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Meet Belgin Yucelen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Belgin Yucelen.

Belgin, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I wake up to a dream nowadays. In my dream, a wren greets me as I am about to unlock my studio door. The dream then continues with my daily rituals of making tea in a kitchen suffused with morning light, meditating on a blue Moroccan rug, and creating for many hours. The little girl of my childhood couldn’t even imagine such a dream while picking hazelnuts with her siblings on one of the seven hills of Istanbul. Perhaps she was too occupied with her own routines like studying the anatomy of rats with the tools left by the construction workers or being chased by the harmless fool on her cobblestone street busy with children, stray dogs, and candy sellers. The subliminal fear that this dream might end someday induces me to work even harder.

At age 25, that same girl was also not aware that — in her yellow luggage that didn’t close completely — she was carrying her father’s stories, the image of her grandmother praying in her white scarf, her mother’s singing while she cooked, the poems she read with her best friend and sister from an open window to the night below and her brother’s vast imagination. These recollections find a way to my art together with everything else I grew up with such as the epic stories, traditional shadow plays, folk music, Islamic art and architecture.

Like a collector of things, I collect ideas from travels, readings and people. The abstract knowledge of these ideas that is yet to be known is only the beginning. As they float freely colliding with other ideas seemingly unconnected, some of them find their way into my art. I can only give what I am therefore I strive to be more. What I am today is everything that girl was carrying in her luggage, and my body, how I sit, how I walk, what I let into my life, people I love, my prejudices, ambitions, fears, routines, failures, dreams, the indelible beliefs I have, and the desire to create beautiful and compelling art that unfolds my story – one at a time.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
In some ways, it was like floating on a river: Following a beautiful childhood, an unintentional career of engineering, leaving my country for a doctoral degree without knowing that I wouldn’t return, then the long-awaited decision to leave that career behind to fulfill my purpose in life. The real struggle now is to make this dream last long so that I can complete everything I have to say and perhaps even more.

Please tell us more about your art.
I create art in various mediums. The decision to work across various genres from printmaking and sculpture to film and installation is a deliberate choice for me. I am inspired by questions of Who we are? and Where we are going? As individuals and as humankind, so together we can achieve basic human wisdom. In my search for answers, I refer to history, anthropology, theology, linguistics, philosophy, and other fields of study. Whether the artwork is a sculpture, a print or an installation depends on the fine balance between the knowledge I attain through my search and the genre that communicates it in the best way. I am not interested in a direct representation, rather I create a fictional world beyond the existing to conjure unrealized possibilities to challenge imaginations.

Last year, I founded House of Serein, an art community space and studios for creatives in Boulder, CO. This has been a dream for me for many years. We hold “Salon for Creatives (Boulder)” meetings where we share stories and ideas on creativity. In one of these meetings a few weeks ago, we initiated an art project called the “Yellow House”. We intend to focus on creating a dialogue between ourselves and fellow creatives through poetry, sculpture, performance, filmmaking, architecture, and beyond.

Last autumn, with my beloved daughter of 14, I cofounded Floating Tales Designs, which is a greeting card company. This allowed us to spend more time together and allowed her to learn about running a business.

Nowadays, I am finding new ways to make the most of this unusual period of uncertainty. During the first month of the pandemic, I created a short documentary film called “Quarantine Diaries – 23 Creators 10 Countries” as a recording of these humbling times.

I had been working with Julie Rothschild — a most talented dance artist here in Boulder — to create a presentation of dance, classical music and art installation called Among Flowers in Bloom. With the stay-home regulations, we weren’t able to have a life performance, so we each made recordings in isolation; Emily Bowman and David Crowe of their music, Julie of her dance and I of my art installation. I think the result was still quite intimate and intriguing.

I also collaborated with poet Anne Waldman on a project titled Poems in Silk. Creating prints from her intricate and delightfully surprising poetry was a refuge for me. The installation is on display at the Arvada Arts Center as part of the exhibition Pink Progressions until November 2020.

I created two other installations during this time. Waiting Rooms are a series of prints depicting people in isolation and their windows to the outside which is beyond reach. Connected consists of 30 drawings linked to each other by a reflective yarn, which symbolizes the invisible threads that connect us. These threads become visible during this time when we are experiencing similar feelings in response to uncertainty, lack of control and slowness.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Being an artist is about delivering without any directives other than our own intuition. It requires discipline. As an artist, we need to be present even when we aren’t in the studio. This demanding mental presence is our way to respond to our surroundings when we are back in our studio. With each creation, we start blank with nothing except the ideas generated during this absence. The isolation we welcome is mostly accompanied by comforting daily routines. We learn how not to get lost in failures so that we can start again the next day. An outside success might bring recognition however it is the fleeting glimpses of success that we experience when we overcome these challenges and make something. These moments are gateways to doing our utmost.

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Image Credit:
Belisa Alptekin

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