Dreams are the expressions of our subconscious. We dream not because we want to, but because we have no other choice. However, the concept of “dream” is not limited to what we see while we are asleep. We dream of a better future, in which everyone receives good healthcare or education for free; we dream of having a good job and a big house. When a dream becomes true, it is a truly magical moment. However, we cannot always accomplish our dreams. Sometimes, we fail miserably. What fascinates me about dreams is their uncontrollable nature. Because each person is unique, their dreams are different from each other. Our dreams are shaped by who we are, yet we have no control over them. So, in my exhibition, I decided to reflect on this uncontrollable nature of our dreams, with its sides that are too dark or depressing to be included in a children’s book. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the exhibition could not be held and the artwork was published on a school website. The digital pieces that were supposed to be printed were included in digital form with their predicted size if printed.
I believe that to understand an idea, one should begin by reflecting on themselves. Therefore, the exhibition starts with a reflection on myself, Leave Me Alone!, as I question what I want, or dream of, in my life, during this period of time. It is a manifestation of my unwillingness to share about myself. I want to be left alone. I dream of peace and quiet. The second and third pieces in the exhibition help develop the story through the idea of reflections. Total Internal Reflectionconnects my unwillingness to share about myself to the lack of communication between people in our society through the buildings we live in. I believe this lack of connection with other people is a result of the urbanization after the Industrial Revolution. The next piece, Reflections, concludes this mini-journey through the idea of reflection by connecting to the theme of the exhibition: dreams. I believe that we are often too busy following our dreams that we do not have enough time to reflect on what we have done. Therefore, we become alienated from the concept of reflection. In Reflections, I try to communicate this idea through the abstractification of reflections on water. In the first three pieces, the medium used gets less reflective progressively as it goes from graphite to ink, and from ink to charcoal.
The fourth piece, the Essence of Life takes us back to our childhood dreams. When you ask a child where they want to live in 30 years, they will probably say: “a castle”. No ordinary family car ever adorned the bedroom wall of a child in the form of a poster, it has always been an exotic one, probably a Ferrari. Therefore, the Essence of Life delves deep into our childhood dreams through the image of a child in the act of eating, and the origins of our attachment to consumption.
The next two pieces highlight the coming of age, when we learn that our dreams probably will not become true and the reasons for that. While Burnt, Chained & Broken expresses this realization on a personal level, the Intergalactic Bedouin explores what prevents us from achieving our dreams as humankind.
The seventh piece in the exhibition, “a blessing and a curse” focuses on those highly privileged people who are “living the dream” of consumption while making others live through hell. The next piece the House of God connects to those who live through hell and what keeps them going on even if they are battered and bruised.
The Girl in the Gallery is the last piece in the exhibition, and it aims to evoke a sense of mystery and curiosity we feel when looking at art in the viewer. However, this time the art is not what is hung on the wall. The focal point now becomes the girl and we try to figure out what she thinks about the artwork she has seen. We will never know what goes through her head, but we can keep dreaming.
1 – Leave Me Alone! (Self-portrait)
Graphite on paper
With this piece, I have tried to create something that reflects my personality as someone who does not like to share about himself, and my insecurities about having my photos taken. By covering some of my face with my hand, I wanted to express that insecurity, but I have left enough indicators for someone who knows me to understand that this is a self-portrait. This piece was also an exercise in foreshortening as I have drawn the hand that covers my face true to size and adjusted the proportions according to the hand.
2- Total Internal Reflection
Ink on paper
Total Internal Reflection is defined as the complete reflection of a ray of light within a medium in physics. In the piece, we can see the reflection on the building, but we cannot see what is inside. As our cities developed through time, we became more oblivious to events happening around us and people living near us. The process of urbanization has killed the connection between people and we entered a state of total internal reflection, disconnected from others.
Charcoal on paper
We are too busy following our dreams; we usually do not take the time to reflect on ourselves. The piece tries to communicate this message through the abstractification of reflections on water. The abstractification is achieved by eliminating the midtones and establishing a matte surface area through the use of charcoal. Even though the reflections are “abstractified,” their presence in the piece is established by the balance of negative and positive spaces. Therefore, it is the balance between black and white that establishes this mishmash of abstract shapes as the water surface and gives depth to the piece.
4 – The Essence of Life
This piece is heavily inspired by Barbara Kruger’s work. It focuses on personal origins of consumerism. We define ourselves by what we consume. No child dreams of living in a shed. No child’s bedroom walls were ever adorned by posters of family cars. Everyone dreams of being wealthy, having a big house and a nice car. Our dreams are built upon the concept of consumption. However, we, as individuals, have nothing to do with the fact that our dreams are built upon consumption. The concept is slowly instilled in our brains from the moment we are born. The background is an edited photo of 2-year-old me eating corn on the cob, emphasizing the idea that our connection with consumption starts when we are very young and highlights our desire to consume in a raw, untouched manner, seen through a child’s eyes.
5- Burnt, Chained & Broken
Sculpture: plaster, wire, chain, glass, acrylic, spray paint
This piece represents how the struggles in our life shatters our innocent, childish dreams. I started Burnt, Chained & Broken with the goal of creating a bust of myself. I have then discovered the rough texture I could create with plaster and really liked it. I have decided to embrace the rough texture and build on it as I went forward; I wanted to express the rough patches I went through in my life. I applied two coats of acrylic paint with a painting knife to preserve and emphasize the rough surface as the painting knife did not completely fill the dents in the surface. The first coat was a pink between a skin tone and flesh. The second coat was a dull shade of dark green to create a contrast and establish the base for the burnt look. I have then lightly spray painted the outer coat with black to complete the burnt look. White wire was added to create more contrast with the dark painted head and a brain/cloud-like outer shape represents our innocent dreams and ideas. I shattered a glass pane and added a few shards that I have picked into the wire structure. Finally, the chain around the neck was added to represent the conditions that prevent us from accomplishing our dreams while adding more visual weight to the lower portion of the sculpture and preventing it from becoming too top-heavy.
6- The Intergalactic Bedouin
Acrylic on canvas
Bedouins are nomadic North African people. The nomadic nature of the Bedouin symbolizes the aspirations of humankind about going to space and exploring beyond the Earth. However, we built more obstacles ourselves because of our attachment to traditions, unwillingness to work together and accept change. We seek progression as we aspire to explore the universe and maybe find a habitable planet, yet we are attached to our values that prevents the progression we want. Instead of trying to create depth in the background through the variation of color, I tried to achieve the same sense of depth by incorporating the lighting while displaying the piece. A real light source interacts with the texture of paint on the canvas to establish the depth in the background.
7 – “a blessing and a curse”
Ink on paper
Oil is a blessing and a curse. It is a huge resource of income that could help build better lives for everyone in oil-rich countries, but that is definitely not the case. Instead, a handful of people control the oil reserves, making millions that fuel their luxurious lifestyles, and are “living the dream”, while the public continues to live in poor conditions. The people who control the oil also tend to control the politics, leading to an endless loop of corruption. The figure in the piece is depicted as a rich Middle Eastern man whose brain has been replaced by an oil pump. As the oil pump works, oil drips out of his mouth to fill a tank. I wanted to represent how the oil-rich people, oblivious to all struggles the other people have, are driven by their lust to earn more through oil.
8 – The House of God
Digital photography (print)
The concept of religion is an intriguing one, as it exists in some form in every culture in the world. Even if they differ vastly in terms of rituals and obligations depending on the cultural origins, all religions are similar in terms of their social functions. Religion is a comforting concept that tells you that you will be rewarded if you are a good person, gives you a psychological shelter when things are bad and hope that better days will come if you endure the struggles: “Your dreams will come true if you are good enough.” The piece focuses on religion as a shelter that protects people. Written on the sign in front of the First Baptist Church in America, “Mi casa es su casa.” emphasizes this approach that indicates no matter how bad things get, God will protect and comfort you, and you will always be welcome in his house.
9 – The Girl in the Gallery
Digital photography (print)
This piece focuses on the sense of mystery and curiosity we feel when we look at art. Art is not a part of our animalistic nature, but a product of our need to self-express. Therefore, it is not easily recognizable as our animalistic actions. We can easily understand the message a facial expression displays without any other information, but we need more information to process a piece of art, which can be our previous knowledge about a topic. Therefore, everyone can have a different conclusion about what a piece of art expresses. This photograph captures the moment in which someone is trying to process a piece of art. As the secondary audience, we are trying to process not only the piece she is looking at but also her looking at the piece. We do not know who she is, what knowledge she has that connects to the piece, or how her facial expression looks like at that moment. We will never know what goes through her head, but we can keep dreaming.