will be in Our Anatolian City in June. In the next two weeks I have to finish three more portraits and get lots of framing done… But I’m very happy!
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
To continue with the headscarf issue, above is a shot taken on the Istanbul Metro of a woman in full black chador or carsaf (sheet). I’m pretty sure it’s against the law to wear such a thing, but you see it everywhere so no one must be prosecuted. I watched this woman get on the train alone, and then sit down next to this man, but she turned her back on him. His reaction was to laugh uncomfortably. Notice the magazine ad above their seat of a sexy naked woman in bed.
Normally I don’t take people’s photos in public places but I just couldn’t resist this one, much to the dismay of the lady sitting across from me…
Hey Kahraman, can you enlighten me any on the issue of full body covering? (He commented on Headscarves.)
Monday, May 14, 2007
One of the things I am doing here, hopefully, as an American ambassador of sorts, is to show the Turkish women I come in contact with that there are other ways of being than the small box they are expected to fit in (school, marriage, kids, housewifery, death). Eleven years ago I befriended my nude model, a Kurdish woman from Kars, who had dropped out of university. She is an intelligent and unorthodox Turk, and she later reentered university (you have to pass the entrance exam again, but with higher marks), got a masters in art education, and is now an art teacher and administrator in a public middle school. I’m now working on my new model, who wants to be a theater director. She tried to pass the entrance exams once but didn’t get high enough marks. She’s also out of the norm (nude models in Turkey tend to be). In fact, all my female friends here are very intelligent and mostly without partners. I am encouraging them to branch out, to travel, to study abroad, to take risks, to be strong. Now if I can only follow my own advice.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
All week Kid.02 has excitedly revealed he was making a Mother’s Day hediye (present) for me—a necklace and earrings of dough beads—at his preschool. He wanted to give them to me early, but I convinced him to hold back. And he was so proud today when I put the jewelry on and wore it all day.
We went to an outdoor pide restaurant on the outskirts of Our Anatolian City, guests of Kid.01’s class parents. The weather was hot, the kids played on the playground and soccer field, the parents, once again separating men from women at the long table, gossiped and talked business. The only thing missing was a glass of wine, sigh.
Happy Mother’s Day to all those who mother.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
This is a big issue here.
First some style points:
• Above, on the left is the traditional village look. Scarf is wrapped loosely around the hair and tied in the back. Scarf is usually cotton with embroidered edges. It’s OK for hair to show.
• On the right is the religious look, which is also a political statement. Mostly seen on women under 35. An underscarf is worn that covers all hair. There is also a sort of stiff visor that is wrapped in the outer scarf, which is silk or other satiny material. The whole thing is pinned under the chin so no neck shows, and tucked into one’s overcoat. The chic look at the moment is for the back of the head to appear puffy, like one has a big bun of hair under there. I imagine the religious headscarf takes getting used to, as you’d have no peripheral vision, and it would be quite hot under there.
• Not shown, the mature lady look—much like an American lady in her 60s would put a scarf over her permanent to keep it from getting mussed.
• Very elderly ladies wear white cotton scarves, which I think looks great and will remember for my decrepitude ☺.
I have not a single Turkish women friend who wears a headscarf. I have barely spoken to a woman in a religious headscarf. My housekeeper wears a village scarf, and her hair is short underneath (it looks great, btw). I see many girls wearing headscarves as they walk on the university campus, but they may not wear them into the classroom. This is the law as directed by Ataturk. No headscarves are allowed in any government buildings.
A professor friend recently proctored an exam in another department and she told me that female students asked her if they had to remove their scarves before entering the classroom (of course she told them to). The scarves represent the religious right, and the probable next president’s wife wears one. It’s got Turks totally riled up. If I were a Muslim woman, I’d be worried too. Covering my body, my hair, my femininity, would be impossible for me.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Doesn’t affect quality of life.
I have fewer pans and kitchen gadgets, but can still make a dinner party.
Fewer art supplies are available in the stores, but I am making lots of art.
I have fewer clothes, but only the ones I really like and fit me.
The kids have fewer toys, but still find things to play with, and possibly play more creatively.
In my Turkish home I am surrounded by fewer books, magazines, artworks, furniture, plants, tools, adult toys, cars, mail (actually there is NO mail delivery), STUFF. And it’s a relief.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
of my headache when I was ill, I read my email and someone had hacked into my account and sent me this, which, along with some flowers and visits, sort of made my day in a weird way.
(scroll down, baby)
Which is more erotic, the Renaissance marble or the 21st century plastic?
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Well, I was wondering how I would feel having to leave Turkey. This trip to Italy made me realize it will be OK. There are other places in the world. Tuscany is a perfect green place frozen in time, with no trash on city streets and lovely flowers on every windowsill. Istanbul was muggy and grey, and the people stared at me, a blond woman traveling alone. I had to keep my eyes down. Soon it will be hot, but wearing summer clothes will cause more problems than it’s worth. I am getting ready to leave.
Although… today a friend finally let me in to her life. Trust here sometimes must be earned with blood.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Go crazy in the duty-free shop in Milan buying salame, pesto, limoncello, etc., because it makes your suitcase very heavy.
And here’s what you have to do to get from the Istanbul airport (on the European side) to the train station (on the Asian side):
1. Repack your suitcase on the floor of the baggage claim. A friendly Turk may help you get it zipped back up because it’s so full.
2. Take the metro from the airport to Aksaray. Easy.
3. Leave the metro station up steep steps. Cross over one block to the tram station. Try to take a taxi there, but get mad at the driver and get out when he tries to cheat you (don’t know any swear words in Turkish, but he got the picture…)
4. Go up and down steep steps over a bridge to get to the tram. It starts to rain.
5. Take the tram to Eminonu ferry station.
6. Go down and up steep steps under the highway. Get on the ferry. There’s a lightning storm.
7. Get out at Kadikoy because the ferry passes and doesn’t stop at the train station. Walk 15 minutes back to Hydarpasa. Keep in mind that no sidewalks in Turkey are smooth, but brick with few ramps. You’re lucky if the wheels don’t break off your heavy suitcase. Better to take your chances in the street and dodge dolmuses.
8. Arrive at Hydarpasa and reward yourself with a balik ekmek. A friendly Turk will help you get your bag in the luggage rack because you’re exhausted.
This is my 200th post!
Monday, May 07, 2007
Volterra is a Tuscan hilltop fortress town outside of Florence. We spent two nights in a friend’s apartment overlooking the main plaza. Volterra is famous as the town of Rosso Fiorentino, another Mannerist painter. His deposition is just as moving as Pontormo’s, the colors more intense.
Visited my friend’s main house in the valley below, a restored farm surrounded by vineyards and rolling green hills. He has ducks, geese, and ostriches. He fed us pasta and pizza with capers, raw artichokes and fennel dipped in homemade olive oil, wine and walnut liqueur. Who cared if it rained a bit and our car got stuck in a ditch?
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Our Anatolian City to Istanbul to Milan to Florence. It’s raining and so green here! The coffee is strong, my friends are lovely and amazing, going to see art today.
Last night was a surprise 70th birthday party at a Tuscan restaurant, Burdu, that is over 150 years old. I ate more meat in one night than I eat in a week in Turkey: pig’s feet, prociutto, roast, salames, liver. I also had a great time being admired as a Californian girl, as you can see…
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
In another life, you lived a magical summer, in an old stone farmhouse surrounded by vineyards in Tuscany. Inside the house were Lichtensteins, outside down the highway was Florence: Massacio and Pontormo and Michaelangelo. You got fat on wine and nutella that summer, and you worked as a painter copying Vermeer, really learning to see.
Imagine in three days you will visit that place again! I am out-o-here!