Artist Belgin Yucelen explores human condition, women's rights in 'Shifts Over Time'

·6 min read

Jul. 20—Belgin Yucelen — a Turkish-American artist, now based in Boulder — doesn't just stick to one medium. While the talented and imaginative creator studied sculpture at the Florence Accademia D'Arte in Italy, her work has evolved into other territories, including installations, films, prints and even poetry.

Stirring, yet often simple, her creations embody the concept of "less is more." From pieces that evoke thoughtful contemplation about our time on Earth to ones that point to injustices faced by women, her layered subject matter emerges from a place of authentic expression.

Her solo show "Shifts Over Time" — a BMoCA display at Frasier Meadows in Boulder — showcases Yucelen's sculptures and pieces from several of her intriguing printmaking series "Allegories," "Waiting Rooms" and "Overwritten Scripts."

She is also the founder of House of Serein, an arts community and studio space in Boulder where fellow creatives can exchange ideas, foster connections and explore.

We caught up with the prolific artist — who has a doctorate in chemical engineering and research — to find out more about her current exhibit, what she hopes viewers take away and what future projects she is excited to unveil in the near future.

Kalene McCort: What inspired "Shifts Over Time" and what are you hoping onlookers take away from the varied collection?

Belgin Yucelen: "Shifts Over Time" is a result of a collaborative curating process which Pamela Meadows, the wonderfully brilliant curator of Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and myself prepared during a few meetings over tea at my studio. Pamela wanted to display a synopsis of diversified artworks. With this exhibit, I would like to engage the community in understanding how norms and values within the present landscape were shaped by the past and how the future will inform them. I also intend to prompt the viewer to consider questions of meaning, time and the things we may take for granted.

BY: "Overwritten Scripts" emphasizes the inequality that exists based on socio-cultural norms rather than Islamic principles, which regard men and women equal in humanity. Currently, women are deprived of even the most basic human rights that were advocated by Islam. The fairness and justice emphasized in the Quran and practiced in the early days of Islam is altered by the scholars and rulers throughout the centuries.

I have been thinking about creating works about women's rights in Islamic countries for some time. In 2017, I went to Morocco, an amazing place for new inspirations and self-evaluations. I have always been fascinated by Islamic art, and for the last few years I have been incorporating some of its elements in my art. I wanted to visit the ninth century Karaouiyn Mosque after reading about its magnificent Islamic decorations.

I was allowed in only after putting on a jacket which provided some extra coverage, however I was still not allowed inside the mosque and had to sit in the small area designated for women while my family wandered around the mosque. I had been studying the Quranic scripts and the literature on the restrictions on women in Islamic countries for some time. During this waiting period at the mosque, all I have been reading started to sink in and I decided to start this series as soon as I return.

At the beginning of Islam, women were given freedom to develop their individuality and personality. They participated effectively in public life, took part in prayers in mosques together with men, acted as imams, joined their colleagues in military expeditions, devoted themselves to the study of theology, traveled widely and moved freely, mixed with men with self-respect and dignity.

With the transformation of the community into an empire, the rights that were granted to them were taken away and they were confined to their homes and were prevented from participating in public life and were excluded from public worship in mosques. Each print speaks of a specific right a woman deserves. I had the opportunity to show this series in venues around the nation and will continue to look for new venues to reach out to more people.

BY: As a child I drew and painted, and I was fascinated by the imaginary stories that my family members used to tell us while we were looking into the dark gardens that surrounded my grandmother's house.

I think the call to create is in each of us, some of us follow that call and some are distracted with other things and find other passions. It is more than a call for me, it is a lifelong passion I am addicted to — a call that follows me during the dark hours of the early morning when the conscious mind hasn't fully taken over the subconscious mind, when the most curious ideas visit. It is also more promising and more conscious than my own conscious.

BY: The decision to work across various genres from printmaking and sculpture to film and installation is a deliberate choice for me. I refer to history, anthropology, theology, linguistics, philosophy and other fields of study. The type of the art form is determined through a dynamic synergy between this ongoing research on the subject and materials and the desire to create aesthetically beautiful, seductive, compelling and thought-provoking art.

I seek for new art forms and methods and learn and study them so there will be many exciting doors to enter when it comes to selecting a material with an idea or a theme. In the case of the sculptural dresses and shoes, I used industrial metal sheets and traditional techniques and materials from Turkey and Asia to recreate garments worn by women and children in Anatolia and Europe between the 17th and 19th centuries. "Clothes from the Past" which was an attempt to rewrite the story of costumes that portray the status of people and the sophistication of a culture.

BY: I have ideas and projects for a lifetime. It is exciting to see them come to fruition one by one as they mature. Being an artist demands a continuous focus, learning and documenting. The resulting ideas form and reform a thousand times while they collide with each and are revised through a filter of emotions. When finally the ideas mature, comes the incredible lightness of letting go as the artmaking itself starts. Once our pre-constructed imagination is pleased, the satisfaction is profound, like swimming in the depths of the ocean.

I am currently working on an animation on global warming and its effects on humanity, for the Silent Screen program on the topic of Activating Environmental Awareness, to be presented across an entire day on four different outdoor LED screens as a live event of 7th Dimension by Denver Digerati, a non-profit that supports artists working in digital animation.

Then I will be creating a new series of works titled "Dream of the Gold Chamber." These will be a group of paintings in large-scale about ordinary objects and random moments elevated with the use of genuine gold and a thousand-year-old gilding technique. I consider this series to be an invitation to make rituals out of the routine.