Severed Heads

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This beautiful work by an art student in New York  and my wish to share it with you has finally put an end to my procrastination.

After the hectic energy and motion involved in getting together my most recent bit of installation art, “Have Your Photograph Taken as an Ottoman Princess”; followed by total paralysis in response to the piece’s sudden removal from the Bodrum Biennial under mysterious and rather disturbing circumstances; and a gradual thaw that involved slow travels along the Mediterranean coast and fast times with friends and family in New York, which, gratefully, brought me back to myself… well, let’s just say, things are back to normal – if you can call editing a magazine, writing a grant proposal and cooking a Turkey – all at the same time – normal.

A propos this posting, the grant proposal had to do with a project for a workshop on ‘community arts’ here in Bodrum. That idea was prompted by the experience of putting together the ‘Ottoman Princess’ exhibit – and then having it taken down. As a piece designed to raise awareness about violence against women – all kinds of women – and the Turkish legal system’s tacit acceptance of this violence through court decisions that reduce the sentences of the perpetrators (usually husbands/ex-husbands and boyfriends/ex-boyfriends), I thought I would have the support of women in realizing this exhibition. In fact, I had a lot of women – as well as men – support the piece financially, but finding a woman’s advocacy group willing to contribute to the content of the piece was difficult. Moreover, it eventually became clear to me that the decision to remove the piece was due to a combination of fear and mistrust – by women!

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Luckily, however, there have been a few women (you know who you are) who have given me the encouragement to try and find another place to exhibit the work and, just as important, if not more important, to continue doing work that keeps me in the world rather than just in my studio, and to encourage others to do the same.

Reading up on ‘community arts’ confirmed my belief that there are two things that art is really good for. The first is self-expression, and the second is community expression. A lot of times, the second type of expression comes more in the form of ‘expression about community’ than ‘self-expression by members of the community’, but when you manage to get both of those things together, well, there you’ve really got aesthetics in the original sense of the word, which had as much to do with moral satisfaction as it did with sensual satisfaction.

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Back to where this post started out: the clay sculptures created by students in the Forensic Sculpture Workshop, a class offered through the New York Academy of Arts’ Continuing Education program, are reconstructed facsimiles of unidentified crime victims that “capture the likenesses of unknown citizens who faced cruel and untimely deaths from a variety of gruesome circumstances” created by students and displayed in the university’s windows in the “hopes that someone walking by the university windows will see a face and recognize it.” As the program’s director explained to the Huffington Post, the program is “the perfect marriage of art and science. Having students use art and their extensive knowledge of anatomy for a bigger purpose and real world application to help the community at large was an opportunity worth waiting for and one we hope to replicate for years to come.”

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I find poetic the fact that the ‘community’ being represented here is a community that, up until these art students became involved, had lacked representation in the literal as well as the figurative sense of the word.

And I’m impressed that this all took place in a continuing education program. Presumably, all the students in the class could have chosen to take a sculpture class that would have allowed them the opportunity to focus more on their own self-expression, but instead they chose to focus on the expression of someone else.

To read the Huffington Post’s story about the program, click here.